Vail Pass | Colorado

Backcountry Skiing in Vail Pass

Season

December through mid-April

Nearest city

Denver International Airport (DEN)

Duration

1 day

Skill level

Beginner to advanced

Vail Pass delivers varied terrain for all skill levels

Vail Pass backcountry skiing has long been recognized for its epic powder and gorgeous scenery. You’ll have a blast in the beautiful Colorado landscape reaching 14,000-plus feet in elevation. You also won’t have to ski the same route twice in Vail Pass thanks to 65,000 acres of terrain. Vail Pass ski touring has it all — open bowls, steep and secluded tree shots, and big-alpine peaks. Count on exploring classic runs at places like Wingle Ridge, Ptarmigan Hill, Corkscrew and Machine Gun Ridge.

Most Popular Itineraries

Private Intro to Backcountry Skiing

From $495 · Full-day

Experience navigating the high-alpine with the help of a certified guide. Learn to be a competent and comfortable skier on variable snow and untouched terrain. You’ll gain knowledge on the proper use of gear, skiing techniques, route finding and safety skills. For skiers with blue level experience, this is the fastest way to make the leap from resort to backcountry.

A Customized Day of Private Guided Backcountry Skiing

From $495 · Full-day

Vail Pass ski touring allows for a challenging and thrilling experience in the Rocky Mountains. Pristine bowls and fresh lines are bountiful due to local guide knowledge. You’ll climb through scenic alpine meadows, soak in breathtaking scenery and carve new lines in the solitude of Colorado’s backcountry on this one-day tour customized to your skill level and objectives.

Advanced Tours & Ski Mountaineering

From $495 · Full-day

Take your backcountry skiing to the next level in Vail Pass. Your expert guide will lead you through intermediate and advanced terrain, introducing you to the best powder stashes. For advanced skiers new to mountaineering, your guide will teach you how to use crampons, an ice axe, and rope management on this adventure-packed day.

Things you need to know

Covid measures in Colorado, U.S.

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, guides and the communities they’re travelling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Vail, Colorado, please refer to the Town of Vail website.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

Why should I book with 57hours?

With us, it’s all play and no work for you! 57hours is an open platform that connects you with trained and certified outdoor adventure professionals all over the world. Using our tech-savvy, we make it super easy to find and book adventures worth tackling, with guides worth booking, all gathered from the first-hand experiences of the locals who adventure in these amazing locations.

Why should I go backcountry skiing?

Nothing beats the rush you’ll get from laying down first tracks on an incredible route with nothing but endless terrain laying before you. Alpine peaks, open bowls, steep and secluded tree shots, cruisy, mellow runs — it’s all out there waiting to be explored in the backcountry. You’ll spend less time waiting in chairlift lines and more time skiing, so leave the crowded resort behind and head off-piste for some of the best powder you’ll ever experience!

What can I expect from skiing with a guide?

A certified ski guide will take all of the guesswork out of your time in the backcountry. From tour planning to route selection, terrain management, avalanche safety, and gear knowledge, your guide’s expertise and backcountry experience will ensure you have an unforgettable ski touring adventure. It doesn’t matter your skill level, whether you’ve never backcountry skied or you’re seasoned on the slopes, skiing with a guide has its advantages. Your techniques will sharpen, you’ll learn how to navigate terrain safely, make smart decisions, and most of all, you’ll remain safe in unfamiliar terrain.

What if I’ve never backcountry skied before?

Backcountry skiing isn’t just for pros looking for the ultimate thrill ride, it’s also beginner friendly, meaning anyone with blue level resort experience can have fun in the backcountry. If you’ve never backcountry skied before, heading out with a guide is your best bet. They’ll take care of the planning, introduce you to the basics, like skinning uphill, and teach you how to manage the terrain. They also have the experience and avalanche training to keep you safe.

What’s included?

What you get in this adventure:

    • An experienced, certified ski guide with extensive knowledge of the area
    • A full day of backcountry ski touring

What’s not included:

    • Transportation
    • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
    • Trip insurance

How fit do I need to be?

In order to enjoy this backcountry adventure, you need to have a moderate level of fitness. You will be on your feet for a full day. While there is terrain for all skill levels in Vail, you will need to manage controlled descents in variable conditions. All participants should feel comfortable on blue level resort runs and be able to carry a loaded daypack while skinning up variable degrees of terrain.

What equipment do I need to bring?

For technical backcountry ski touring gear, you will need to bring:

  • Alpine touring skis, telemark skis or splitboard with skins (can be rented)
  • Touring boots and poles (can be rented)
  • Avalanche safety equipment (can be rented):
    • Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver or beacon
    • Lightweight snow shovel
    • Avalanche probe
    • Harness for glacier travel

For personal items, we recommend bringing:

  • Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore-tex recommended)
  • Ski pants (Gore-tex recommended)
  • Helmet
  • Synthetic or wool base layers, underwear and socks
  • Down jacket or vest
  • Gloves and hat
  • One triple-action locking carabiner or two conventional locking carabiners
  • Repair kit and Leatherman for your equipment (can be shared between several people)
  • Water bottle and 1L of water
  • The food you can eat on-the-go
  • Sunglasses or ski goggles
  • First-aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Daypack large enough to carry all items listed (around a 30-45L bag)
  • Camera — optional

Can I rent equipment?

All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent:

  • Avalanche safety pack, including backpack, beacon, shovel and probe
  • Alpine touring or telemark skis, touring boots and poles can be rented from your guide, or through Mountain Outfitters in Breckenridge and Wilderness Sports in Dillon, 701 E Anemone Trail.
  • Splitboards can be rented from Alpine Quest in Edwards.

Ski rental locations are in Dillon, Edwards and Breckenridge, and should be picked up the night prior to your outing. If you need to rent gear, let us know and we can help make arrangements.

What’s the itinerary?

Your backcountry ski tour will be fully customized to match your skill level and objectives. You and your guide will discuss route selection, skills development, and whatever else you’d like to focus on. From there, your guide will plan the perfect day tailored just for you taking into consideration factors such as weather and snow conditions.

Depending on your objectives, full days may start earlier and end later, but in general, your day will look like this:

  • 8:00 am: Meet your guide at the guide’s recommended location in Vail
  • 9:00 am: Head to the location of your backcountry ski tour
  • 9:30 am – 4:00 pm: Gear up, go over safety considerations, and spend the day backcountry skiing on routes selected to best suit your group, stopping for lunch and breaks as needed
  • 4:00pm: Back to the cars for debriefing and high fives

What is the minimum age requirement?

  • Everybody over the age of 18 is welcome to book this backcountry skiing adventure.
  • Minors may be permitted to join private tours on a case-by-case basis. If you plan to ski with anyone under the age of 18, please contact us prior to booking to make arrangements

What about group sizes and pricing?

For this adventure, the max client to guide ratio is 4:1. Advanced ski and mountaineering tours may run at reduced numbers depending on the skill level and objective of your group.

The cost per person decreases as the group grows, so it’s the perfect opportunity to backcountry ski with friends and family.

Ski touring in Vail can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

What about bad weather?

Mitigating avalanche risk is paramount for any excursion in the backcountry — that’s why it’s best to tour with a guide! Rest assured, your guide will set objectives that are attainable for the weather conditions on that particular day. Of course, inclement weather can always get in the way of backcountry skiing, but your guide will know the best course of action to take if the weather takes a turn.

On the rare occasion of truly bad weather, your guide will present you with suitable, safe alternatives. The most common practice is to move to a nearby location if it exists, or to reschedule your backcountry ski tour to a more favorable day.

If backcountry skiing is not possible on your scheduled day and no options presented are viable, you will be issued a full refund.

Do I need an insurance policy?

We highly recommended that you cover all your bases with both emergency medical and travel insurance. With medical insurance, if you have an accident or medical emergency on or off the mountain, you’ll avoid paying out of pocket for costly expenses. This covers everything from hospital treatments to emergency air transportation and more.

If you need assistance selecting the right insurance for your group, let us know and we will be happy to help!

Cancellation policy

With 57hours, you benefit from both our own cancellation policy as well as that of the individual guiding service that delivers your adventure. All policies regarding cancellation will be clearly laid out by your guide after booking your adventure, but rest assured that our own cancellation policy will work on top of what is provided by your guide.

For private guiding adventures, 57hours offers a Moderate Cancellation Policy, which states:
If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to fourteen (14) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is entitled to a full refund. For cancellations seven (7) to thirteen (13) calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a credit with that Guide for another identical or substantially similar Booking, or a full refund, minus a One Hundred-Fifty Dollar ($150) reservation fee. For cancellations one to six calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a full refund, minus a One Hundred-Fifty Dollar ($150) reservation fee. For cancellations anytime less than 25 hours in advance, the Client is not entitled to any refund.

For more information on terms and conditions, please visit our Terms of Service page.

Getting there and meeting location

To get directly to Vail, you can fly directly into Eagle County Regional Airport. From there, rent a car or take a Epic Mountain Express shuttle for around 30 minutes to Vail. Alternatively, you can fly into Denver International Airport. From there, it’s a four-hour drive by rental car or Epic Mountain Express shuttle to Vail.

Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet in Vail.

Reviews

Best Backcountry Skiing Experience
Matthias W. about Apex Mountain School

When looking to get off the resort trails and into the backcountry, we compared a few options for a guide service, but found Apex Mountain School to be the leader in the space. From the very beginning, conversations with the Apex team were always clear in objective and confidence boosting with their expertise not only in the sport but also the locations.

What a great team at Colorado Adventure Guides
Christian S. about Colorado Adventure Guides

I was impressed all the way through the process from knowledge provided to me in my first phone call to inquire about guided backcountry skiing options to the high level of experience my guide showed through our entire tour. There’s really nothing that could have been better.

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