3. Vail Pass

Offering a bit of everything – moderate terrain, steep chutes, snowmobile access, and easy approaches – Vail Pass is one of the best backcountry skiing destinations in the West. Combine the backcountry with world-class resort skiing at Vail, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone, or A-Basin for an epic weekend in the mountains.

The Vail Pass summit reaches 10,662’, and its recreation area is a massive 55,000 acres. So, while the area is heavily trafficked, it is also huge. The north/east side of the pass is for non-motorized traffic, while the south/west side allows for snowmobiles, in addition to human-powered and cat skiing. Check out this Vail Pass brochure and map for more info.

In the Vail Pass area, there’s plenty of backcountry skiing to go around.
The Vail Pass area has backcountry skiing for all skill levels

Beginner Routes in Vail Pass

If you’re a beginner to backcountry skiing in Colorado, Vail Pass is a great place to earn your stripes. There’s quick and easy access to the goods on Uneva Peak on the north side of I-70. The terrain here offers mellow lines and gentle slopes in the Hippy Trees and on the Dog Run. On the other side of the highway, it’s quite a bit busier, but a cat/sled road makes easy skinning towards moderate terrain in/around Ptarmigan.

Vail Pass Offers Routes for More Experienced Backcountry Skiers

Looking for something a little more challenging? Look on the southside of the Pass beyond Ptarmigan Hill and consider dropping in on the varied terrain of Boss Basin and, of course, Avalanche Bowl – an appropriately named feature which has unfortunately seen at least a couple fatalities.

If you find yourself on the northside at Uneva, the east-side chutes are steep and challenging if you’re looking for bigger angles and even bigger terrain. Avalanches are a real hazard in any of the steep terrains—know how to manage this hazard yourself, or hire a guide.

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