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Explore Colorado’s OG Ski Spot @ Berthoud Pass

Denver's Backcountry Destination

By Will LaPlante & Rob Writz
Claim to Fame: Colorado's First Ski Tow

The Berthoud Pass Ski Area, which opened in 1937, was one of the first major ski areas in Colorado. The original permit for it, granted by the U.S. Forest Service, included more than 37,000 acres on both sides of the pass and encompassed parts of the current Winter Park Resort. Later on, Berthoud Pass became the first Colorado ski area to allow snowboarders full access to lifts and terrain. The competition of larger ski areas eventually forced Berthoud Pass Ski Area to close on March 10, 2003. Its Forest Service permit required that all remaining structures be removed, and in the summer of 2005 the lodge and other buildings were torn down. Since the original ski area has closed, you can still find skiers driving to the top of the pass at 11,315 feet, where the accessibility has made it a popular destination for backcountry skiers. The roadsides are often littered with hitchhikers looking for someone willing to be a good Samaritan. Those who are generous enough to pull over and give a hitchhiking brother or sister a ride to the top are then blessed with good karma enshrined in the history and tradition of skiing the Pass.

D’Argonne, Sawyer. “A Golden Beacon: The Life and Death of the Berthoud Pass Ski Area.”,, 21 Dec. 2017,

With Over 13 Zones, The Pass Packs It In

Quick access, a consistent snowpack, and endless discovery continue to draw backcountry skiers to Berthoud Pass. The east-to-west orientation of the Pass, located high above the Fraser River and Clear Creek valleys, attracts a deep snowpack benefiting from both northwest flow and upslope storms. In just an hour’s drive from Denver, backcountry skiers have access to numerous trailheads leading into the high basins surrounding the Pass. From pre-work dawn patrols, to car shuttling, to all-day epics, Berthoud Pass has an adventure for backcountry riders of all skill levels. 

For the Adventurous, the Cautious and the Curious

Rob Writz, founder of and author of Beacon’s Berthoud Pass guidebook, reflects on his countless adventures at The Pass:

“I have lost track of how many sunrises I have seen from Berthoud Pass. This means that I have also lost count of how many dawn patrols I have had at the Pass over the years. I don’t revel in the sub-zero and pitch-black starts, but the day job and family schedule dictate these early mornings. When the sun rises over the Continental Divide it sheds just enough light on the surrounding terrain. From the top of the West Side you can see the Indian Peaks to the north, and the Mount Evans Wilderness to the south. The quick access and the deep snow of Berthoud Pass provide a solace from the harsh morning, and it is the camaraderie of the skiers in the parking lot that brings the warmth. Berthoud Pass is close enough to Denver to justify several laps and then a harrowing drive down I-70 to work. I often joke that after safely navigating the hazards of backcountry skiing, the most dangerous part may be the drive back.”

Get the Forecast, Get the Gear, Get a Guide!


Spitzer, Rick. “Berthoud Pass: Backcountry Haven.”,, 10 Oct. 2009,

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