Backcountry skiing and snowboarding, also called ski mountaineering, alpine touring or skinning has become a popular way to ramp up aerobic fitness or head into the unmarked and unpatrolled backcountry to “earn your turns” outside of the resort. While Breckenridge is a hub for backcountry exploration, going into the “backcountry” can be extremely dangerous and requires appropriate gear, education and terrain knowledge before stepping a foot on the snow.
2021 Conditions Update
Know Before You Go
What do you need before backcountry skiing in Breckenridge?
Avalanche & Backcountry Safety Education
Breckenridge has lots of opportunities for you to get involved in classes and learning seminars involving backcountry gear, avalanche safety, as well backcountry first aid. Groups such as Backcountry Babes and Colorado Adventure Guides offer formal avalanche training through The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education as well as hands-on, intro-style seminars aimed at introducing newbies to the backcountry. Be sure to refer often to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which provides daily reports designed to help you travel safely in the backcountry and is a MUST read before planning any type of backcountry travel. Learn more about avalanche awareness through Know Before You Go.
The right gear
Avalanche transceiver/Beacon, Shovel and Probe at a minimum. Make sure you know how to use it.
Where can you rent or buy backcountry gear in Breckenridge?
Don’t have gear? Specialty stores like Mountain Outfitters and Underground Snowboards offer a variety of different gear for you to rent or purchase to get you started. The staff at Mountain Outfitters can also point you to local guidebooks with route suggestions and even offer you some of their personal favorites tailored to the current conditions.
Having a good base fitness level plays an important role in your safety when it comes to backcountry activities. Hone in on your skills and lungs at the gym and by skinning up the ski resort, get familiar with all of your gear and dial in your water and nutrition levels in a controlled environment before heading out into the backcountry. The more you know about yourself and your gear, the safer you will be while traveling around in the mountains.
Be Prepared – for anything!
Be ready for anything. Pack your bag as if you were spending the night out in the middle of the winter. Make sure you have plenty of extra layers, gloves, hats, buffs and an emergency medical kit in case anything were to happen while you are in the backcountry. Pack plenty of food and water, and don’t forget your headlamp. It may seem like you are bringing way too much, but that little bit of extra weight could end up saving you, or someone else’s life, in case of an emergency. Be safe and pack smart.
Know where you’re going
Make sure you familiarize yourself with the area. Know the terrain well enough to navigate it safely and pinpoint your location in case of an emergency. Bring a map and always tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back–better yet, go with a buddy. Having another person along could be the saving grace in an emergency situation.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center
Since 1950, avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard. In the United States, Colorado accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths. The Colorado Avalanche Warning Center began issuing public avalanche forecasts in 1973 as part of a research program in the USDA-Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. The mission of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is to provide avalanche information, education and promote research for the protection of life, property and the enhancement of the state’s economy.
Getting the forecast
Getting the forecast is the most important thing you can do before heading into the backcountry. Expecting an increase in use, Friends of CAIC is asking everyone to pledge to check the avalanche forecast before heading out into the backcountry in Colorado this winter. Take it, share it and do it – let’s build a safer community together!
Going into the “backcountry” offers up solitude in nature, adventure and a sense of accomplishment using human power instead of a chairlift. Traveling in the backcountry comes with inherent risks and users are expected to have education in avalanches and backcountry travel, carry avalanche safety equipment, travel in pairs or small groups and check daily CAIC Avalanche reports.
Backcountry skiing requires a higher skill level due to ever-changing snow conditions and dangers involved with skiing outside of the ski areas including avalanches and lack of service and on-call medical professionals. The best way to get out into the backcountry is to take an avalanche course or hire a guide who will educate you every step of the way.
Where do you go backcountry skiing in Breckenridge?
Use free online mapping tools such as Google Earth and the slope shading options on CalTopo’s web-based software to scope out the terrain and plan your ascent and descent. If you’re not 100% comfortable selecting terrain on your own, book a course or day trip in the backcountry with a professional.
Where can you take backcountry classes in Breckenridge?
Breckenridge is home to a variety of backcountry guides and educational services aimed at getting you safely into backcountry skiing or splitboarding. Backcountry classes have limited occupancy and tend to fill-up quickly. Reserve your class well in advance.
Backcountry Lessons, Guides & Certification Organizations near Breckenridge:
- Colorado Adventure Guides
- Apex Mountain School
- Backcountry Babes
- Rocky Mountain Guides
- Colorado Snowboard Guides
- 10th Mountain Division Hut Association
Where can you rent or buy backcountry gear in Breckenridge?
Don’t have gear? Specialty stores like Mountain Outfitters and Underground offer a variety of gear for you to rent or purchase to get you started. Staff can also point you to local guidebooks with route suggestions and even offer you some of their personal favorites tailored to the current conditions.
Skinning uphill is one of the most fundamental skills required for backcountry skiing. Using the ski resort as your personal gym and training ground has a lot of benefits, including becoming more comfortable with your gear and improving your fitness level. Before you head out on the slopes, be sure to contact your local ski area regarding uphill policies and regulations.
Can you skin up Breckenridge Ski Resort?
Yes. Breckenridge Ski Resort allows uphill access outside of public operating hours. During the early season (and late season), uphill access routes will be limited and are subject to change and/or close on a daily basis. Check the resort’s uphill access information for status updates and call the Uphill Acess Hotline at 970-547-5627 before accessing the mountain. The number provides information about seasonal restrictions and ski area operations that might impact access. All cars utilizing paid during lots for uphill access will need a free uphill access parking permit.
What is Breckenridge Ski Resort’s uphill access policy & designated routes?
Those interested in uphill access at Breckenridge Ski Resort should check the resort’s uphill access information for status updates and call the Uphill Acess Hotline at 970-547-5627 for daily updates before heading to the mountain. All cars utilizing paid during lots for uphill access will need a free uphill access parking permit.
- Dogs are not allowed.
- Fat tire biking and mountain biking is prohibited on the mountain during the winter.
- Non-paid/Uphill users of Breckenridge Ski Resort assume all risks associated with access. The ski area is not maintained for uphill access and trails are not patrolled outside normal ski area operating hours, therefore emergency services may not be available.
- Closed ski areas are backcountry – When a ski area is closed the ski patrol is not available for emergency response or rescue. It is important to follow all uphill requirements as snow safety teams are not mitigating the avalanche hazard when ski areas are closed. In these situations, conditions at the ski area are not safer than traditional backcountry areas. Travel in them like you are in the backcountry.
Where to park for uphill skiing at Breckenridge Ski Resort
Cars utilizing paid lots for uphill access can obtain a free uphill access parking permit at BreckPark.com.
If you’re looking for the ultimate backcountry experience, hut trips provide a unique opportunity for backcountry skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, coffee-sipping, book-reading, fire-making, Monopoly-playing and whiskey-drinking—not to mention the most genuine group bonding time that only the internet-less wilderness can provide.
Summit Huts Association (SHA) maintains four cabins in the Breckenridge area that are beckoning you for your next adventure. The hut concept originated in Europe to give over-the-snow travelers secure accommodations in the rugged Alps. Unlike the European model which provides hut keepers, food and fresh linens, the American model calls for self-sufficiency. While they do provide cooking pots and pans, beds and firewood, bring sleeping bags, food and personal essentials with you.