The Pikes Peak region may not have quite the quantity of ski areas that other parts of Colorado boast, but nearby Monarch mountain is among the best when it comes to quality, especially if you’re hoping to escape the crowds at IKON or EPIC resorts. Ikon pass holders can reach Eldora Mountain, Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park, and Copper Mountain within 2 and a half hours from Colorado Springs. Holders of the EPIC pass will have access to Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Vail all within 3 hours. With affordable accommodations, a hospitable culture and an excellent food and beer scene for a little après ski relaxation, this makes the Pikes Peak region an amazing base for beginners and pros alike.
Backcountry Skiing (skinning) to earn your downhill turns
Being a former ski area itself, Pikes Peak boasts excellent backcountry skiing chutes during times of heavy snowpack, but there are plenty of caveats to consider before trying to take laps down America’s mountain.
First of all, anyone considering backcountry skiing is heavily advised to take at least an Avalanche level 1 certification class. Backcountry routes are not groomed or monitored like those at a resort, so know the conditions and bring necessary equipment for a worst-case scenario. Be aware of conditions. Pikes Peak Alpine School offers cost-effective, risk-managing guided ski tours.
Other local areas that can have good back-country skinning and skiing when sufficient now exists include the N. facing side of Blodgett Peak, … As with Pikes Peak, snow conditions can vary tremendously during the winter months, and should only be attempted by knowledgeable, AIRE-certified skiers. Always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC; www.avalanche.state.co.us) before you go.
Backcountry ski touring
Snow permitting, there are numerous areas for less technical (and less risky) backcountry skiing on various Forest Service roads, ungroomed State and County Parks, and open space areas. Some of these include spots include Mueller State Park, High Drive off Gold Camp Road, the Sante Fe Trail (primarily the Northern Sections, starting just N. of the Air Force Academy or town of Monument), Fox Run Regional Park, Black Forest Regional Park, The Pineries, Spruce Mountain and Lincoln Mountain Open Space Areas, and various Forest Service Roads near Woodland Park and west of Colorado Springs, Monument, and Palmer Lake. The Trailforks app (www.trailforks.com) is a good resource for local area trails.
Groomed Nordic ski areas
Snow permitting, there are two locations in the Pikes Peak region which offer groomed cross-country ski trails: The Country Club at Woodmoor Nordic Center (search “Woodmoor Nordic” on Facebook; groomed for skating and classic skiing, snow permitting, with rentals and lessons available by reservation), or Mueller State Park (www.cpw.state.co.us; groomed for classic skiing only)
Before You Get Started
Leave No Trace Principles for Winter Recreation
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the area and what to expect; ALWAYS check avalanche and weather reports prior to departure. Consult maps and local authorities about high danger areas, safety information, and regulations for the area you plan to visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies.
- Monitor snow conditions frequently. Carry and use an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel.
- Educate yourself by taking a winter backcountry travel course.
- Visit the backcountry in small groups, but never alone. Leave your itinerary with family or friends.
- Repackage food into reusable containers.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the need for tree markings, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
On the trail:
- Stay on deep snow cover whenever possible; in muddy spring conditions, stay on snow or walk in the middle of the trail to avoid creating new trails and damaging trailside plants.
- Travel and camp away from avalanche paths, cornices, steep slopes and unstable snow.
- Choose a site on durable surfaces- snow, rock or mineral soil- not tundra or other fragile vegetation.
- Camp at a safe, stable site out of view of heavily-traveled routes and trails.
- Keep pollutants out of water sources by camping at least 200 feet (70 adult steps) from recognizable lakes and streams- consult your map.
Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack It In, Pack It Out. Pack out everything you bring with you. Burying trash and litter in the snow or ground is unacceptable.
- Pick up all food scraps, wax shavings and pieces of litter. Pack out all trash: yours and others.
- Pack out solid human waste. In lieu of packing it out, cover and disguise human waste deep in snow away from travel routes and at least 200 feet (70 adult steps) from water sources.
- Use toilet paper or wipes sparingly. Pack them out.
- If necessary, use small amounts of biodegradable soaps for dishes. Strain dishwater into a sump hole.
- Inspect your campsite for trash and evidence of your stay. Dismantle all snow shelters, igloos or wind breaks. Naturalize the area before you leave.
Leave What You Find
- Leave all plants, rocks, animals and historical or cultural artifacts as you find them.
- Let nature’s sounds prevail. Keep loud voices and noises to a minimum.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Campfires cause lasting impacts in the backcountry. Always carry a lightweight camp stove for cooking.
- Use dead downed wood if you can find it. Put out all fires completely. Widely scatter cool ashes.
- Do not cut or break limbs off live, dead or downed trees.
- Winter is an especially vulnerable time for animals. Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed wildlife or leave food behind to be eaten.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Be respectful of other users. Share the trail and be courteous.
- Yield to downhill and faster traffic. Prepare for blind corners.
- When stopped, move off the trail.
- Separate ski and snowshoe tracks where possible. Avoid hiking on ski or snowshoe tracks.
- Learn and follow local regulations regarding pets. Control dogs. Pack out or bury all dog feces.
For more info contact Leave No Trace at 1-800-332-4100 or visit http://www.LNT.org