Ski a Fourteener in Colorado
The highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains aren’t found at ski resorts, but rather in the Colorado backcountry. Starting in January 2016, CBST Adventures began guiding small groups up 14,265-foot Quandary Peak, the highest summit in the Tenmile Range, near Breckenridge, CO.
The full-day trips start at the Quandary Trailhead, located just north of Hoosier Pass. The skin up is “only” three miles, but starts at 10,850 feet, which means you’ll be out of breath just putting on your skis. Give yourself a minimum of four hours to ascend.
The trail meanders along an old road through the woods then quickly rises to Quandary’s vertiginous ridgeline. The going gets really tough about halfway up, where you’ll gain 1,300 feet of elevation in 0.9 miles, then again just before the summit, where the trail rises 1,100 feet in the final 0.8-mile push to the top.
At the top, pack up your skins, don another layer, and enjoy the 360-degree top-of-the-world view looking down on Mt. Bross, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Cameron, and Mt. Democrat to the south, and Pacific Peak and Crystal Peak to the north. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Gore Range near Vail.
Then, depending on your skill level, your guide will choose one of two stellar descents. Experts will tackle Cristo Couloir — a steep, deep, technical descent considered the premier ski mountaineering route in the Tenmile range. Beginners (and those with less avalanche risk tolerance) will head down the east-facing side, enjoying the mellow low-angle terrain (20–22 degrees) and wide-open views.
[$350; includes avalanche equipment: beacon, shovel, and probe. Bring backcountry skis, either telemark or AT (alpine touring), and skins. Backcountry ski rental available at Mountain Outfitters in Breckenridge.]
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