The adventures you can have during your winter vacation to Estes Park are endless, giving visitors the thrill of a lifetime, from the simple pleasures of teaching your youngest the simple joys of making snow angels to the rugged escapades you can have in the backcountry landscape of our winter paradise, including a favorite of all thrill seekers, the sport of backcountry skiing! Also called off-piste, alpine touring, or simply out-of-area, this winter sport can change the way you look at skiing forever! And the only thing better than spending a day exploring the snowy landscape on a pair of skis is, of course, coming home to the quiet comforts and warmth found in our Mountain Village at Lake Estes seasonal sanctuaries. This guide to the thrills of backcountry skiing in Estes Park will give you a secret preview of your upcoming Colorado getaway!


The Equipment


Backcountry skiing is not a sport for the novice skier, it is best to get some acreage under your skis on the groomed slopes of ski resorts, perhaps take some lessons, and put in your hours before even thinking of attempting the backcountry. For experienced skiers, however, this sport can be become your new obsession and requires much of the same equipment you would use for resort style skiing, with a couple of exceptions. Backcountry skis offer different bindings and also need mohair or synthetic skins that can be attached to the bottom of the skis, making it easier to walk uphill to get to your favorite ski spot. (Remember, this is out-of-area, meaning the slopes aren’t groomed and there will not be any chair lifts!) Backcountry ski boots also need to be more flexible than standard ski boots, for the same reason you need the skins for your skis. Finally, and we aren’t trying to scare you, avalanches are a threat to any alpine touring skier and avalanche training should be considered before heading out for the first time—plus, an avalanche rescue pack should be added to your equipment list. Rocky Mountain National Park Service provides courses that can last two days, but Colorado Mountain School offers lessons that include the avalanche training and only lasts 8 hours, which may be more useful to visitors with a limited schedule. If you don’t already have your own backcountry equipment, or just don’t want to travel with your own gear, pretty much any ski rental place will offer equipment rentals, including, Estes Park Mountain Shop, located at 2050 Big Thompson Avenue in Estes Park.


The Wow Factor


We don’t like to brag, but the Estes Park area is known throughout the world as a popular place for backcountry skiing! Offering miles of virgin landscape just waiting for your skis to shred, Hidden Valley (and no, we are not talking about the ranch dressing, as delicious as it may be!) is the top spot in the region for backcountry skiing. In its previous life, this area was once a ski area with groomed trails and all the ski resort amenities, but that resort closed 30 years ago and it became open season for the thrill seekers in the world! If you are new to backcountry skiing, it is the perfect place to get your skiers legs, as the Ptarmigan in the Lower T-Bar area is easily accessible. Feel like a road trip before you begin your backcountry adventures? St. Vrain Mountain is located just about 20 miles south of your Mountain Village at Lake Estes winter escape and offers incredible views along the road, in addition to the views you will see as you spend your day playing in the snow. Mt. Vrain was also a ski area once, closed many years ago, and is popular with backcountry skiers of all skill levels!


Sunrise Is the Right Time


Although no one likes to get up early on vacation, we suggest that on at least one day during your stay with us, you make the effort, heading to the ski area of your choice and timing it to catch the sun rising over the Rocky Mountains. The cold of the pre-dawn air while watching the sky turn from an inky and velvety blackness that fades into grays, pinks, and finally a clear blue, creates a moment that you will lock into your memory banks, replaying whenever your real life feels bland and colorless. Pack a thermos of hot cocoa with your gear and just take those first few minutes of the day to sip and marvel over the beauty of Mother Nature, before you start your mountain adventures!


Come Home to Mountain Village at Lake Estes


Some vacations are just destined to be better than others and your Colorado getaway spent with us will definitely be one of the favored few. Reserve your favorite Mountain Village at Lake Estes escape and come home to comfort and style every night of your stay!