Preview – Ski Independence Pass Colorado

Post by blogger | May 22, 2014      
Snirt is covered on Blue Peak, Colorado. Independence Pass will be the place to ski this weekend!

Snirt is covered on Blue Peak, Colorado. Independence Pass will be the place to ski this weekend!

Independence Pass is scheduled to open this Thursday (May 22) at 2:00 pm. The week or so before the gate is unlocked is heaven for bike riders. With no cars on the road, you can pedal up to the top of the Rockies in peace. I called up my friend Liz and we did just that, along with a recon for ski mountaineering.

Our last few winters of drought and dirt have almost destroyed the long season of spring corn skiing we once enjoyed. With recent storms adding a layer of snow on top of the “snirt,” this spring might be different. Liz and I were psyched to hop on our bikes and check out what lay ahead for our backcountry ski plans this weekend.

We parked at the North Star Nature Preserve, just east of Aspen.  A few miles up CO Hwy 82, the gate to Indy appears.

We parked at the North Star Nature Preserve, just east of Aspen. Independence Pass is about 20 miles away, roughly 4000 ft elevation gain. A few miles up from where we parked, the gate to Indy appears.

Snow coverage looks better than it has in years, but I was surprised there wasn't more snow. The dirt patches are already appearing and the sun makes them grow quickly.

Snow coverage looks better than it has in years, but I was surprised there wasn’t more. The dirt patches are already appearing and the sun makes them grow quickly. 50/50 chance of a little more snow fall predicted for next few days. Looking toward Geissler peaks.

Highway crews are clearing  the few remaining snow sluffs near the top.

Highway crews clearing the few remaining snow sluffs near the top.

Made it! Note the dirt layers in the snow.  Mountain Boy Basin is in the background.

Made it! Note the dirt layers in the snow. Mountain Boy Basin is in the background.

For more information about the backcountry skiing possibilities on Independence Pass, check out Backcountry Skiing Colorado.


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14 Responses to “Preview – Ski Independence Pass Colorado”

  1. Jess May 22nd, 2014 9:55 am

    Ride For The Pass, held the Saturday before the road opens, is my favorite rite of Spring. It’s a butt kicker!

  2. Lisa Dawson May 22nd, 2014 10:05 am

    Butt kicker, yes, especially for the first big ride of the year. As I wheezed by the mile marker on the top I thought, “20 miles…that was only 20 miles?” Haha, felt at least double that.

  3. mtnrunner2 May 22nd, 2014 9:36 pm

    When I read about Independence Pass opening this weekend, of course I immediately thought about the — seemingly annual — Wild Snow conditions report 🙂 Hopefully rain will stay away long enough for some skiing, riding, BBQ and other fun on the Pass. Cheers 🙂

  4. Ben May 23rd, 2014 6:32 am

    What day are you guys doing the BBQ on the pass? I have been reading wildsnow faithfully for years and am coming up to ski this weekend. We are camping over on lake creek the whole weekend and would love to come and check out this famous event.

  5. Lou Dawson May 23rd, 2014 7:12 am

    Hi Ben, the word is that everyone might try it tomorrow, Saturday May 22, 11:00 am at upper hairpin turn on Aspen (west) side of pass. But might have to try it Sunday or even the next weekend due to weather. Watch this space or Facebook. It’s a community gathering, nothing official, please keep that in mind. Lou

  6. Ryan E. May 23rd, 2014 9:09 am

    Disappointing weather, especially since we all have waited for the road to open. I was looking forward to finally being able to ski corn without snw-mud in the sunshine. Oh well, have to let the mountain gods rule.

  7. Lou Dawson May 23rd, 2014 9:21 am

    Yeah, I think some folks will get some turns today up there, but we didn’t go. Started out, but we’re driving in the rain. They do that in the PNW, but when we get rained on in Colorado we tend to go back indoors (grin). Lou

  8. Ben May 23rd, 2014 12:42 pm

    Thanks guys for the info. We are heading up tonight and will check out the hairpin to see if anyone is around. The weather does look like it is going to be challenging, but I am a Loveland/Berthoud regular, so it might feel balmy to us.

  9. James B. May 23rd, 2014 9:07 pm

    Wimps! Here on Maui we have a road that rises 10,023 feet vertical in 36 miles. At 4000 ft in 20 miles, Independence Pass sounds practically flat ;=)

    We even have a yearly race from the beach up to the top, check out

    Your 4000 ft in 20 miles sounds more like our little “baby hillclimb”, Pedal To The Meadow over on Kaua’i, which takes place this weekend.

  10. Lisa Dawson May 24th, 2014 6:04 am

    James B, you win the macho medal. RAD! Those rides must be breathtaking (visually & physically, haha). I added them to my bucket list. Have fun!

  11. michael June 10th, 2014 9:13 am

    Has anyone been up to Grizzley in the last week? How is the approach?

  12. Andrew April 2nd, 2015 11:37 am

    Howdy, I was just curious if the bbq tends to always happen on the Saturday of the opening weekend? Is the opening almost always Memorial Day?


  13. Lisa Dawson April 2nd, 2015 12:03 pm

    Hi Andrew,
    Yes, we typically have the Everyone’s Welcome WildSnow Spring Corn Fest BBQ on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. If we’re not traveling, that’s probably when we’ll do it this year, and we’ll announce our plans on WildSnow. Hope you join us!

    Independence Pass usually opens the Thursday before Memorial Day. It certainly seems like CDOT could open Independence Pass early this year since our snow levels are so low. Unfortunately, it never seems to be a big priority for them.

    Just the other day Lou and I were reminiscing about the old days when there was no gate over the road. In the spring, Aspen locals would take their plows and open the road. It’s frustrating that access to our local mountains is so restricted these days.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 April 2nd, 2015 1:24 pm

    Andrew, also, the party is totally informal, not an “event,” keep that in mind. Need to be careful of needing some kind of permit. Cripple Creek Backcountry will be there again this year with a full-size BBQ everyone can borrow to grill their own. We usually bring some extra stuff, as does Cripple Creek. Lou

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