Weekend Fun in the Colorado Backcountry Sun – Willoughby Mtn.

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 16, 2007      
Backcountry skiing on Willoughby Mountain.
Louie skiing Kairns Chute down from Snowmass Resort. Saturday was last day open for Snowmass. This time of year the key to backcountry fun is access to the alpine. Snowmass provides good high elevation terrain, both backcountry and inbounds. We caught the lift when it opened then skinned a short distance up Baldy Mountain, where we could access a chute known as Kairns. We dropped Kairns (about 1,500 vert) into the East Snowmass Creek drain. We then toured up the drainage to the base of a beautiful mountain known as Willoughby.

Backcountry skiing Kairns to Willoughby Mountain.
At the Kairns entrance you get a good view of Willoughby. Turned out we might have done better by skinning farther up Baldy and descending a different chute into East Snowmass Creek, but we didn’t know which chutes were in and Kairns was a sure bet.

Backcountry skiing Kairns to Willoughby Mountain.
Lisa gets the summit of Willoughby. One of the best things about this peak is you’re in the middle of Colorado’s stunning Elk Mountains. That is indeed 14er Pyramid Peak in the background.

Baldy Mountain and Little Willow Peak, west facing side accessed from Snowmass Resort.=

Our view of Baldy Ridge west face — click image for huge enlargement. These backcountry skiing couloirs and goat lines are popular descents accessed from Snowmass Resort. Longer drops are about 2,000 vertical feet. Return is accomplished by skiing a tricky route down the valley then taking a traverse on an irrigation ditch and road back to the ski area, or else simply climbing back up the peak. Quite a few people were skiing the Baldy lines while we were on Willoughby. While working our way down the valley we met one guy named Will who reminded me how the valley exit route worked, as I hadn’t been here in years. Thanks Will!

Backcountry skiing Willoughby Mountain.
Louie skiing off Willoughby. Snow conditions were interesting. The snow was wintry rather than spring corn, so we took a conservative line as we figured the day’s warmth might weaken the pack. The day stayed fairly cool, however, so conditions remained quite safe and we saw no natural avalanches.

Backcountry skiing Kairns to Willoughby Mountain.
The eye burning Star Lite boots get their first taste of Colorado spring backcountry “skiing” and now have a more earth toned look.

Backcountry skiing Kairns to Willoughby Mountain.
Group portrait with lots of backcountry Zeal.


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4 Responses to “Weekend Fun in the Colorado Backcountry Sun – Willoughby Mtn.”

  1. Mark April 16th, 2007 8:42 am

    Awesome tour! And great family shot. I really like being above timberline, and Colorado has plenty of that.

  2. Mark L April 16th, 2007 9:01 am

    Always wanted to ski there when I lived in Aspen, thanks for the nice TR!

  3. Andy W April 16th, 2007 5:12 pm

    Thanks for the amazing panoramic shot, should have put this one in your book! Skiied Baldy One(or is it Two, anyway, the lookers right hand line, skiers left) about a week ago, but the visibility was really in and out and it was hard to see what else in the area would be good to ski. Now I know – nearly every line looks great! On our day the conditions were wet powder for the descent, but we were sinking to our knees in the wet grains at valley bottom on the way out, even with our skis on, which made the return to the resort rather epic(it was also raining). The cold temps are good for something, even if you didn’t get the corn. happy skiing! – andy wellman

  4. ill will April 18th, 2007 11:53 pm

    It was cool to meet you in the backcountry, Lou. Even though the Cirque lift was down, folks were definitely getting after it off of Snowmass. We enjoyed watching your crew climb and descend Willoughby as we trudged towards the Cirque gate (no skins since we expected it to be running). We were rewarded though, with a super fast descent down Baldy One on smooth snow. On the way up, my buddy semi-jokingly remarked that “those people on Willoughby are lucky we’re spotting them if they decide to ski the bowl,” because there was a nearby natural on a similar aspect from a previous day. It was good to hear your descent route was altered based on the same observations! I think it was a wise decision. I’m amazed by all the potential lines between Willoughby and Garrett’s. Hopefully I’ll be getting up there this Spring, but I’m sure gonna miss the chairlifts as I skin up East Snowmass Creek.

    P.S. I hope my tracks were of any help on the way out. I barely made it to work because the “cross-country ski” along the ditch trail had changed in just a couple days into a mud-walk. BTW, skied N. Face of Whitehouse for the first time yesterday, in good conditions. What an awesome peak! Excellent “access to the alpine,” an easy, obvious skin route, and a ridiculously good ski!

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