Colorado – Independence Pass Backcountry Skiing Report

Post by blogger | May 21, 2012      
Pete Anzalone, yesterday, North Side of Geissler Peak

Pete Anzalone, yesterday, North Side of Geissler Peak, Independence Pass area, Colorado.

Due to a series of cold fronts, snow above timberline in the Independence Pass area has held up, though obviously not as good as would be after a normal to above normal winter. We estimate about two weeks ahead of schedule in terms of coverage and melting. In other words, similar to backcountry skiing on the pass a few days after the usual Memorial day opening during an average snow year. Obvious variations have occurred due to microclimactic variations in snowfall. For example, drainages northwest and southwest of the pass have noticeably more snow (but of course are harder to reach during day trips).


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15 Responses to “Colorado – Independence Pass Backcountry Skiing Report”

  1. Matt Lanning May 21st, 2012 9:21 am

    Lou – any idea if the Lincoln Creek gate is open yet? thinking about a Grizzly tour soon… but hoping for an approach from below… thanks as always for the beta!

  2. John J May 21st, 2012 10:08 am

    Gate was closed yesterday (Sun). Grizzly looks great from the pass…

  3. Lou May 21st, 2012 10:13 am

    Matt, Perl has been calling USFS about that, they say they’re sticking to their usual opening date in June. Bummer. I have to say it really burns my behind that our public roads, paid for with taxpayer money, are closed for use. Not many people seem to care…

  4. SB May 21st, 2012 3:41 pm

    That stinks. Grizzly is still one of my favorite descents.

  5. Lou May 21st, 2012 6:17 pm

    Write your congressional representative. Seriously.

  6. John Gloor May 21st, 2012 7:01 pm

    I have used dirt bikes three times to access Grizzly and Truro before the gates open. You can also easily go up Mtn boy and ski over to the notch (skiers right) for a good snow gully into the Grizzly drainage above the pine trees. If you try to wrap around the back side you will end up scrambling down rocks and scree. The gully is way better.

  7. Jason May 27th, 2012 3:08 pm

    Anyone one the pass today to see in maybe, just maybe the road is open?

  8. Matt Lanning May 27th, 2012 7:28 pm

    I’ve been told by someone who works with Pitkin County that they have to meet with USFS before the gate can open. None of them ‘control’ it, but it won’t be done with out a meeting. Looks like late next week at the earliest. I have not been up the pass, however, so I cannot say first hand if something changed…

  9. Bob Perlmutter May 27th, 2012 9:41 pm

    Lincoln Cr. Rd. opened yesterday(Sat.). I skied Grizzly today with my crew as well as the 3-4 other parties up there. Nine people in total. No question that a group had been up yesterday as well despite the high winds. The dirt walk is noticeably longer than usual, a little ways past where the summer trail crosses the creek.
    We skied the skier’s right gully which is more East facing and had good spring conditions. Everyone else stuck with the classic Grizzly line. The one party we spoke with back at the trailhead said the main line never softened but they seemed happy with the skiing regardless. Once again, Grizzly provided a fine bookend to another season. Bring on summer!

  10. Jason May 28th, 2012 11:31 am

    Thanks for the ever so important info for us DV trash unable to make the trek. Missed it this weekend but next Saturday….

  11. Frank K May 29th, 2012 7:50 am

    It’s odd how different areas operate when it comes to road openings. The Aspen zone is home to two of CO’s most frustrating closures with the Maroon and Lincoln Creek roads. Meanwhile seemingly every dirt and 4×4 road in the San Juans is plowed and open, and has been for a while. I’ll never know where those counties get the money to plow everything, but it sure makes access a breeze.

  12. Lou May 29th, 2012 9:50 am

    Frank, my only theory is that the Aspen area is basically ambivalent about dispersed recreation (but in love with ski resorts), while those towns and their counties in the San Juans need recreation badly. So they make an effort to open their roads, while around here the powers that be seem to care nothing about giving public access to public roads. Also, we have a very vocal contingent of the public here who are basically anti-road, and howl about how “roaded” backcountry is some sort of earth shattering travesty. I believe that howling empowers the powers to not bother with trying to open roads earlier, or at least gate them in stages as spring melt progresses. More, of course, the powers that be always use the excuse of lacking money, but then they spend tons of money on other stuff thus demonstrating that any whining about money is pure obfuscation. That’s the best theory I can come up with… it’s been like that since they gated Independence Pass and the Maroon Creek Road way back in the 1970s. Before they gated those roads you could go when you wanted, at your own risk. Same with Lincoln. We loved it and I’ll always miss those days. Skiing access was easier, but I also remember the spring rock climbing up on Independence, when we’d just drive up as far as we could , park, and enjoy.

  13. Matt Lanning May 29th, 2012 3:55 pm

    I agree with Lou… I grew up in Telluride, spent 4 years in Silverton, and have also lived in Aspen… nearly the only economy Silverton has in the summer comes from the train and from ATVs, RVs, and Jeeps… They start plowing the roads between Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride as soon as humanly possible… mostly cuz it takes months to get them open (during a normal snow year), and the goal is always July 4th… But the roads are ALWAYS open during plowing and you can drive up as far as they’ve made it to access ski lines. Never been an issue with that… so in this case, money always wins… In Silverton, it benefits skiers, and in Aspen it appears to benefit the roadless/Colorado Wild proponents…

    Lou, thanks as always for such great forum!

    P.P.S. I skied the north face of Democrat (near Alma/Breckenridge) today, from about 50 feet below the 14,148′ summit… Fantastic snow, 6″ of recycled powder for 1500′, then perfect corn for the last 500’… plenty of great lines left to be had over here if anyone is looking for skiable snow! Torreys/Dead Dog is skiing great now, too, and all of the roads over here are OPEN! 🙂

  14. John J May 29th, 2012 5:10 pm

    Matt, was that you I talked to on the trail? If so, I am glad to hear a good report. I deliberately left my skis in the car to avoid the temptation to drop in there again. I almost regretted it when I saw the place.

  15. Matt Lanning May 29th, 2012 6:23 pm

    John, yes that was me. Thanks for the info! That run was brilliant! The scree climb back to the shoulder was a bit brutal… wish I had my crampons and axe… I woulda gone straight back up the snow! thanks again!

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