By: Joshua Lenahan, Practicum Reporter
As I drive up Loveland Pass after a snowstorm, the mountains in every direction are scattered with carving “S” patterns from top to bottom. About a mile up the pass, a wide sweeping turn is bustling with rad dudes and dudettes walking with skis and boards. In the parking lot, hot dogs are being grilled, people are hanging around their cars, dogs are running around, trucks are picking people up – the stoke level is high, some might say.
If you’re unfamiliar with Colorado ski culture, it probably looks more like a snowy football tailgate, but as you talk to folks, you begin to realize they’re at the pass for the same reason: unlimited, deep, fluffy, snow. And the skiing is free.
As a group of about a dozen or so toss their gear into the back of a truck and pile themselves in, they get ready for the 10-minute ride to the top of the pass.
Hitchhiking Loveland pass is the easiest and most accessible backcountry skiing near Denver.
One of the highest mountain passes in the world and at the Continental Divide, Loveland Pass is consistently open during the snowy season – and a significant hub of activity after a snowstorm.
Sitting on the side of a truck bed, I hear seasoned ski bums talk about skipping work, “escaping the wife,” and reminiscing of winters past. I turn my attention back to the mountains, semi-trucks with chained tires drive past, routing around the Eisenhower tunnel. White-knuckled tourists in rental cars navigate the snow-covered roads.
At the top, I hop out of the truck and am instantly engulfed in white mountains. Clicking into a pair of beat-up, center-mounted park skis, I am not exactly ready for 2 feet of fluffy powder, but I am complaining either.
After making a few passes and stopping to catch my breath, I was greeted by the faint swishing sound of a fellow skier in the distance, a dog barking at its owner skiing down the mountain, and even the soft sounds of falling snow. The blissfulness of the mountain is a good distraction from the potentially dangerous terrain below.
Steep cliffs litter chutes and gullies and are countered by wide-open powder fields on different lines. The variety of the terrain makes it welcoming to more than expert skiers; its terrain and easy accessibility is a fitting introduction to aspiring backcountry skiers.
This same easy accessibility means Loveland Pass draws inexperienced and unprepared skiers into potentially risky avalanche areas. Most Loveland Pass novices stick with someone who knows the area to stay safe. It can be a dangerous place and should be treated as such. There’s no lodge at the bottom with amenities or First Aid gear. You ski here at your own risk.
The risks don’t stop those who ski it, and it’s a pretty popular place during a decent snowstorm.
Loveland Pass is a fun getaway from the long, early season lines at neighboring A-Basin. The pass provides a fun change of pace with loads of options.
Next time you find yourself on the pass, don’t forget to pick up a friendly hitchhiker. We get cold, and appreciate the ride.