Tired of expensive tickets and long lift lines? Check out these classic backcountry adventures.
Berthoud Pass, Colorado
When you’re tired of the crowds at the Colorado resorts, find snowy solitude just 70 miles west of Denver. Berthoud Pass, with 1,000 acres of diverse terrain, is a backcountry skier’s dream—and the area’s best-known backcountry tour is a five-mile, all-day tour from the Second Creek Drainage to Winter Park Resort. Be prepared for altitude—the area’s base is at 11,300 ft—and brush up on your avalanche skills and/or ski with an expert, because the snowpack is notoriously unstable.
Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
For an off-the-grid adventure, Idaho’s the place to go. With backcountry terrain that ranged from gentle rollers to near-vertical couloirs, the Sawtooths are the perfect destination for skiers and splitboarders to incrementally build their touring skills. The classic route: a three-day adventure from the Redfish Lake gate to the Bench Lakes Hut, which includes a 1,500 ft descent down an angled couloir on the 10,299 ft Mount Heyburn.
Stevens Pass, Washington
Just two hours from Seattle, Highway 2 winds into the Cascade Mountains, bisecting one of the country’s biggest backcountry playgrounds. Start by getting a feel for the snow at Stevens Pass Resort, then point your ski tips into the mountains. “You can literally drive the highway looking for fun lines,” says one local guide. “Pick a pull-off, stretch on your skins, and go. It’s choose-your-own-adventure out here.”
Boulder Hut, British Columbia
The Purcell mountain range isn’t well known, but only because locals work hard to protect their secret: interior British Columbia boasts some of the best powder in North America. And the 6,500-ft Boulder Hut—which is helicopter-access only and sleeps up to 12 people—is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the area on skis or a splitboard. Nestled between Mount Higgins and Mount Levesque, the area offers diverse touring options. You’ll find tree skiing, blissful glades, technical mountaineering objectives, and—in most years— consistently fluffy pow.
Commissary Ridge, Wyoming
No West Coast backcountry round-up would be complete with a shout-out to the mountains of Wyoming, which offer downright ridiculous lines. The opportunities for exploration endless: there’s champagne powder for days, the jagged, breathtaking beauty of the Tetons, and nobody will judge you if you ski in a cowboy hat. Looking for a place to start? Check out Teton Backcountry Guides, who have been operating yurts in the Tetons since 1986.
Whenever you venture into the backcountry—especially in avalanche terrain—make sure you have the gear, education, and skills to travel safely. When in doubt, seek qualified instruction: take an avalanche course (or two!), hire a guide, or find experienced partners.