Thoughts on Berthoud Pass


I’ve run into every reaction on the spectrum over the last year since I started this project intended originally as an online guidebook to Berthoud Pass.  I’ve met people stoked and wanting to contribute, people pissed off that I was ruining their “secret” stashes, and every shade of indifference in between.

The reality is that backcountry skiing is getting dramatically more popular every year, it’s really the only segment of the ski market that’s growing. Berthoud Pass is less than an hour and a half from 3.5 million people, and it never has been, and never will be, anyone’s secret. What’s more important than protecting the “secret” of the pass, is providing the appropriate information to help people who are inexperienced with the pass that are going to head there either way. Whether they are just getting into backcountry skiing or just getting to know the pass it’s possible for everyone to have a safe and fun experience which will help keep the pass safe and fun for everyone else that already calls it home. Because whether or not this project exists new people are going to flock to the pass every year, and personally I’d rather those people have an idea of what they are doing.

I’m going to be writing up a few different “guides” to the pass targeted at different people and different situations. Hopefully we can help keep people more or less out of harm’s way and help everyone have a good time up there.

Intro to Berthoud Pass and Words of Caution

Early Season Guide To Berthoud Pass

First Timer’s Guide To Berthoud Pass

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6 Comments

  1. John
    Posted November 20, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Count me among those stoked about your project! I”ve been skiing Berthoud for the last ~7 years, but never enough (family, work, lazy, etc) to really learn the terrain. Jordan Lipp”s book has been really helpful, but the format of your website is much “friendlier.” That said, if I could make one suggestion, it would be to elaborate more on the avy danger with each run (which the book does). Or, if you”re worried about the liability of “advising” on avalanche risk and/or don”t want to undermine the user-friendliness with too much avy narrative, you could just mention the slope and aspect of every run. It”s on some of them, but not all. Regardless, thanks for putting this out there!

  2. Posted November 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Hey John, I”m working on getting more slope angle info on there, getting out and actually measuring slope angles takes some time though. I had been trying to work with the CAIC to get access directly into their system to pull the avy forecast level for a given aspect/elevation but I think they also are worried about liability and are less than willing to share that direct access. I”ll try and be more conscious about putting avy considerations in there, but to a certain extent I need to stay aware of liability. Thanks for the support though. More and better things to come!

  3. Crooked Moose
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    No wonder CAIC is less than willing to share that information – you”re essentially putting up map blog about where to go/not-go on Berthoud Pass and they probably don”t want anything to do with that. Regardless of your intentions, there are people experienced and new who will interpret your data, especially if you try to match the avy report with each slope/aspect, as the go/no-go zones and this is exactly what avy safety organizations are trying to steer folks away from: making touring decisions before they get out and take real observations. Focus on what this site really is – an uber-ski diary with fancy bells and whistles.

    • Posted December 17, 2013 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      CM, I”ve gone back and forth about whether or not color coding lines to the avy forecast is a good way to approach things and could argue either way. My overarching opinion is that the more information people can get before they head out the more prepared they are to make better decisions. Whether they read the CAIC report and correlate what they see there to what they see here, or the correlation is made for them in once place, I think they are in a better spot to make smart decisions than not having read the forecast and/or not knowing the lay of the land.

  4. Crooked Moose
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    G-Pow: I agree with you in terms of adding beta to their decisions, but you probably know pretty well that avy danger ratings don”t homogeneously apply across terrain, similar aspects. Micro-scale wind events can easily turn a “moderate” rating into a “considerable” or “extreme” rating over a portion of a slope, especially in the Front Range where variable winds are the norm. Micro-scale terrains can also vary widely in snowfall accumulated, again changing the local rating. These kinds of observations can”t be made taking a zone-wide avy forecast and mapping it on specific slopes – which is essentially the issue here.

    Its a great idea in theory but again, the information you provide to others can and will be construed as THE danger rating for that day, for that slope. In today”s world, people want shortcuts to everything, and for every seasoned bc rider who takes your geo-information to heart as just one more part of a much larger puzzle, there will be 10+ other users who will interpret the data as THE black-and-white terrain choice for the day.

    Its a precarious position to put yourself in for liability purposes – on one hand it can be a very good decision-making tool, but on the other hand it will be a very bad decision-making tool.

    • Posted December 18, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      CM: I think we”re more or less on the same page, and that”s why I haven”t been pushing to get the color coding working. I”m hopeful that with the CAIC transitioning towards a style more similar to the UAC that I may be able to pull some specific information and just give a breakdown of the potential hazards that someone is likely to find on a given aspect/elevation (i.e. “Potential Hazards: Persistant slab, wind slab”) in the actual line descriptions as opposed to color coding the map. So instead of a red light/green light that the color coding may indicate, I””m hoping people will read more deeply and actually think for themselves. In general I”ve tried to stick to only warning of especially sketchy lines instead of indicating “safe” lines (unless they are REALLY safe).

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