Early Season Guide To Berthoud Pass

Early season skiing and riding at the pass is about knowing where to go and timing. Oftentimes the October and November snowpack is more elevation and aspect dependent than it will be in the middle of the winter. In addition the runouts of many common lines (especially lines in Current Creek) may not be in, even though the skiing and riding above is nice. Finally, these suggestions vary season to season and snowfall to snowfall, every year is different and every snowpack is different. Take this with a grain of salt…

The following are my top 10 early season lines, in the order that they are usually skiable:

  1. Hells Half Acre
    • North facing, high elevation, minimal obstacles, and sees lots of traffic even if there isn’t much snow. This means the base gets packed down faster than almost anywhere else and because it’s north facing the snow doesn’t melt out between fall storms.
  2. Shop Chutes
    • Same situation as Hells Half Acre and it’s more protected in the trees from wind scouring and sun.
  3. East Side Runs
    • Mellow pitch, high elevation, and a generally grassy surface makes this fairly reliable early season spot as well. Does hold snow as long as some other things, but it’s a good option right after a storm.
  4. Mainline
    • Steeper than the East Side Runs, but slightly more north facing and equally grassy underneath. Also sees tons of traffic so once the base gets a little bit consolidated you don’t need to be afraid of hitting dirt on your turns.
  5. The Meadows
    • Even higher elevation than the stuff off the pass, more north facing, and a mellow pitch. The downsides are that it can be easily wind scoured and it sees less traffic (over a larger area) so doesn’t get as well skier compacted as the lines right off the pass. Also, in areas, it’s rocky underneath so you need to be careful.
  6. South Chutes Runout
    • This area usually fills in pretty well early season for some reason. Might have to do with it catching snow no matter which direction the wind is blowing.  The downside is that it’s usually in before the Bobsled run is in, which means a hike in and a hike out for a fairly short pitch.
  7. Moonlight Bowl
    • Similar situation to the South Chutes Runout. Neither of these areas are steep enough to be too exciting in midwinter but both fill in decently well early season.  Watch out where the pitch steepens down towards the aqueduct, people have hurt themselves on buried obstacles early season here.
  8. High Trail Trees
    • North facing, high elevation, and open trees are the ingredients for early season snow. A little steeper than most of the other previous lines but with a slightly less predictable surface under the snow. Also a larger area so the base doesn’t get packed out as well as some other areas. Watch out for downed trees!
  9. Current Creek Bench
    • Usually the first line up high to be ready. It usually blows in fairly consistently so often times you get a more firm base early in the year and you can lay out some bigger, higher speed, turns up here. Although this is low angle for an avalanche be careful because that same wind effect that makes a nice solid base makes nice solid slabs that would be easily triggered from a thin point early season.
  10. Flume
    • North facing and high elevation. Usually the first line in the 90s to be ready. Also sees a decent amount of skier traffic relatively early so it starts to get packed down and consolidated before it would otherwise have a deep enough base to be worthwhile.
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