Berthoud Pass West: No Name, Pumphouse Basin, Mount Russell, West Side, 80s & 90s

Berthoud Pass West Side from the East. No Name and Mount Russell are visible in the upper left side of the photo.  Photo: Rob Writz

Berthoud Pass arguably has the best backcountry skiing and snowboarding east of the Continental Divide near Interstate 70. There are numerous basins and access points across Berthoud Pass that allow backcountry riders to spread out. Berthoud Pass West, as described in this guide, includes No Name, Pumphouse Basin, Mount Russell, West Side, and the 80s & 90s. The western portion of the old Berthoud Pass Ski Area included Pumphouse Basin, West Side, 80s, and 90s. The terrain on the West Side ranges from mellow remnants of the ski area to no joke avalanche slopes. The higher terrain should be skied only after the spring snow consolidates. The accessibility of this terrain often lures backcountry riders into dangerous snow conditions. Be careful here!

+ NO NAME AND MOUNT RUSSELL ROUTES

The terrain in the No Name and Mount Russell zones are a beacon calling all Berthoud Pass backcountry skiers and riders to climb higher. These two peaks hold several of the Pass’s most obvious steep lines. No Name’s namesake route is a direct plumb line shot down the snowy face, and Mount Russell has the North Chutes. All of the terrain within and surrounding these classic lines is serious avalanche terrain. The access via Mount Russell is windswept and relatively safe, but the ridges surrounding the two peaks hold large cornices and the lines are active avalanche zones. You will see tracks on the chutes and faces in mid-winter, but do not be tempted to ski them at that time. Wait until a solid spring snowpack brings relative stability to these chutes.

Pumphouse Basin is a great place to ski lower-angle terrain in the mid-winter. No Name Bench is a quiet area that does not see as much traffic as popular areas such as the West Side. The upper glades of Placer Basin and Trapper Glades are accessed via the West Side skin track, and this south facing terrain can be a fabulous ski after a big dump and before the sun develops a surface crust.

  • Season: Winter, Spring
  • Summit Elevation: Mount Russell (12,391’), No Name (12,424’)
  • Aspect: East, Southeast, South
  • Elevation Range: 11,300’ – 12,424’
  • Vertical: 600’ – 1,200’
  • Trailhead: Berthoud Pass Summit (11,300'), Pumphouse Basin (11,185')
  • Snowmobile Access: Snowmobiles are not allowed at Berthoud Pass.

Skin Track:

There are two primary up tracks, one used to access Mount Russell and No Name, and the other for Pumphouse Basin.

Most backcountry skiers use the main skin track on the West Side to access Mount Russell and No Name. From the main parking lot, cross Highway 40 to the base of Great Divide The skin track turns southwest through the trees to CDT West and then up to the summit of the West Side at 11,945’. [39.8026, -105.7867]

From this high point, descend west to the saddle at the base of Mount Russell. Above you will be a wind swept slope that hold’s the Continental Divide Trail hiking trail. You will probably be able to see parts of the trail due to the wind scouring on this slope. Make your way to the top of this false summit and you are near the top of Mount Russell’s North Chutes. The summit is a slightly higher rise is about a third of a mile to the west.

No Name is about two thirds of a mile south on the ridge from Mount Russell’s North Chutes. The ridge above No Name Cirque is lined with a cornice so tread carefully. The No Name 12,424’ point is very clear on high visibility days. [39.7993, -105.8017] If your vision is obscured by a storm or wind then you shouldn’t be up here on that type of day.

The No Name Bench area is most commonly accessed via Pumphouse Basin Trailhead. Cross to the west side of Highway 40 and begin climbing west into the forest. The up tracks in this area become more defined later in the winter as backcountry skiers and riders start to branch out to new terrain. The climb to No Name Bench is mostly a gentle rise through the trees to treeline and the top at approximately 11,892’. [39.796, -105.7961]

Exit:

The Mount Russell routes exit into Current Creek. Some skiers and riders climb up to the top of Hidden Knoll after a Mount Russell descent to add more vertical. The Hidden Knoll routes and Mount Russell’s direct exit eventually bring skiers back to the Aqueduct. You can access Hidden Knob from the South Chutes, and there are several chutes below XYZ in the trees to the Aqueduct. The large cliffs above the Aqueduct are called the Swiss Horn. From the Aqueduct follow the skin track past Peter Rabbit Hut to Current Creek and then to the Current Creek trailhead.

The No Name area routes exit into Pumphouse Basin. Ski directly into the forest and to the Pumphouse Basin trailhead, or climb a little bit to the top of No Name Bench and then into the Basin and the trailhead. The exit through Pumphouse Basin has several flat sections.

Routes:

6 – No Name – This proud route is the jewel of the south side of Berthoud Pass. The route dives straight down the fall line into the cirque. No Name, and every line around it, is high avalanche terrain and should only be skied in the most stable conditions.

7 - No Name Cirque – This is the dangerous and infrequently skied bowl between Mount Russell and No Name. Cornices ring the entire cirque, and small cliffs dot parts of the face.

8 – Oatmeal Bowl – This is really the north side of No Name Cirque. The south-facing aspect makes conditions difficult in the corniced bowl.

9 - Southeast Russell – This is a highly accessible zone that is extremely dangerous. There are several chutes and large cliffs contained in Southeast Russell and avalanche fatalities and injuries have occurred here.

10 – North Chutes – The three North Chutes are becoming increasingly popular even in winter, but should be skied with a stable spring snowpack. These chutes drop northeast from the false summit of Mount Russell and into a wide-open basin. The right chute is the widest (A) with a rock wall on skier’s right, the middle chute is the most couloir-like (B), and the skier’s left chute (C) has a convex entrance.

11 – Current Creek Bench – The Bench is a large slope to the northwest of the North Chutes. A large cornice occupies the center of The Bench and most riders descend to the skier’s right side of this cornice, and to the skier’s left of the North chutes.

12 – No Name Bench – This broad north and northeast facing area comprises of above and below tree line terrain. There are multiple small bowls and open slopes leading into the trees, and the skier’s right side of the bench has great low angle terrain.

13 - Russell Basin – Russell Basin is the south-facing slope below Southeast Russell that descends into the flats leading into the bottom of Pumphouse Basin.

14, 15 - Pumphouse Basin – Placer Basin and Trappers Glades collectively make up “Pumphouse Basin”. Placer Basin (14) is the skier’s right side, and Trappers Glade (15) is on the skier’s left. From the top of the West Side approach you can see into the lower angle upper slopes. The middle section is steep with some small cliffs scattered throughout, and these slopes get a lot of sun.

+ WEST SIDE ROUTES

This is the West Side of the old Berthoud Pass Ski area. The lifts and lodge are gone, but it feels like the Pass sees as many skiers today as when the ski area was last open for lift service. The West Side is a popular area, and has quick access to a high point that enables you to drop into Pumphouse Basin, Current Creek, the 90s, or down the West Side and back to the Pass. Despite having a lot of skier traffic, the avalanche hazard in this area is significant, especially on the terrain between The Roll and The Plunge. The West Side Cliff area, the cliffs running from Rush Chute to Nitro Chute, was the scene of the old Berthoud Pass Bad Ass competitions.

  • Season: Winter
  • Summit Elevation: 11,945’
  • Aspect: North, Northeast, East
  • Elevation Range: 11,300’ – 11,945’
  • Vertical: 600’
  • Trailhead: Berthoud Pass (11,300')
  • Snowmobile Access: Snowmobiles are not allowed at Berthoud Pass.

Skin Track:

There is one primary skin track that serves all of the runs on the West Side. From the main parking lot, cross Highway 40 to the base of Great Divide The skin track turns southwest through the trees to CDT West and then up to the summit of the West Side. A boot pack line heads directly up CDT West. You can skin to the top and decide where to drop in from there. [39.8026, -105.7867]

Exit:

The skin track brings you across the top of all of the runs of the West Side. The majority of the runs on the West Side exit back to the pass. There is a long traverse starting at the Meadows that leads past the West Side Cliffs and back to the Pass. Continuing down Meadows run drops you into the 90s area and Sam and Nelson’s.

Routes:

31 - Wyskis Wonder – A fun glade run. Too far skier’s right goes into Pumphouse and Highway 40; skier’s left brings you back to CDT West.

32 – CDT West – A green run at the old ski area, CDT West is mostly used for the skin track up the mountain.

33 - Mainline – Mainline descends from the summit and is used to access all of the West Side Cliff runs. It then becomes the wide run directly above the pass.

34 - Triple Rock – Triple Rock is an area of comprised of multiple chutes. Access this area from Mainline and past the Plunge.

35 - The Plunge – Black – The skier’s right side of Lift Gully. Access the Plunge from Mainline.

36 - Lift Gully – The old ski lift line at Berthoud Pass, and host to many rock drops. Ski down Mainline to the point where the run becomes convex and take a left.

37 - Rush Chute – Double Black – A series of cliffs and chutes that frequently maroon skiers who get in over their heads. The West Side Cliffs run between Rush Chute and Nitro Chute.

38 - Nitro Chute – Black – There are several chutes on the skier’s left side of the West Side Cliffs. From the summit trend skier’s right around the roll to the chutes and drops.

39- The Roll – The Roll and surrounding terrain are the perfect avalanche angle. From the summit ski north to where the slope disappears past a convex hump. An alternative is far skier’s left through the trees bordering The Roll, but you then need to descend “Test Slope” to the base of the Roll. Berthoud Pass ski area called it Test Slope for a reason!

40 - The Meadows – The Meadows is an area of lower angle and windswept terrain that is comprised of patches of krumholtz and clearings. It is frequently used to access the 90s area. Otherwise, break hard right to traverse to the Test Slope at the bottom of the Roll.

+ 80s AND 90s ROUTES

The 80s and 90s are some of the most popular areas at Berthoud Pass. The terrain is easily visible when driving north on Highway 40, and it is very reasonable to car shuttle or hitchhike to access these steep routes. The Berthoud Pass Ditch (Aqueduct) cuts bisects the 80s and 90s and this allows for the easier access. Skiers and snowboarders can also drop into this terrain from the top of Berthoud Pass’s West Side. The runs all end at the Current Creek Trailhead.

There are several additional hazards to be aware of in this area. The Aqueduct can have debris under the snow, thin coverage below the edge, and large holes. CDT frequently bombs the 80s and blast holes are common in this area. The 90s and Flume are so popular that you may find moguls!

  • Season: Winter
  • Summit Elevation: 11,945’ (top of West Side), 11,460’ (top of Flume), 11,290’ (Aqueduct)
  • Aspect: North
  • Elevation Range: 10,800’ – 11,945’
  • Vertical: 500’ - 1,145’
  • Snowmobile Access: Snowmobiles are not allowed at Berthoud Pass.

Skin Track:

There are two common ways to enter the 80s and 90s area. The Aqueduct (Berthoud Pass Ditch) bisects this area and many skiers use this road to access the 80s and 90s, and then hitchhike back to the trailhead or Berthoud Pass from the Current Creek Trailhead. The other option is to skin or climb up the West Side and enter the 90s area below The Meadows or West Side Cliffs.

See the description in the Trailhead section below on how to access the Aqueduct. At the Aqueduct entrance, follow the well-defined Berthoud Pass Ditch Road north through the forest to the top of the Rock Garden (about 0.3 miles). Use the road to traverse to the other routes.

Another way to access the 90s area is to skin up the West Side and use The Meadows to access the Flume and 90s area. From the top of the West Side, ski down the left side of The Meadows heading directly north. At the edge of the forest there is an old wood post, aim for this. After the wood post trend right and curve into Flume. To the left leads into Hourglass Cliffs. Alternatively, ski the far right side of The Meadows to the forest. Find a narrow entrance that you can follow to the top of Rock Garden.

Exit:

The 90s routes end at the old road leading to the Current Creek trailhead on Highway 40 [39.8102, -105.7785,]. The exit of the 80s is spicier and requires a hard left turn to gain the road leading to the Current Creek trailhead. Many skiers leave a shuttle at Current Creek or hitchhike back to the summit.

Routes:

47 – The 80s – Head skier’s right to the 80s when you exit the Aqueduct at Rock Garden. A hard left is required at the bottom to avoid Highway 40 and to get to Current Creek.

48 – Rock Garden – The Rock Garden is the first open chute you encounter on the Aqueduct.

49 - Vigilante – Vigilante is skier’s left of the trees at the start of Rock Garden, and the run trends left towards Current Creek.

50 – The 90s – Continue on the Aqueduct past Vigilante to a chute with the trees on skier’s left.

51 - Outlaw – Outlaw is an open face leading to an isolated chute past The 90s. The Launch Pad trees are to skier’s left.

52 - Flume – Flume is a classic Berthoud Pass Run. From the top of the West Side, in combination with The Meadows, this run can be over 1,000’ vertical. Curve right from the wooden post, and follow a gully to the Aqueduct and into the distinct chute below.

53 - Top Secret – When skiing Flume, Top Secret is a small stash on the left past the Aqueduct.

54- Hourglass Cliffs – There are numerous chutes through the Hourglass Cliffs, aka Red Dot. You may want to scout this area from the Aqueduct before dropping in.

55 - Wiebel’s Wobble – This run is the backside of Hourglass Cliffs and trends left on the edge of the trees and cliff. There is a cliff at the bottom than can be avoided, and then you exit to the Aqueduct. The terrain below the Aqueduct often holds cold powder.

56 – Nelson’s Folly – Black (note Sam’s skier’s left) – Nelson’s can be accessed from the top of the West Side. Instead of turning right to Flume, take a hard left into Nelson’s. This leads to a creek bed that passes the Aqueduct and leads to the skin track from Current Creek Trailhead.

57 – Skull Bite – Skull Bite is a wind-swept zone accessed from the top of the West Side. It is not frequently skied due to being on the windward side of the mountain. The creek bed at the bottom leads to Nelson’s.

58 – Coconut Ridge – These cliffs can be accessed from Nelson’s or from the Aqueduct.

+ TRAILHEAD

Berthoud Pass Summit (11,300’)

The summit of Berthoud Pass is the epicenter of backcountry skiing on this part of the Front Range. There is a large parking lot and a small building with restrooms and a warm room that you can use to gear up on cold day. The summit is on Highway 40 18 miles from Empire (near exit 232 on Interstate 70) and 11.3 miles on Highway 40 from Winter Park. [39.798, -105.7771]

Pumhouse Basin (11,185')

Pumphouse Basin trailhead is the turnout off of US Highway 40 Berthoud Pass Road approximately 1/2 mile before Berthoud Pass Summit on the on the Empire. The elevation at this trailhead is approximately 11,185’. There is a pull out on the east side of the road. [39.7966, -105.7851]. This trailhead is used for mid-winter skiing on No Name Bench and for car shuttles for the No Name exit.

Aqueduct (11,245’)

The Aqueduct Trailhead is just north of Berthoud Pass on Highway 40. Driving north from the pass, the entrance is on the left at 0.3 miles from the top of the pass. [39.8026, -105.7772] There is a parking pull out on the right after the Aqueduct. After a large snow storm the pull out is probably not plowed.

+ MAPS & PICTURES

Below we have included a link to a Google interactive map and a curated list of photos of the mountain.

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website