How to Use the Website
Ski mountaineering is an inherently dangerous activity. This website, contributors, and host are not responsible for any action you take using the information that is displayed on the web pages of Front Range Ski Mountaineering. You are the responsible party.
The photos, maps, and information available on this site are not accurate. Before you venture into the backcountry you should gather as much information as possible and be prepared to change your plans if you encounter conditions, terrain, and/or situations you are not prepared for. The Resources page on this site includes links to mountaineering and avalanche guides and instructors who can convey information on assessing these risks.
Front Range Ski Mountaineering is released free of charge as a beta software in the hope that it will be useful, but without any warranty; without even the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
This website describes select ski mountaineering routes located on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. This website currently focuses on the mountains east of the Continental Divide near Denver: Indian Peaks Wilderness, James Peak Wilderness, and the Clear Creek valley. The ski descents are organized in the Indian Peaks, James Peak, and Clear Creek sections. Each mountain or area has a brief description. Each ski descent has a description including an overview and information on the approach, a picture, and a corresponding location on a map. Here is more information on what is described on each mountain's page.
The mountain is briefly described and its elevation is noted.
The commonly used trailheads are described for the routes. This includes high level travel directions to the trailhead. Make sure to bring a map with you! There are several excellent maps noted on the Resources page of this website. The elevation of the trailhead is included.
The route name is the commonly used local name for the ski descent. There may be several names listed. When a colorful local name was not available, this website may assign a name. A number is assigned to the route and this number assists you when looking at the route photos and maps on this website.
This website uses the "D System" to describe the difficulty, objective hazards, and commitment of the ski descents. This system describes several factors for ski mountaineers to consider. The ascent does not have a rating because the description provides some information, the ascent may be a different route than the descent, and some routes on this website may have an alpine climbing rating described in another resource.
The D System is comprised of three parts and is fully described on Lou Dawson’s Wild Snow website. Please refer to this website for a description of the D System, and further dialogue on how it is used. The link provided includes D-System descriptions of:
Route Commitment - This is an estimate of how long a route will take for an "average" backcountry skier in "average" conditions.
Difficulty - This describes the difficulty of the terrain and the slope angle in relation to the other routes on this website.
Risk - This describes the objective hazards to be considered on the ski descent. This is not a measure of avalanche danger and is not a measure of snow stability.
This website is attempting to use the D-System to describe each route. The Risk Scale is not used frequently on this website. This website considers every ski ascent and descent to be inherently risky. These objective hazards are encountered on every ski descent in this website, and these hazards can vary by season. Fundamentally, all of the routes described in this website are dangerous and are at minimum R1 on the risk scale. Because these routes are all subjected to some form of objective hazard, the R rating is reserved for routes that require a risk rating that is more significant than the normal risks encountered (R1). The risk scale does not describe the avalanche danger and snow stability of the route. These conditions vary considerably and it is up to the ski mountaineer to determine the level of avalanche and snow stability risk.
Aid Rating - The symbol “A” is used to identify when a form of assistance is needed to bypass a consistently non-skiable portion of a route’s descent. This can include climbing down rocks, using anchors in the snow and rock to rappel over an obstacle, and using anchors to rope belay a skier while descending, etc. The use of aid is both subjective and dictated by the amount of snow. After a winter of significant snowfall a ski descent may be completed filled in with snow and depending on the skill of the skier, may not require aid. In lean snow years, the line may require aid. For the purpose of this website, the “A” designation is used for routes that consistently require artificial aid to descend.
This is the recommended season to ski the route, and these assignments align to the description of the Front Range seasons described on the Conditions page. This website describes routes that should be skied on stable spring and summer snow. “Spring” is assigned to routes that are commonly skied in the spring after the snowpack has consolidated into a more predictable isothermal layer. Do note that Spring can arrive at different times depending on the elevation, exposure, and weather patterns. Some of these Spring routes have a narrow window of ski descent opportunity between the consolidation of the snowpack, release of wet slides that may fill the route with avalanche debris, and melting from solar radiation. “Summer” is assigned to ski descents that are frequented in the summer months. These are often permanent snowfields and glaciers that last throughout the summer. There is no Fall designation because ski routes are anemic at this time, and any snow that remains has transformed to hard alpine ice and snowfall on top of this substrate creates a dangerous situation. Some routes have a “Spring, Summer” assignment because under the right conditions they are commonly skied in numerous seasons. For example, the Southeast Face of Mt Toll is labelled as “Spring, Summer” because it is possible to ski this fine line from the point of spring snow pack consolidation into the summer.
The exposure describes the direction that the majority of the ski descent is facing. Do note that a twisting ski descent may have several different exposures. The exposure to sun hit is important information for forecasting snow conditions and timing. Additionally, the ski descent may have multiple degrees of exposure to other hazards such as cornices, cliffs, and debris. The route’s description will note these challenges.
The vertical is an estimated length, in feet, of ski descent. This estimated vertical length does not include the total vertical from the trailhead to the top of the route. The total vertical of a ski descent may vary by the snow conditions and season.
The approach elevations, a range in feet, are an estimation of the elevations a backcountry skier may travel through to get to and up a route. These are measured from the commonly used trailhead that is related to the route. Multiple approach elevation ranges may be given in the case where there are several common approaches to a ski descent. These ranges can assist the skier in understanding the potential zones of travel. CAIC frequently cites the elevations in avalanche forecasts, along with exposure, as a tool for backcountry travelers to understand the changing dynamics based on elevation.
The approach distance, in miles, is an estimation of the one-way distance from the trailhead to the top of the route. For routes with multiple approaches, several distances may be listed. This distance is an estimate and can vary by season, road closure, terrain, and snow conditions.
The description includes unique information about the route, and approach information that is unique to the route and picks up from the trailhead information. When multiple route share a common approach, there is a description of this. In this case, each route’s individual approach description starts from an intersection on the shared approach.
Pictures and Map
The pictures and maps use blue lines to show the approaches and routes. On the pictures the approaches are in a dash, routes are in a solid line, and if the approach up the route and descent share the same path the line is an alternating line-dash.