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The Best Backcountry Skiing in Colorado

* This is a post from Videre Travel Founder Sarah Fazendin, who lives in Colorado with her family. You can find them on ski hills around the state on most winter weekends!

When I moved to Colorado in my 20’s, I barely knew how to ski. After over a decade of winters spending as much time as possible on skis, one sunny morning I found myself literally on top of a mountain in Colorado’s backcountry. I was exhausted but empowered, having just walked up the mountain. On skis.

That day, I truly had earned every one of the few fresh, glorious powder turns back down the mountain. I was hooked on backcountry skiing.

Also referred to as off-piste, out of bounds or ski touring, backcountry skiing is skiing on unmarked or un-patrolled areas either inside or outside a ski resort’s boundaries. This contrasts with alpine skiing which is typically done on groomed trails in a ski resort on terrain that is managed by ski patrol.

Once children are confident skiers, it absolutely is possible to get them skiing in the backcountry.

Of course, unless you have some avalanche training (or are skiing with someone who does) and are familiar with the terrain, it’s important to hire a guide. Particularly if you are bringing kids into the backcountry.

So I was thrilled to recently experience the very best way to get started backcountry skiing for families. Eleven Experience, an adventure travel outfitter based in Crested Butte Colorado, operates private cat skiing terrain with some of the best guides in Colorado.

If you’re thinking about taking your family’s ski vacation to the next level, check out this fabulous new adventure with Eleven Experience backcountry skiing for families and then let’s chat about customizing your family’s backcountry ski trip!

Location! Location! Location!

Crested Butte, located in central Colorado’s Rocky Mountain range, has long been known as a local’s favorite. The resort area is approachable and the historic town is charming and teeming with great restaurants and shopping, etc.

And while the resort area offers consistently good, challenging terrain for all levels, the backcountry terrain maintained by the Eleven Experience team is on another level.

Head up Kebler pass towards Lake Irwin, and you’ll find a microclimate that over the course of a season receives over twice the snowfall as the rest of the region. This is home to the cat skiing operation and the perfect setting for backcountry skiing for families.

What to Expect

You will access the backcountry terrain by snow cat. After breakfast, the snow cat actually drives right into town and picks you up at Scarp Ridge Lodge! The journey up to Lake Irwin and the backcountry lodge, is about 45 minutes. During this time you’ll begin a safety briefing, and have plenty of time to ask questions of the guides (or just enjoy the ride!).

Upon arrival, you’ll have time to get on all your gear at the small backcountry base lodge, have another talk about safety protocol, strap on an avalanche beacon and climb into the cat for your first run.

Over the course of a day, most skiers do 7 – 9 laps.

The guides will ensure every skier has terrain that is at their level. The snow cat does have a groomer on it to help maintain the access road, so there is even the possibility of skiing what would equate to a green groomed run. However, here there terrain ranges from slightly sloping open hills, to tight trees and very steep terrain. Something for everyone! And while of course the weather can not be guaranteed, my experience was knee deep powder in every direction.

Stop to enjoy a hot lunch and head back out as quickly as you want. And of course nothing beats this Apres experience!

You’ll Feel at Home at Scarp Ridge Lodge

Scarp Ridge Lodge is home base for the backcountry skiing itineraries. Located in downtown Crested Butte, you can easily head out to Elk Avenue for dinner or stay in and get cozy. You can also enjoy a chef prepared meal in your private kitchen at the lodge.

Scarp Ridge Lodge has several bedrooms, each with private bathroom, as well as a spectacular bunk room that makes kids of all ages squeal with delight when they first see it. In addition to plenty of comfortable sleeping space, the lodge has an indoor pool and 2 hot tubs, including one on the roof with views of the town’s namesake butte.

While there is always someone around to fill your belly or glass, there is a full gourmet kitchen on property so you can prepare exactly what the kids want as well.

Are you up for a spectacular, safe, fun experience backcountry skiing together with your family? Let's get started customizing your next family adventure now!