The mountains of Ouray, Colorado hold endless opportunities for fun and adventure. Backcountry skiing is a popular activity here in Colorado, and rightly so – almost nothing can beat gliding along fresh snow amidst the trees and mountains of the San Juans.

If you’re interested in backcountry skiing in Colorado, here are a few tips to keep in mind before you jump in.

1 – Beware of Avalanches!

Avalanches are common occurrences in any mountain region, particularly if you’re skiing Red Mountain Pass, which can get heavy snowfall. Any snow-loaded slope can result in an avalanche! If you’re going off the groomed trail, it’s important that you can identify and avoid slopes that have the potential for an avalanche.

There are many ways to help you stay safe while skiing in the backcountry.

  • Don’t ski, hike, or snowshoe alone in case of an avalanche or other disaster.
  • Check avalanche reports in the areas you’re wanting to ski before going out.
  • Carry a pack containing avalanche preparation materials. This includes a shovel, probe, and beacon. These can all be stored in an avalanche airbag pack, which helps to keep you closer to the surface of the snow.
  • Know how to handle an avalanche before you go out. Courses and information are available in a variety of places.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings. Knowing what’s happening around you will decrease the chances of serious injury.

2 – Watch the Weather

Nobody wants to be stuck in the wilderness during a massive blizzard. Checking weather reports for not only the day you’re planning on being out, but also the entire week, can help you determine the best time and place to go backcountry skiing.

3 – Give the Trees Space

Everyone loves to ski in the trees, but it can be extremely dangerous if you get too close. Rather than skiing through the forest itself, it’s best to ski between the clusters of trees instead. Within the actual trees are deep snow packs that cause tree wells. Snow can bury and possibly kill those who fall into the space around the trees.

To avoid an emergency situation, stay close to your skiing partners in case one of you falls into a drift or tree well.

4 – Try a Ouray Professional Guide

Ouray and other mountain towns in Colorado have various mountain guide options. Guides know the area well and can make sure your backcountry skiing experience is a good one! Try a Ouray professional guide, found on the City of Ouray’s website here: https://www.ouraycolorado.com/directory/outdoor/snowcat

Before leaving on to go backcountry skiing, let one of the friendly Ouray Chalet Inn staff members at the front desk know.  We do this for safety reasons and we might be able to give you some additional tips on the area.