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Snowboarding Loveland Pass: A Backcountry Guide

Loveland Pass is located off Route 6 in central Colorado.  The pass crosses the Continental Divide and is commonly used by people traveling to A-Basin Ski Resort.  It is also a popular destination for backcountry skiers and snowboarders.  I had the opportunity to snowboard the pass and would like to share what I learned to others looking to do the same.

Safety Warning

DISCLAIMER: This info is from personal experience.  There are many risks associated which can change dramatically in a short amount of time based on weather and what lines you choose to ride.  As my friend told me, "many people from places like, Indiana, die out here each season"  Do your homework and respect the weather conditions.  I am not responsible for your poor decisions.

Getting There

Take I-70 to Highway 6 South which is the same exit to Loveland Ski Area.  The drive is a short 1.25 hour drive from Denver on a good day.  As you are driving south on Highway 6 (uphill) you will first drive past an area that is a clear avalanche area and should not be ridden, before you reach the safer zone.  Zoom into the map for more detail.

View Loveland Pass Backcountry Guide in a larger map



Note on the map the two parking zones.  Simple.  One at the bottom, one at the top.  The bottom is a large area that will be the destination point for all of your runs.  There are clear signs pointing out where the parking area is located.  The bottom parking area is a great spot to bring out the grill and cook up some nurishment and have a few PBRs in between runs.  (Side Note - A PBR at A-Basin costs $8!  come prepared)  The top parking area is easily located across from the Continential Divide sign.  Again, the parking area is marked clearly.  This is where the most convenient place to start your run is located.  You will see plenty or people riding from here.  Go left and it is more wide open, go right and you get into the trees faster.  Follow someone else down during run number one to get the lay of the land.

Hitching Rides

Fun yes, but very unpredictable.  The Law of Diminishing Returns is in effect.  The traffic going towards A-Basin is high early in the morning but dies out quickly as the day progresses.  The time spent waiting goes up rapidly.  Our endevour led us waiting about 20 minutes one time and 40 minutes the next.  If you choose to go this route, there are a few unwritten rules:

1) Look for trucks, they hold a bunch of people.
2) Be mindful to keep gear from damaging driver's vehicle.
3) If getting in a car, clean all snow off yourself as well as your board / skis.
4) Watch out for plow trucks while waiting.
5) Thank driver for ride at top.

Four Minus One

The best way to go.  Arrange a group of people, preferably with a truck and take turns driving to the top.  This garuntees rides up and if you go on a long ridge hike, trick your driver into grilling up som brats for when you finally make it to the bottom.

Ride the Ridge

The most rewarding experience is to earn your turns.  Go for a hike along the ridge and find a nice chute to bomb.  This is where you want to make sure it is a safe day.  The higher you go and high the angle of the slope, the higher the chance of avalanche is.  If your avalanche risk assesment levels aren't top notch note the areas other people have ridden.  If there are already tracks, odds of avalanche go down dramatically.


Loveland Pass


Explore Other Areas

With a pair of snowshoes and additional safety equipment, it is possible to get to some very unique spots on the mountain.  Leave your mark for all the other mountain users to respect, oogle, wonder how the heck you got up there.

Have fun.  Be safe.  Share your trips and tips in the comments below!

Helpful Links

Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Loveland Pass Weather

Road Conditions

Powder Ghost Towns: Epic Backcountry Runs in Colorado's Lost Ski Resorts

Front Range Descents: Spring and Summer Skiing and Snowboarding In Colorado's Front Range

Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain