Beginning in the 1930s, skiers flocked to Berthoud Pass to pioneer what arguably became the first ski resort in Colorado. With a donated motor from the local Ford dealership, a devoted group established the first rope tow at Berthoud Pass Ski Area in 1937, later upgraded to a two-person chair in 1947. The new lift was capable of transporting 400 skiers per hour and operated until 1988, when a fatal accident forced the chair to shut down. Soon after the resort followed, and the entire infrastructure was dismantled.
What remains are the farmed glades and old trail maps that represent the 80 different descents available to skiers now willing to hike for the goods. Only 40 minutes from the Denver area, Mount Russell is situated just off the summit of the pass. One of many lines that can be skied quickly and easily, the zone is popular with dawn patrollers trying to get the upper hand on the weekday.
Mount Russell requires a 1,045-foot ascent to reach the summit and access to the north chutes. From car to summit, it takes a little over an hour of travel along a ridge with panoramic views of the surrounding peaks.
From the summit, the largest and widest north chute dumps into Current Creek basin. Further chutes on steeper and narrower slopes offer exciting terrain. On the far end of the ridge lies the Current Creek bench, a low-angle, linear slope that deposits you in the same zone as the north chutes and carries you all the way past Hidden Knoll to the Aqueduct.
For those motivated enough, the Hidden Knoll offers the potential to really milk those extra turns with moderate additional elevation gains, helping you to access the X, Y and Z chutes on the north aspect of the feature.
From here, skiing fall line takes you further into the drainage and funnels you toward the parking area and highway.
Passing the popular Peter Rabbit Hut, skiers can follow the trail back to the parking area and the 110s, a backcountry ski area along Current Creek, or slalom through perfect trees on the face of the drainage. Alternatively, simply sticking out your thumb and flashing a smile can catch you a ride back to the summit parking lot and home before dinner.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.