If you are an Arapahoe Basin regular, you have likely already gazed upon this line while skiing the resort. If not, Shit for Brains (SFB) Couloir dominates the west aspect of Black Mountain, which looms directly over Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort. With steep pitches reaching 47 degrees in spots and some no fall zones, this descent should be treated with respect despite its close proximity to the resort.
That being said, with an approach of three-quarters of a mile to the transition where you swap skis for crampons and pull out the ice axe, it is by no means a grueling approach. Boasting a summit of 12,978 feet and an overall elevation gain of 2,000 feet from the parking lot to the saddle where you drop, you waste no time gaining elevation in this aesthetic line. Taking turns forging ahead as you boot pack up the slope is a great way to conserve energy and share the workload as you make your way up to the summit. As you ascent the couloir it is crucial to remember that you may not be the only people on this line, and you must plan accordingly. Ascending directly up the center of the route can subject you to additional objective hazards, and as you descend you must be aware of what/who may be below you.
Although seemingly intimidating from a distance, this line is especially fun in the springtime as it has a west-facing aspect and is slow to warm up in the spring temperatures. This makes morning ascents relatively easy and mid-afternoon descents really fun for experienced parties. If you are looking for a fun and exciting half day mission, SFB delivers with the potential to link surrounding lines...avalanche conditions pending, of course.
When descending from SFB, be conscious not to enter Arapahoe Basin ski resort. Patrollers frequently monitor skiers coming from the line who attempt to illegally ski on their terrain, and the potential for fines is real.
Steep slope angles, touchy snowpack, semi-technical terrain and negative fall potential all make this an outing for advanced back-country travelers only. Specific equipment is highly encouraged such as an ice ax and crampons at a minimum. Be safe, be respectful, and have fun.
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.