Hell's Half-Acre and the Fingers are names and runs that were originally pioneered when Berthoud Pass was still operating as a full-time ski resort. There was a rope tow that took ambitious skiers to the high point on Mines Peak, ultimately depositing them high enough to easily access any line their powder-loving heart desired.
The Fingers are characterized by a band of cliffs that offers access in between the features for skiers to navigate. While it can be considered technical terrain, skiers are not exposed to substantial objective hazards navigating the moderate-angle slopes and narrow chokes to the open glades below.
Starting from the Berthoud Pass summit parking area, skiers ascend the south side of the highway on the old Powder Line Trail toward Colorado Mines Peak. After ascending about 550 vertical feet you begin a minor traverse to access the cliffs far skiers' right in Hells Half-Acre.
As you descend toward the cliff band, conditions and coverage will most likely mandate a specific descent over another. The farthest chute on skiers right is called the Fingers, the next farthest is the Knuckle, and last is the Choke; all offer enjoyable terrain. Quickly transition to an open bowl below. If you ski this all the way down to the basin, you will be deposited below the highway.
If the skiing is good, don’t hesitate to continue through the bowl and back into the trees, as you shoot the gap between trunks and harvest wooded powder stashes on a western aspect below tree line. Eventually the skiing comes to an end. Skiers who choose to get the full value will need to gain a little elevation before reaching the highway. Accessing the road offers two opportunities: Skiers can either stick out their thumb and hope for a ride or continue up the original Hells Half-Acre that runs south from the switchback and returns to the warming hut at the summit.
Descending the whole slope is not the only exit. If the conditions don’t inspire a full descent to the drainage, skiers can make a hard left after punching through the cliffs. Just below the cliffs you may transition and follow the break in the trees heading south, maintain your elevation, and exit about halfway up the initial climb on Powder Line to climb for another lap or descend a few hundred feet back to the parking lot.
Never more than a half mile from either the highway or the parking lot, this is a great option for those who are still getting their backcountry legs under them but want to explore terrain that requires a little bit more focus.
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.