Coon Hill is an alpine basin positioned near the Continental Divide and just west of Loveland Ski Area, separated by the Eisenhower Tunnel and the terrain in between.
With a plethora of descent options ranging from steep to moderate slope angles, Straight Creek Basin is a great alternative for those days of high avalanche danger. Not only does it boast a large variety of low-angle terrain, but it is also highly accessible. Positioned immediately on the west side of the Eisenhower Tunnel, the parking area is commonly mistaken for semitrailer parking and a chain-up area. Although this zone is used for both those purposes, it also doubles as the gateway into the blissful basin. Skiers can apply their skins and begin touring an arms length from their vehicles.
Above tree line and surrounded by mountains, it truly has a feel of carving turns high up in the mountains. Although it remains close, you quickly lose sight of the highway, and as you venture further into the basin the noise is substituted with the whirl of wind around you.
To access Coon Hill and the terrain around it, most backcountry goers gain the ridge that looms above the parking area and trace it all the way to the summit. Many options are available if the avalanche conditions prove to be questionable for slope angles greater than 35 degrees. In fact, the majority of the terrain in the basin sits at just around 35 degrees or less. With many aspects and no shelter from the elements, wind-loading is a concern and can either provide amazing ski conditions or dangerous avalanche concerns no matter what the slope angle is.
From the parking area to the ridgeline, skiers only gain 1,200 feet of elevation and cover a little under a mile, positioning this descent as a valuable option for those motivated enough to get in turns before work. With a moderate pace it takes a little over an hour to be in position to make your first descent along the ridge. Motivated skiers may continue following the ridgeline to the summit of Coon Hill, accessing the steeper terrain in the basin. With no bad options, skiers may choose their own adventure with all descents leading back to the parking area.
With multiple safe zones and areas to catch your breath, transition and start back up again; this area is hot-lap friendly. No matter your ability, Straight Creek Basin offers fun for the whole family, and it is not uncommon to have the entire zone to yourself.
From the summit of Coon Hill, the views into the Gore Range just north are spectacular and warrant a few photos before dropping.
Although not remote or committing terrain, Straight Creek Basin is a valuable option when conditions warrant some moderation.
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.