These Colorado XC tours prove not all backcountry skiing requires fat skis.
North Ten Mile Creek
White River National Forest
Ten Mile is popular and can be crowded on the weekends with skiers and snowshoers. You may also encounter snowmobiles for the first couple miles. There is a very low avalanche danger. This route is suited for beginners with some non-groomed trail experience as the trails starts at 9,400 feet and ends at 10,250 at the turnaround. There is a very steep climb at the beginning and then gentle to moderate climbs to the turnaround.
Follow the trail west from the parking lot. After a half-mile steep climb, the trail levels a bit. At 2.5 miles you will enter the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness Area where snowmobiles aren’t allowed. You will come to the Gore Range Trail intersection and keep heading upward another 1.5 miles. Follow the same trail back to the parking lot. Ten miles round trip.
Rabbit Ears Pass West Summit, Loop B
Routt National Forest
This looped trail has a low to moderate avalanche danger and is suitable for beginners despite a few difficult uphills and downhills. You may hear the noise of the snowmobiles around you but you won’t encounter any on this trail. However, you may encounter snowshoers and leashed dogs.
It is recommended you follow this loop clockwise because of the sometimes steep terrain. From the parking lot, take the 1A loop counter-clockwise, skiing past the first 1B junction. Once you hit the 1B trail again, take it east and around to the parking lot again. You can make the route longer by also skiing Loop A and/or the South Summit Loop. The 3.3-mile Bruce’s Loop and trails around Walton Creek are just a short drive off the Pass as well.
Rabbit Ear’s Pass is off of HWY 40 sixty-eight miles from Silverthorne, CO and twenty-one miles outside of Steamboat Springs. Park your car at the West Summit Parking Lot. 4.4 miles round trip.
Bear Lake to Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes
Rocky Mountain National Park
The loop to Bear Lake is relatively flat and the slow grades to Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes, make this loop perfect for beginners. Snowmobiles aren’t allowed on these trails. Very few facilities are open at the park in the winter so plan accordingly.
Follow the Bear Lake trail from the parking lot and continue on the route that leads you to Nymph, Dream and Emerald Lakes. Once you come upon Nymph Lake, take the trail to Dream and Emerald Lakes. Once you reach Emerald Lake, turn around and follow the route back to the parking lot.
To get to Bear Lake, take HWY 36 into Estes Park and follow 2.25 miles to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. You will need to pay a fee to enter the park. From the entrance, follow the road around two miles to Bear Lake Rd and make a left. Follow for an additional nine miles to the parking lot for Bear Lake. The trail starts at the parking lot. 3.6 miles round trip.
Brainard Lake: Off Colorado 72, the 5.2 mile-CMC Brainard Lake Road Loop, is just one of the many skiable trails in the area. Vail Recreation Center: Perfect for beginners because of the terrain, many routes including Shrine Creek Pass Ski Trail can be found off Vail Pass on HWY 70. Slate River Valley: Four miles round trip off Snake River Road and accessible from Crested Butte. Mitchell Creek: This 7.3 mile round trip loop is nine miles northwest of Leadville of HWY 24. Service Creek: A true backcountry experience with frozen waterfalls, sheets of ice and conifers can be found on this 11.5-mile solitary route found on County Rd 18 at the snow road closure.