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Guided Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding

12 Dec 2017
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Winter in Telluride

Telluride, Colorado, boasts some of the best skiing and snowboarding opportunities in the U.S., no matter your skill level. If you're an advanced or expert level rider or skier, consider leaving the mountain trails behind and experience the thrill of a backcountry adventure in the San Juan Mountains, where peaks extend as high as 14,000 feet.

Advantages of Guided Backcountry Tours

Snowboarder checking out the fresh terrainEven if you've ridden the powder in Telluride or the surrounding region on a seasonal basis, you likely don't have the extensive backcountry knowledge of a trained mountain guide, many of whom have been skiing or boarding the San Juan range for decades.

Another advantage of relying on mountain guides is the safety factor. Most guides, whether employed by a ski resort or a private tour company, are highly trained in guiding, avalanche forecasting/rescue and extensive first aid techniques. Some guides even hold certification from the American Mountain Guides Association.

Getting Ready for Your Backcountry Excursion

Before you embark on a backcountry tour, make sure you're up to the challenge. Backcountry skiers and boarders need to be in top physical shape since tours may cover around 25 miles and 16,000 vertical feet. Prior to setting out, your guide(s) will check your ability to ensure that you can keep up with the group. If not, you can compromise the safety of the entire group.

You're ready to tackle backcountry trails when you are:

  • Comfortable skiing a variety of snow conditions, including powder and crud.
  • Able to carry a snowboard or side-step uphill in skis for 10 – 20 minutes several times per day.
  • Able to ski or board almost continually from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., with only a short meal break.

Backcountry skier in jagged ridgeTo prepare for your intense day on backcountry trails, make sure you have the proper gear. Along with a quality board or skis, you'll want to bring along a small pack of essentials, including snacks, water, sunscreen and extra layers. You can also bring along optional equipment such as a beacon, shovel, skins, probe and AT bindings. Conditions can change rapidly when you're in the San Juan backcountry.

Once you're approved by your mountain guides, it's time to get on the road. Transportation to the starting point is typically provided by your guides. Then, you'll begin your ascent to places few skiers and boarders get to see: From quiet, tree-lined runs full of untouched powder to open bowls and steep faces leading downward from jagged summits, you're in for the adventure of a lifetime in Telluride's backcountry.

Telluride Backcountry Tours

There are a variety of guided backcountry tours available in Telluride. You can opt for a full-day tour or a more intense session over several days, utilizing the San Juan Hut System. Remote mountain huts are scattered throughout the mountain range, stocked with food, cooking gear and sleeping cots.

If you want to experience the backcountry in a single day, you have several options. At Peak Mountain Guides, you can experience a full day of guiding and instruction that's tailored to your interests and ability level.

Full day and expert full day tours are available at Telluride Ski Resort, recommended for advanced-intermediate to expert skiers and snowboarders. Groups are kept small, consisting of 6 or less guests.

Operating under USFS permits, Mountain Trip Guide Service is another avenue for adventure in Telluride. Along with backcountry tours, MTGS also offers courses for beginners in backcountry skiing and boarding.

Gear Up for Your Backcountry Ride

Endurance, skill and fun are all part of the package when you embark on a backcountry journey through the San Juan Mountains. To get started on your Telluride mountain trek, check out the listings at Telluride Rentals and find your home away from home.