Butler Gulch - A Colorado Backcountry Gem

Gary skiing down in deep powder

Butler Gulch - A Colorado Backcountry Gem

Skiers: Gary Ryan, Cary Griner and Freddie Snalam
28th November 2000

© 2001 Alpine World

At the bottom (South side) of Berthoud Pass is a road sign for the Henderson Mine.  Follow this to the parking lot. Here the trail heads up gently to a fork in the 'road'.  The way to Jones Pass goes right and should be considered for a future trip. The Butler Gulch trail trends leftwards and upwards.

Look_Over_There The starting elevation is at around 10,000ft and the high point is at 11,000ft.  Going on to higher elevations is an option but would involve some serious ridge hiking as well as knowledge of all that the back-county can throw at you!

The tour goes through forested areas (climbing steadily) for about an hour before breaking out to reveal a variety of open bowl skiing.  Be aware that these higher areas are subject to extreme avalanche conditions and should only be attempted once the snow pack is deemed stable enough.  At this point it is well worth considering the untracked deep powder in amongst the trees and 'doing laps'.

Griner_rips Having done a few 'laps' we decided that conditions were good enough to continue upwards.  Gary and Cary are good guys to ski with in the backcountry.  One is a rep for a various ski touring and climbing gear products, the other is a buyer for Boulder's legendary Neptune Mountaineering store.  Both respect the snow that falls in their winter playground.

Summit_Cornice We headed towards the obvious col or break in the skyline, always choosing the easiest way as far away from any steep slopes as possible.  Upward and rightward took us to our high point of the day.  Ahead lay another hour or more or ascending using skins on our skis that would take us up to the Continental Divide.  We decided to save that for another day.  More reason to return!

Skiing down amid pristine powder snow, the deep blue Colorado Rocky sky and mountains in every direction is one of the main reasons why we do this form of activity called back country skiing.  Laughing out aloud as someone falls or takes a 'wipe-out' is another reason!!


Cary is a Telemark skier, bending down with every turn.  We tell him "Stand Up and Ski Like a Man".  Or "Stand to Pee, Stand to Ski!!".

Gary and Freddie are Randonee (a French word) or AT (All Terrain) skiers.  Cary conteracts with a famous saying, " Randonee, a French word meaning 'Can't Ski'!".

End of a great day.