(Last Updated On: November 16, 2009)
Skiing Colorado’s 54 fourteeners is an experience that I will never forget and marks a highpoint in my ski career. As such, it is a subject I love discussing and thinking about. Last spring, there was a discussion about what one needs to do to “officially” ski the 14ers. One consensus was that a skier needs to do the descents in a way that at least matches those who have come before them. This led me to start thinking about what the best descent on each peak could be in a perfect world. There are still some firsts left on the 14ers- first snowboarder (maybe Eric Kling or Jarrett Luttrell), first woman (Brittany Walker, Pam Rice, and Christy Sauer are all closing in), and first to do them all in one season. But for somebody who isn’t in a hurry to be first at something, maybe getting the best possible descents would be the crowning achievement. In any case, here’s my list for the best lines on each peak, starting with the peaks of the front range. At the very least, it should be a fun discussion on what route is best, since many of the 14ers have a number of high-quality routes.
The Sangres are one of Colorado’s steepest and most rugged ranges. If they were blessed with abundant snowfall, the Sangres would be one of the finest skiing ranges in North America. Instead, sitting in the rain shadow of the San Juans, the Sangres can be virtually unskiable some seasons. With a few good upslope storms, however, the Sangres can fulfill the promise of their terrain and provide world-class ski mountaineering opportunities.
Kit Carson: There are two primary routes down Kit Carson, the Cole couloir on the South side, and the Outward Bound (O.B.) couloir on the North side. While the O.B. is a great route in a great setting, the Cole couloir is equally spectacular, longer, and more direct. Therefore, it’s the route of choice on Kit Carson.
Crestone Peak: Once again, there are two major choices on this peak, one to the north and one to the south. Having skied them both, the South gets my nod, again for being the more direct route. Getting off the summit and into the North couloir is tricky, as is the exit. (Peak on left)
Crestone Needle: The South couloir is generally the only route, although some cutting edge, multi-rappel routes may exist on the north side. Either way, the South couloir is an amazing and aesthetic route when it is in condition, so it doesn’t really matter that few if any other routes exist on the Needle.
Humboldt: With some small variations, the South side of Humboldt is the standard route. The view from the summit down the steep North Face left me wondering if a route exists on that side, however. In the right snow year, I think a steep and very different descent indeed exists on this side.
Lindsey: This is one of the peaks that inspired me to write the “54 Best Descents” series of posts. I’m not sure if anyone has skied the line that I think is the top-notch line on this peak. Invariably, the North Face couloirs get skied, which are fine routes, but the West side has a wild looking route:
Blanca: The North face is simple and fun, but I believe there is another route, on the Southwest face, that bears exploration. The most difficult part of this route would certainly be access through private property, so perhaps climbing the peak from the regular side, skiing the SW face, and then re-climbing the route would be the best method. The route I’m touting is the thin couloir on left side of the face:
Little Bear: The standard hourglass route is the only viable summit route that I can think of. At least it’s a good one:
Culebra: As always, the toughest part of Culebra is simply getting the permission to get on this privately owned mountain. The South side looks long and relatively steep, but I’m not sure how much snow ever sticks on it, plus there is the private property issue. The standard route is a huge traverse to a short bowl off a false summit, and it’s fairly boring. The North face is where it’s at, when it has snow..