Winter weekend hikes: Snowmass & Rifle

View from Snowmass Ski Area, Colorado

Last week was long. Work felt endless and both of us were glazed over by the end of the week. Some good ol’ winter outings were requisite for a work week recovery. We ventured on two hikes over the weekend, both unique: one was a new trail to us, recently in the news and had piqued our interest (Beaver Creek Trail area), while the other was an old foe that always ends in smiles (Snowmass!)

Beaver Creek Trail near Rifle, Colorado

Saturday was a bit lazy, but we mustered up enough energy to hike part of the Forest Service Road 824 that leads to the Beaver Creek Trail. This area was in the local papers lately due to some odd communication issues from USFS about closure of the road. It is open for non-motorized recreating, but only permitted vehicles can drive it (i.e. oil & gas trucks). We parked at the closure gate and walked up the plowed road (didn’t need snowshoes, but could have used some boot spikes/yaktrax). Quite a bit of elevation gain to be had and we saw tracks of motivated people skinning their way up. We hiked about 2.5 miles up, passing pine and Aspen trees, as well as the trailhead for the Beaver Creek Trail (which we will definitely have to check out in the summer!) Lovely area that passes through some private land. We read in some old newspaper articles that the area had been closed for awhile in the 90s due to the landowner blocking public access to the road (resolved in the early 2000s). Quiet and beautiful area.

Earn your turns: hike up Long Shot at Snowmass

Sunday was a bright and early start for us to get out to Snowmass for our first day skiing/snowboarding this season. I’m a skier, the husband is a snowboarder, but don’t worry, I would never push him off the lift.

Top of Long Shot at Snowmass Ski Area , Colorado

Top of Long Shot at Snowmass Ski Area, Colorado

Snowmass is our go-to for winter fun because the lift lines are non-existent and the amount of skiable terrain feels like it goes on forever. In another lifetime, I worked for Vail Resorts and since moving to the Roaring Fork Valley, I’ve been spoiled by the short wait to jump on the lifts, easy/free parking, and fun tree runs. It had snowed a bit overnight and as we headed up the mountain, the winds picked up a bit and the snow just kept coming.

Hiking up to Burnt Mountain to cruise down Long Shot is short and exhausting. It’s under a 10 minute hike but you have a mix of elements working against your fitness level: steep hike that is just packed down by other people, high altitude (11,395 ft), it’s bitter cold & windy, and you’re carrying heavy gear. Though, the experience of cruising down this 3.5 mile long run and finding some hidden powder stashes is worth it. Such a fun area to poke around in and out of the trees without a lot of people around. There was a small horde hiking up at the same time as us but people are quick to spread out throughout the glades and down the run, so you don’t typically run in to others.

Favorite runs at Snowmass (FYI, these are all blues because we’re just the cruising type folks).

Sheer Bliss is great on powder days, but gets sloppy later in the day. Upper Green Cabin is gorgeous. We used to have a love/hate relationship with this run because of the horrible, two person fixed chairlift, but Snowmass installed the high-speed detachable High Alpine lift this year and we are in love! No longer is Green Cabin a horrible, flat catwalk away. Sneaky’s Glades is a fun tree run that opens up to some breathtaking views. Typically, we do laps on the Sheer Bliss and Big Burn lifts since there’s so much fun terrain to explore. Elk Camp area gets crowded, so we usually avoid that part of the mountain.

Tip: Of course the views are incredible pretty much wherever you are on the mountain. If you thought it couldn’t get any better, head up to the top of the Cirque lift on a bluebird day. Beware: it’s a surface lift and snowboarders tend to struggle on this one.

More snow is *hopefully* headed our way this weekend (though, it won’t be as exciting as Winter Storm Jonas). We’ll be trekking back to Snowmass on Sunday for another round of wintry fun.