Ski a 14er

Chris Davenport, who has skied from the summit of all 53 of Colorado’s 14ers, tells you how to notch your first

Davenport in Colorado     Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

The Colorado Mountain Club estimates that between 800,000 and a million people climb Colorado 14ers every summer, but if you go when they’re still snow-covered, you’ll likely have the mountain to yourself. Plus, the descent is much quicker and easier on the body. You’ll need backcountry gear, like a beacon, a shovel, and a probe—and the skills to use them properly. You’ll also want a good partner—ideally one who has been on the peak before. A good route to start with is the east face of 14,265-foot Mt. Quandry in the Ten Mile range near Breckenridge. Go in April or May when the snow has had enough time to accumulate—many 14ers get pretty wind-scoured in the winter. Park at the Monte Cristo Trailhead at 10,900 and head north through the trees for 15 minutes to the east ridge. Once at tree line, the entire route will be visible to the summit. Start early—you don’t want to be on the slope too late in the day when wet snow avalanches can be a problem. I like to catch sunrise on the route and then hang out at the summit and wait for the snow to soften up to the perfect carveable consistency. There are great views of peaks from the front range all the way to Aspen. Check online forums like 14ers.com and fourteenerworld.com for recent trip reports—people will post reports in incredible detail, including what time the snow turned to perfect corn. Ride the obvious bowl from the summit. If in doubt, follow your ascent line along the ridge.

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