Colorado Backcountry Snowboarding

Winter is swiftly approaching my mind is filling with thoughts of Colorado and the great backcountry skiing and snowboarding found there. I grew up in Loveland (not the ski area) the sleepy town nestled at the foot of the Rockies along the Big Thompson River. Loveland was primarily a retirement town when I was younger but now it’s known for its outlet mall along I-25. The foothills and golf courses there served as great sledding hills and eventually urban jib areas but I digress…

Just a short hour drive up the canyon West of Loveland is Estes Park, a town just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, and once you’re past Estes you’ve entered into the real backcountry. Bear Lake is a decent spot for cliff dropping and I’ve trained in avalanche safety there a couple of times. The real spot for adventure is Hidden Valley.

Hidden Valley used to be a legitimate ski area until the forest service stopped renewing the ski license and eventually ripped out the lifts and the lodge. These days it serves more as a sledding ground and snowshoeing retreat as well as cross country skiing. Look hard enough though and you’ll see a few dedicated souls with backpacks, snowshoes, and planks or a board ready for the long arduous climb up the continental divide.

The runs are still very navigable and obvious as the trees haven’t quite grown back in. None of the trails are very steep and on a powder day this can be a bummer, who wants to hike for two hours and only make it half way down before hiking out? Usually I b-line my way out and try to follow my tracks or other compressed snow.

Ultimately, the coolest part of Hidden Valley is the road that cuts through. That’s because this road “Trail Ridge Road” has a special section called “Rainbow Curve” which makes for a stellar road gap. It’s only two lanes wide (with a small shoulder) but that’s plenty if you’ve never tried something like this before. I’ve gapped the road several times, even back flipped it, image below shows one success and once when I came up short. Just above the road is a nice natural hip and a good spot for a cheese wedge style jump just about where treeline is.

  • hidden valley snowboarding road gap fail
  • rainbow curve snowboard road gap backflip
  • I’ve never been much higher than treeline but I’m sure the view is amazing, it’s also steeper and wide open. I don’t think avalanches are a big deal here but it’s always wise to know what you’re doing, check the snow conditions, ask the rangers etc. Also, the rangers will make you destroy your road gap if they catch you so be safe and be discreet! Below is another picture from Hidden Valley, this backflip was done just above the road near the treeline. The shots were taken from video and this was not a digital camera circa 2001 so it’s a bit grainy.


    Just below is the short film “Hidden” shot mostly between 1998 and 2000 in Hidden Valley Rocky Mountain National Park and Breckenridge Colorado. The images above were taken from footage shot in this video, about half way through you can see the road gap footage.