Friends of Berthoud Pass Promotes Safety, Access + Environmental Stewardship for Backcountry Enthusiasts 

It's no secret that Berthoud Pass is a backcountry enthusiast playground. Skiers as far back as the 1920s discovered the the cold, light, and deep snow "the pass" is known for. Sitting in a sweet spot that attracts deep snowpack, benefiting from both northwest flow and upslope storms, Berthoud quickly became a skiing mecca after word got out. It wasn't long before a group of volunteers installed the first rope tow system in 1937, making Berthoud Pass Colorado's first formalized ski area. The no-frills operation sitting at 11,307 feet eventually closed its doors in the early 2000s, but it laid the groundwork for skiing the 1,200 acres of terrain in the Arapahoe National Forest. Runs range from beginner to expert, but it's the tree-lined bowls, steep chutes, and rugged cliff bands that entice advanced backcountry skiers from across Colorado. And we're lucky enough to have Berthoud Pass and all its glory right in our backyard!

But there's a caveat - backcountry skiing comes with inherent risk. Established ski areas are constantly mitigating the risk of avalanche, but Berthoud Pass is not a resort. It's simply forest service land we can access. No patrollers. No avalanche mitigation. That means the safety responsibility lies solely on skiers and riders. Not sure where to start? Enter: Friends of Berthoud PassFriends of Berthoud Pass (FOBP), a grassroots collective of backcountry enthusiasts dedicated to keeping recreation safe, accessible, and sustainable on the pass, was founded by ski patrollers and backcountry riders in 2003. Funded entirely by donations and staffed by volunteers, their mission is clear: they are "committed to preserving the legacy of public recreation at Berthoud Pass by promoting safety education, backcountry access and environmental stewardship."


One of the primary goals of Friends of Berthoud Pass is to prepare skiers and riders to safely enter the backcountry. They offer over twenty free Avalanche Awareness classes each year, many hosted in Grand County. The Headwaters Event Center and Vintage Hotel at Winter Park Resort both offer space for FOBP to conduct the two and half hour course. Class participants then have access to the (also free!) one-day on-snow training on Berthoud Pass that allows new backcountry users to experience topics in a hands-on setting, These introductory opportunities are designed as a precursor to AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) training, in hopes of inspiring potential backcountry users to enroll in the AIARE Level 1 course. But many who have already gone through training join the awareness classes just to brush up and engage with the backcountry community.

FOBP believes that avalanche education is a lifelong, ongoing process. They're always discussing snowpack, accidents, and how we can learn from them, so getting in on their training sets you up to view avalanche awareness and training as a continual process, constantly assessing conditions and factors that play into safety. We all want to play on Berthoud, and we're grateful for an organization committed to helping us do so safely!

Want to brush up on your beacon, probe, and shovel skills? Hit up the annual Beacon Bash at Winter Park Resort, sponsored by Friends of Berthoud Pass. 

FOBP also aims to keep Berthoud Pass accessible and geared toward backcountry users. They've jumped in on discussions for the future of the area and have positioned themselves as stakeholders in the Forest Service's planning, notably collaborating with USFS to build the warming hut that now sits at the Berthoud Pass parking lot. FOBP is also the "Adopt-a-Highway" sponsor for the Berthoud Pass summit, keeping it ready for visitors year-round. 

The nonprofit also focuses on sustainability for the recreational use of Berthoud Pass, in hopes of preserving the natural environment and the potential for outdoor fun for years to come. They heavily emphasize Leave No Trace principles in their classes and also organize an annual clean up day for Berthoud Pass every fall. 


If you're interested in supporting the work Friends of Berthoud Pass does, there are several opportunities to jump in and be a part of their work! 

You can pick up some FOWP-branded gear to spread awareness and financially support the nonprofit. Beanies, shirts, baseball caps and more are available for purchase in-person at Wilderness Exchange in Denver, Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs, and Fraser's Icebox Mountain Sports.

Love to uphill ski? Winter Park Resort donates all proceeds from uphill ski passes to local nonprofits, including Friends of Berthoud Pass. 

You can always give a monetary donation. Any amount helps as they are funded solely on the generosity of others who are invested in backcountry safety, accessibility, and sustainability. 


We can point you in the right direction for avalanche safety classes, buying or renting a backcountry setup and safety gear, and the go-to runs on Berthoud. Or if living twenty minutes from the best backcountry skiing and riding in Colorado is on your radar, connect with us to start your mountain real estate adventure! 

Posted by Leah Bishop on


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