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Trip Details

Date Saturday  4/12/2014
End Date
Group Fort Collins
Event Title Flattop E Face Ski Descent Ski Mountaineering
Start Time 7:30 AM
Status Complete
Leader John Raich
Member Price Free
Non-member Price Free
Available Participants No tickets left
Type Trip
Trip Type Ski
Pace Moderate
Classification Moderate CII
Trail Mileage 6
Elevation Gain 2800
Driving Distance 120


Bear Lake Area, Rocky Mountain National Park

For more info Contact

Contact the trip leader a week or so prior to that date: John Raich,

Some flexibility regarding the trip date is desirable because skiing quality is highly dependent on snowpack and weather conditions.


The E-facing slopes of Flattop Mtn are below and east of the main summit, 12,324', of this most skied mountain in RMNP. This slope is often the best place to ski under uncertain avalanche conditions as the entire 1200' slope is just below a 30 degree angle, with well-supported and wind-compacted slopes.

This can be a safer mid-winter spot or a great corn snow destination with spring conditions. Snowpack conditions are highly dependent of weather conditions so that it makes sense to select a day with good conditions. So we need to be somewhat flexible regarding the date.

From the Bear Lake trailhead take the Lake Helene trail which crosses directly below the E-facing slopes. This trail is also the normal descent route back to the car. The backcountry tour will involve a climb of about 3 to 4 miles with an elevation gain of up to 2,800', usually on a trail with an established track. Ascent will be moderately paced with periodic short stops.

If conditiuons are appropriate, we may choose to descend the steeper north facing slope down to Lake Helene. This snowfield is east of the Ptarmigan Fingers ski runs.

You should be able to ski 'blue' runs at downhill ski areas at good speed without any difficulties and should be willing to take on 'black' runs without frequent falling. You should be prepared for an outing of about 6 hours, trailhead to trailhead.

It is important to stay with the group during ski descents. We will use the buddy system.

Bring AT, tele, or split board gear with climbing skins. A helmet is suggested. Avalanche gear (beacon, shovel, probe) and knowledge of how to use it, are required. Bring lunch including a drink. Winter gear, including wind protection, is essential.

Backcountry AT/Tele ratings for this trip (see Notes below):
Fitness - MODERATE
Skill - BLACK

Additional information:


Online self-registration is suggested for this backcountry ski tour. Please make sure that you are prepared for a backcountry ski tour of this type. Backcountry skiing has inherent risks due to terrain obstacles, falls, avalanches, getting separated from the group, and weather conditions that could result in serious injuries or death. If you have questions regarding your fit, please contact the trip leader,


* Easy
You can climb and descend a backcountry ski tour with total elevation gain of up to 1,000 feet in a half day without getting really tired. You can climb on a good skin track at a rate of 500 feet vertical elevation gain and 1 mile distance, each hour, not counting short breaks (something like 10 minutes each hour or 5 minutes each half hour), and keep this up for at least 2 hours.
* Moderate
You can climb and descend a backcountry ski tour with total elevation gain of up to 2,000', with short rest breaks every hour or so, in a day. You can climb on a good ski track at a rate of 750 feet vertical elevation gain and 1.5 miles distance each hour, not counting breaks and keep this up for at least 3 hours.
* Strenuous
You can climb and descend a backcountry ski tour with a total elevation gain of 3,000 feet or more in a day. You can climb on a good ski track at a rate of 1,000 feet vertical elevation gain and 2 miles horizontal distance in about 1.5 hours, not counting short breaks, and keep this up for half a day. You can break trail in heavy snow for short periods of time.

* Green
You are able to ski proficiently on groomed beginner 'green' slopes at downhill areas. You can get down groomed 'blue' runs but 'black' runs are a survival zone. You can make solid stem turns and traverse via kick-turns off-trail on untracked snow slopes. You are able to distinguish easy terrain from more difficult terrain that a novice can't handle. You are still learning to ski untracked snow.
* Blue
You can ski all but the more difficult 'black' runs at ski areas with reasonable confidence. You can make turns in untracked powder on fairly open and moderate angle slopes inn the backcountry, but difficult conditions such as heavy wet snow, crusts, poor visibility, dense trees, and steep slopes can all cause problems, though you can cope with them safely at slower speed, although perhaps not elegantly.
* Black
You can manage 'double black diamond' runs at ski areas. You can make linked turns through powder, heavier snow, in forested terrain, on steep slopes greater than 25 degrees. You can manage complex terrain such as gullies and couloirs. Difficult breakable crust and skiing a fresh track in poor visibility may still be a challenge although you are able to cope.
* Ski mountaineering
You have considerable experience with backcountry travel planning and route finding. You have basic mountaineering training, including snow travel, ice axe use, and, if indicated by the trip leader, basic rope management skills. Other specialized gear such as ski crampons and helmet may be required on ski mountaineering tours, especially later during the season.

* No avalanche training or gear required
* Level 1 avalanche course recommended
Completion of a level 1 avalanche course and avalanche gear (beacon, shovel, probe) are strongly recommended.
* Level 1 avalanche course required
Completion of a level 1 avalanche course and avalanche gear (beacon, shovel, probe) are required.

Sorry it is past the registration deadline for this event.