Snow is coming early to the West this year. While El Nino recently brought in two feet at Tahoe, the Rockies are now getting an early-season dumping with projections upwards of 18 inches of snow over the next few days. Few ski resorts have opened their lifts yet, but it's not too early to break out your skins and start exploring the backcountry.
"It's sweet because the ski season is going off from now until June in some places," said Harrison Buck, director of BuckNaked Visual Works, a ski film production company based out of Crested Butte, Colorado. His suggestion? Start in Leadville, the highest incorporated town in the U.S. at 10,152 feet. The surrounding high-mountain passes make for a great variety of early-season runs above tree line. This weekend, try Independence Pass: before the road over the pass closes for the season you can drive to the top, pick your line, and ski on down.
Get outfitted with maps and avalanche gear at Sawatch Backcountry in downtown Leadville. There, knowledgeable locals will set you up and point you in the right direction.—Greer Schott
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