Peak(s):  Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  06/13/2011
Modified:  06/14/2011
Date Climbed:   06/12/2011
Author:  lodgling
 Snowmass South Face Ski   

While we were making weekend plans that were pointing towards the Elks, I was directed to Sean O'Day's blog from and saw a photo of the W face of Snowmass. This has been on the list since Dav's project as a must-do. Been watching it for years but access and aspect issues make it tough to catch in condition from the summit. Did anyone mention that this was a big season in the Elks?

The heavy packs went on at Crystal. By the way, the road to Crystal is very rough by any standard. Having plenty of past experience in testing the limits of what "high clearance 2WD" means in Colorado (with apologies and many thanks to my Ford Focus) I can confirm that the road to Crystal is not, a "high clearance 2WD road." Fortunately, Matt and Tanya are suckers for a slog and own a capable pickup.

Anyways, we hit the first snow blocking the road about 1 mile in and got our first glimpse of Snowmass from the south.

First glimpse

After that the snow was patchy until the falls above the Geneva Lake turnoff.


We finally put the skis and skins to use and made quick work of the remaining gain to Geneva Lake.

Nearing camp

We had seen Paul on the his way out for BBQ, so we were certain we would have the basin to ourselves.

We did. Gorgeous up here.


Dinner time. Lower ascent route in red.

Freeze dried/Patagonia plug and lower route

As we finished the freeze-dried blueberry cheesecake, Matt joked about "pioneering new routes on the S face in the morning." We agreed that anything on a 14er this close to CB and Aspen has been skied, probably in the 70s on 200s. No S face route in Dawson's though.

Since we planned to climb and ski the W face, we got a leisurely start just after sunrise and quickly changed to crampons. An early and unique perspective on Capitol.


Suncups were prevalent.

Sun cups

The climbing was incredible in a choose-your-own-route kind of way. Perhaps too good of an overnight freeze?

Blast off

Topping out was fantastic.


Summit ridge

There was much rejoicing.


If Dav has his famous shot, I think our own pioletski has made this one famous.

the "pioletski" shot

We admired the views, did the math on how late we'd get back to the front range if we waited for the W face to soften up (it was 9:30am) and decided to give the S face a try. Worst case, we would boot back up and chatter down the W face.

Does it go?

looking down the S face route

Only one way to find out.

14er skiing at its best!

After donning skis on snow at the summit and doing the standard "rocks to skis" for a few, I caught up to Matt and Tanya about 20 vert below where they were rationally donning theirs. Helpful directional arrow in red (disclaimer: if you needed this directional arrow, please avoid route)

Matt and Tanya get ready below


I acted as test dummy and found "variable" conditions that certainly demanded skill and respect.

looking back up after 4-5 steep turns

Matt enjoying the steep entry turns.


And the choke.


The route in red.

S face route

We took the skis off momentarily to get from the looker's left gully into the looker's right. Could've been skied that day, but not recommended. Mandatory 40ft air at the end of looker's left gully also not recommended.

We eventually found enjoyable snirt back to the tent, shared the last of the Red Bull and headed back out.

A look at the route from S Maroon (photo from moneymike)

Route from S Maroon photo by moneymike)

A look at the route from afar.

Last glimpse

Finished the day off with BBQ/beer in Marble, a traffic jam in Glenwood Canyon and a big hug from the wifey at the front door. Couldn't have drawn it up any better.

Sore shoulders

'Till next time, always fun getting out with you Matt and Tanya!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Right on!
06/14/2011 08:48
Always fun to try a route that's not in the books. And that was an absolutely stunning shot of your boot by the summit register.


06/14/2011 14:01
We were talking about the S face of Snowamss last week from Maroon. Great to see some tracks put down on it.


Sweet Snowmass Ski!
06/14/2011 16:10
This one takes a good bit of effort to ski, regardless of where you start. Well done. What's the approximate mileage and vert from Crystal? As for new ski descents on 14ers in the Elks, I wouldn't give up yet... I think there were two new lines pioneered this year alone, with others in the works. Of course, they're all pretty crazy lookin


2 new lines?
06/14/2011 18:30
Cap N face, yeah pretty good bet. What else?

I'd agree with the OP that someone probably skied the S face of Snowmass at some point (It's quite distinct from CB area peaks), but that said it probably hasn't been skied too many times..


No claim here
06/14/2011 19:13
Yeah, what Frank said . . . by no means are we claiming this one as new. While not so obvious from below, this is a pretty obvious one from the top and from afar (i.e. CB). I imagine it has even been tele'd before in the pre-quality-AT-gear era.

In any event, a fun one. I have the mileage at about 6 from Crystal with an even mile elevation gain. Sure felt longer than that though -- must've been the weight of my skins and ski crampons in the pack for nearly the entire route.

Carl, congrats on Capitol -- 1.5 from K2 is incredible. What a unique ski season.


06/14/2011 20:25
Lot's of extra weight during those approach miles, even with tele. Very nice ”out of the box” approach and ski. Enjoyed the TR.


New lines...
06/14/2011 20:37
I'll defer to Frank so I must have been mistaken about 2 new lines on Elk range 14ers. I was thinking (in addition to Capitol North face) a party skied the west face of Pyramid from the summit this year, but it must have been a dream. To bad, cause if it was a dream, I should have been the skier!

On a somewhat related note... I was just chatting on Sunday about whether Capitol had ever been done on tele?

As for our time from K2 to the summit, it was very largely attributable to the ideal snow conditions. But thanks!


Capitol tele
06/14/2011 21:17
Carl -- I know of one tele descent -- Ted Mahon's friend whose name escapes me. Really a classic part of the 14er-skiing lore now, because he actually put his skis on the wrong feet for his first turns without realizing it and then had to switch them to the correct feet mid-descent (amongst their numerous raps).
W face of Pyramid was done, but not sure it was technically a ”first” since Lou did it as a non-summit ski.

bckcntryskr -- these days tele is usually extra weight rather than the other way around -- no Dynafits yet for you?


Good Work
06/15/2011 20:38
Kathleen keeps me up to date on all the latest adventures, looks like a great day out.

We should look at possibly getting some peaks together this summer if you're interested. Rock season is quickly approaching; would be fun to get out there together for a climb or two...


06/16/2011 01:38
Great pics! Maybe not a first descent, but your well written and illustrated tr will probably inspire others to copy your route.


06/16/2011 12:52
Thanks moneymike, now that I've figured out how to do these TRs, hopefully I can give a little back for all of the great info I've gotten on 14ers.

When all the royaltie$ start rolling in for this route, I'll be sure to pass on your share for the pic from S Maroon.

zambo, as I'm sure you are aware, this will probably be a pretty busy summer for me, but I bet I can sneak away for at least one hike.

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