Fall River Pass (Alpine Visitor's Center) Ski Descent


One of the advantages of having so much snow in the late spring of this year is that there is still plenty of snow for some great back country ski adventures. With Trail Ridge Road finally open, we can get to many places in the Park that are not easily accessible for skiing during the winter.

On June 15, 1995 Arthur and I started out from home with blue skies, a few white billowy clouds, and pleasant temperatures in the 60s. After splurging on some freshly baked Dieter's donuts and coffee in Estes Park, we entered Rocky Mountain National Park and drove up to the Alpine Visitor's Center, also known as Fall River Pass. We walked about an eighth of a mile down Fall River Road, strapped on our skis, and aayyeeee! , jumped off the edge to start an easy descent on the wide open terrain.

Rather than following Old Fall River Road, we stayed on the slopes to the right. Although there were a few bushes and dry spots showing , they were easily avoided. We soon found a wooden post marker and 500 feet to the left was an old stone cabin. It is all locked up and the windows are frosted so you can't see in, but it is interesting to think about someone spending some time there!

We continued down the gully staying a little to the right. There were a few holes in the snow where you could see and hear water running - good places to stay away from!

In about 45 minutes and all too soon, we were at our turning around point, which was the log cabin now owned by the US government. It is, of course, locked up, but the steps were dry and made a good place to sit and eat a snack and drink some juice.

We peeked in the windows of the cabin and saw a spartan one room. There is a wooden table and chairs, some metal lockers, a mattress or futon hanging from a rope, and some metal frame bunk beds.

The meadow in front of the cabin was still covered with several feet of snow. The snow had melted to about two feet away from the cabin. Sitting on the steps, we watched the water flowing and heard it gurgling on it's route under the cabin and snow. We sat for about 20 minutes marveling at the view. There was a huge snow filled slope, pine forests, birds singing, sun shining, fresh air, and that peace in the air that the back country surrounds you with. We commented on what a nice location this would be for a get-away-cabin; so quiet, so serene, so natural.

Time for the return trip. We changed into our shorts and strapped on our ski skins to our skis and began our assent. We called out to Miner Bill and the Blue Mist, but they did not answer. They were probably haunting somewhere else that day.

An hour and a half later at 1pm, we reached the Alpine Visitor's Center, walking the last few hundred feet in light rain. This was a good reminder that outings in the Park need to start early and end early to avoid the usual afternoon storm, or you had better take along appropriate rain gear.

A quick visit into the store at the Visitor's Center got us some post cards to send to the relatives telling them about our day's adventure. The rain increased to a down pour, with black clouds and lightening. We gawked around the gift shop and by the time we came out, the sun was shining in all it's brilliance again.

We loaded up and drove down to Milner Pass, a few miles beyond the Alpine Visitor's Center. Last year the "ski trail" was closed to protect the big horn sheep. This year it is still open. Great! Another location for another back country adventure in the near future!

Copyright (c) 1995 Marty Vyn Boennighausen June 15th, 1995