Pikes Peak: Railroad Couloir

Check America's Mountain off your 14er list by skiing and hiking the Railroad Couloir, probably the easiest option for skiers to bag this summit.

Ski Touring Difficult

Distance
3.4 km
Ascent
742 m
Descent
742 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
3.6 km
High Point
4.3 km
Gradient
44˚
Pikes Peak: Railroad Couloir Map

Climb the peak that inspired our country's anthem, “America the Beautiful! “ According to the website Pikes Peak America’s Mountain, this mountain not only inspired Katherine Bates to write that song, it also served as one of the original driving forces behind Gold Rush. It’s no wonder, as the mountain rises thousands of feet straight up from the plains. Pikes Peak is right on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains and thus has unbeatable views stretching as far as the eye can see.

Description

Not convinced yet? To access the line you start by driving up an amazing road to the summit at over 14,000 feet. This road is also used as a rally course for the world-famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Once you complete the drive, the fun continues as a 2,500-foot ski line awaits. Pass by the historic Cog Railway to enter the Railroad Couloir. Note, according to the Cog Railway website, the train is no longer operating so this is not an option to reach the summit.

There are several ski options from the summit but the Railroad Couloir is the friendliest and most straightforward route and does not require any technical moves. Be prepared to have fun on this awesome ski line. The top of the line is the steepest part, but there's nothing too extreme. Depending on how much snow there is, your biggest challenge might be avoiding rocks.

The line continues down along a large rock face until you reach the “bottomless pit.” There aren't any offshoots or alternate lines once you drop in, which makes navigation very straightforward.

The hardest part of skiing this couloir is climbing back up after your ski. The climb itself is not that hard, but doing things in reverse order by skiing first and climbing second is harder than people expect. It also requires careful timing because you don’t want to be climbing up too late in the day when the snow is warming up and avalanche conditions start getting dangerous. At the same time, skiing this line too early in the morning might greet you with bulletproof snow conditions, which can be a challenge to ski.

Once your slog to the summit is over you will most likely be greeted by a gaggle of tourists wondering what planet you are from and wanting to take pictures with you. After your ten minutes of fame are up, there is a summit house that serves fresh donuts and coffee for you to celebrate your great day of skiing.

Difficulty

Difficult

Serious gradient of 30-38 degrees where a real risk of slipping exists.

Medium Exposure (E2)

2 out of 4

As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

April, May, June

Features

  • Alpine
  • Cliffs

Equipment required

  • Rope
  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons