Night Skiing Buffalo Mountain, “The Ultimate Roadside Attraction”

Heading westbound on I-70 as you exit the Eisenhower tunnel, Buffalo is the first mountain you see. When I first saw it, I never thought that one day I would be skiing it, let alone at 1:30 in the morning. In the book, “The fifty classic ski descents of North America.” the title for “Buffalo Mountain, Silver Couloir” is what I quoted for the title of this post, “The Ultimate Roadside Attraction.” I skied Silver Couloir this past spring and that in itself was quite an experience.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
My day started off with some fun lift served skiing at Loveland with my friend Kerstin. It was cold, like below zero first thing in the morning. It had snowed 2-3 feet only a few days earlier. The night of the full moon it was snowing with almost no visibility. We were still finding some great untracked snow days following the storm. Another reason to love “Loveland”

I went into work for the afternoon with no plans to go skiing that night. But, that afternoon I noticed Mike post about partners for a night ski tour. The moon would be rising around 9pm and almost full. Bright enough to see without headlamps. If the weather cooperated as predicted, a moonlit ski tour would be a fun experience.

So that evening, after work, we met up at the Lilypad trailhead around 9pm (9774’). It was still cold. About 5º, and I was gearing up. I’d done this skin up the season prior, but early morning as the sun rose in the springtime, and with a somewhat well defined skin track in place. What was ahead? A climb to the top of buffalo mountain topping out at 12777’.

The snow was deep, and I knew the skiing would be fantastic. The next 2900’ of elevation gain we would be breaking trail. No easy task, but with little wind and with moonlight shining over lake Dillon, it would be quite a lovely hike.

We finally summited around 1:30am. It was a bit windy, and very cold. A few seconds without my gloves on felt torturous. We had to sort gear, switch to ski mode, and get our skins in our packs. At below zero with the wind, while sitting on a mountain summit at 1:30am, this was a bit more challenging task than usual.

I was looking down at Silverthorne, Dillon, and Frisco and excited to ski the fresh snow we'd just climbed through. But I was also thinking, too far right, and the terrain cliffs out, too far left we’d end up in avalanche prone terrain. Ski carefully. We spaced our skiing apart a few hundred feet, but not so far that we couldn't see each other. I was trying to see where our skin track was so I could follow it somewhat closely but still get some good turns in. 

Mike was the most familiar with the route. He dropped in first and told us to stay to the left of his tracks to avoid the unsafe terrain. Noted. I watched him ski away through the blowing snow, he made some turns and looked back before I dropped in. Seeing his headlamp hundreds of feet below on such a huge slope gave me even more perspective on how big the mountain is. 

I dropped in, wow, some unforgettable moonlit turns from way up high. Night skiing like this was quite an experience. After some turns on the top of the mountain, we got down to tree-line. The plan was to mostly follow our skin track out, along the ridge, and there would be some pockets that open up for moonlit turns. We were out of the wind, and Mike suggested turning our headlamps off. I did. The moon was so bright we were able to ski through the trees and easily see. Avoid the dark shadows, follow the snow, and we'd be okay. Woah. In areas it opened up enough to get some really fun turns. Around 2:45am we got back to the car. I looked back up at what we’d just skied and smiled.

My favorite part about this experience, I see this mountain everyday. On my way to work, when I’m enjoying a morning coffee, or just out for a walk. What was once a nice "roadside attraction" has now become a mountain that I look each day at and remember that night out.