Lodging Ouray Colorado
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Ophir Colorado | 970.708.0092 |

OPUS Backcountry Ski Hut

Skiing, Mountain Biking, Hiking and Remote Lodging in the San Juan Mountains

Backcountry Skiing Ophir Pass


Maps, photos and waypoints given here are intended to give a general description of the commonly used route. Snow and weather conditions will always influence route selection. If you are uncomfortable with winter route finding in this type of terrain, please hire a guide.

Hwy 550 (Silverton/Red Mt. Pass)

This is the most straightforward route to access the hut. The winter trailhead/parking for the OPUS is the summer turnout at the beginning of the Ophir pass road, 7 miles north of Silverton on Hwy 550. There is often a skin track heading straight down towards the creek and power station, do not take this, but instead follow the Ophir pass road (not plowed), to the north, cross Mineral Creek and swing back south on the road.

Traversing along the north side of the creek the road crosses the run out of three large slide paths, then the ruby creek ravine. Beyond the ravine the trees begin to open up and eventually you come to a large treeless area. This is the run out of several large south facing avalanche paths off the eastern shoulder of Lookout peak which cross the road.

Ophir Pass ColoradoDuring higher danger periods and when the road is completely obscured by snow it is better to drop to the valley bottom at this point, and follow the creek up stream towards Ophir pass. After the creek forks the drainage becomes a deep ravine. Stay out of this obvious terrain trap on gentle benches just to the east/ northeast of the creek (climbers right) to the first switchback in the road.

Otherwise continue up the Ophir pass rd. cut traversing south facing slopes. You will encounter two gullies crossing the road before the road reaches the first switchback. Treat these cross loaded gullies with caution. Just before the first switchback, look up hill and you will see the hut.  After reaching the first switch back, abandon the main road for a two track road paralleling the creek towards the pass (straight uphill on the right side of the creek). The route winds uphill through open trees to the meadow mentioned in the final approach described above.

Town of Ophir to the OPUS:

Ophir ColoradoThis approach is more intimidating than dangerous, and less straight forward than the Hwy 550 approach.

The Ophir pass road on this side becomes obscured typically by the end of December. Until then simply follow the road to the old pass road, which traverses the north side of the drainage (avoiding slide prone north facing slopes) on final approach to the pass itself, leaving the main road 500 ft. before the switchback.

When the road becomes obscured the better route is to follow the Swamp canyon road to the creek and large meadow. The swamp road leaves the pass road on the right after crossing a slide run out about 3/4 of a mile east of Ophir.  At this point, instead of crossing the Howards Fork, go left and east uphill  across this meadow to its northeastern corner. Here a summer road climbs the left side of the creek  eventually leading to beaver ponds at its head. Cross the beaver ponds heading east towards the pass. The east end of the pondsOphir Pass is a good spot to take a break and add a layer, it often gets breezy beyond this point. From here you will follow the valley bottom up towards the pass, crossing the run out of many slide paths from north and south facing slopes. A small bench about 200 vertical feet presents a small challenge. Climbing its right side through scrub to mature trees is often a good option. Otherwise just follow the path of least resistance up steeper windblown west facing slopes just out of the trees.  After gaining this bench it is best to climb left of center drain to the old pass road cut off described above.

Routes with Waypoint Descriptions

Approach to OPUS hut Approach to OPUS hut Approach to OPUS hut