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) to the OPUS   3.5 miles 1,800 vertical feet

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, 5 miles north of Silverton on Hwy 550.  Follow the Ophir pass road (not plowed), to the north, cross Mineral Creek and swing back south on the road. There is often a skin track heading straight down towards the creek and power station, do not take this.

Climbing 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 above you to the north.

Ophir Pass Colorado

Final Approach Route

Continue up the Ophir pass road, 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, continue straight ahead paralleling the creek towards the pass. The route winds uphill through open trees to the meadow pictured in the photo to the right. There are blue diamond ski trail markers along the trail to the hut from this point. The route climbs through a group of trees right of the open meadow after crossing the Ophir Pass Road. 200 vertical feet above the road the trail traverses east through open slopes and trees before reaching the hut.

Town of Ophir to the OPUS   3.5 miles  2,000 vertical feet

Ophir Colorado

Ophir Pass from the west

This 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 pass 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.

Ophir Pass

Winter shot – Location of summer road and trail

From the town of Ophir, follow the Ophir Pass road 1/2 mile to the first creek crossing. Continue another 1/4 mile on the road to a slide run out coming off the Silver Mountain ridge to the north. After crossing the run out go right into the trees on atypically snow packed trail (this is the Swamp Canyon road). Follow this trail to a large open Meadow, the main path will cross the Howards Fork river.    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 ponds 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 , where it’s best to stay on the north side of the valley, to the pass.(described above).

At Ophir Pass the hut is directly east of you in trees one half mile from the pass. After crossing Ophir pass, descend the center of the drainage, then swing north to the final climb to the hut (described and pictured above).

Routes with Waypoint Descriptions

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