The Stanley Slide Path is the biggest, scariest avalanche path in the Berthoud Pass Area and because it crosses the road twice it's a nightmare for road crews. When you hear on the news that Berthoud Pass is closed because an avalanche is blocking it, there's a good chance that it came from here. Indeed skiing this monster would be almost certainly suicidal. While in winter this may be in true, in May once the snowpack has consolidated itself, the slide path becomes a very skiable, very long and very accessible spring skiing run. Because its easily accessible, its the perfect descent for those who want to hike less and ski more.
This ski descent couldn't be more accessible. Driving up Berthoud Pass (US 40) from Denver you can see it once you pass the cliffs section four miles past Empire. Park on the side of the road at the last switchback before the top on the east (Denver) side of the pass. (If you're counting up its the fifth switchback from the bottom.) Park another car at the bottom of the slide path, (it's that strip with no trees in between the signs that warn of avalanche danger) or you'll have to thumb your way back up to the car.
From where you parked you can see the entire climb ahead of you. It looks much steeper than it actually is. There is no trail that leads to the top so just bushwhack through the trees in the general direction of the ridge ahead of you. It will get progressively steeper as you near timberline. After timberline continue kick stepping your way up to the ridge. From this ridge you'll be able to see most of the descent. Continue up the ridge until you finally reach the top of the slide path. The steepest point of the climb is right below the summit. Though the climb is less than three quarters of a mile it can take a couple of hours because it's so steep and you're carrying skis.
Don't ski directly from the top, there are cliffs and rocks. There may also be a cornice from the top, but it will be much smaller than those on the continental divide. At the tops it nears fifty degrees but becomes much gentle as you go down. The snow will deteriorate within fifty yards of the highway. Because the slide path faces southeast it will receives a lot of sun in the morning and an early start is definitely recommended.
This is a major slide path and should be treated with respect. Do not go anywhere near this path in winter. From the first time the snow falls until the end of April there is a very real threat of major slab avalanches. Even after the snow has consolidated wet snow avalanches could still exist, especially on hot afternoons. Approach this ski descent with caution and don't ever underestimate it.
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