Just a 45-minute drive north of Steamboat, CO, on the edge of the Zirkel wilderness you’ll find a privately owned ski resort by the name of Lester Mountain. Lester Mountain Ski Area is owned, operated and built by my uncle Patrick Chrisman. Patrick purchased what used to be the ‘Steamboat Lake Ski Area’ in 2017.
The old Steamboat Lake Ski area consisted of two chair lifts, 500 feet of vertical drop and three runs. In April 1973 the ski area folded due to economic problems, leaving behind multiple abandoned ski runs and the perfect opportunity for a backyard ski resort.
I remember growing up watching Warren Miller films with my dad thinking about how they effortlessly rip untouched lines. Being from Michigan, ski touring was a foreign concept that sounded more like work than play. My first time at Lester Mountain was in 2017, right after Patrick purchased the property. I remember driving down a dirt road and coming to a steep driveway with snow banks towering several feet above the car. When I stepped out of the car I was greeted by a slobbering St. Bernard, that stayed close behind me the entire time on the mountain.
My introduction to backcountry skiing was held in the garage, learning basic avalanche safety and how to use the gear since Lester Mountain’s world-class skiing is only accessed by touring. At first, only being able to tour seems like a letdown, until you realize the ski area gets over 450 inches of beautiful champagne powder each year, which just so happens to be the most in Colorado. The skin track will occasionally be set by the green snowcat from the 80s, to make the experience a little more enjoyable.
The top of Lester Mountain gives you access to almost 50 acres of private skiable terrain backing up to national forest. With a vertical drop ranging between 200-500 vertical feet and a slope between 20° to 35°, it’s about an easy 15 minute skin-up to the top, with great views and endless possibilities. Getting some of the most snow in Colorado, Lester Mountain’s season lasts from mid November to early June. Conditions can range anywhere from waist-deep pow to soft corn.
Since purchasing the property in 2017, Patrick has been working with the State forest service to clear dead trees on the mountain to expand terrain. In my 6 years of skiing Lester Mountain, it has gone from dicey technical tree skiing to effortless glade skiing. Patrick’s backyard ski resort was my introduction to the backcountry, which has fueled a lifelong passion for the sport of skiing, big lines and, of course, powder.