Cameron Pass is a purely backcountry experience, even though skiers have been sliding down snow for likely close to 100 years at Cameron Pass, leaving a long history of trials and errors in attempts to create a modern ski resort.
The earliest professions at the pass were surveying and constructing ditches to bring water east towards the Cache la Poudre River and Fort Collins and Greeley.
The original road over Cameron Pass was completed in 1926, capped with hundreds of folks celebrating the engineering and construction achievement of finally connecting North Park with to the east instead of having to drive through Summit County or Laramie to reach the Front Range.
At that time, Nokhu Crags was referred to as Sawtooth Mountain and the road was only open for the main summer months. The road was opened year-round in the 1930’s, but wasn’t paved until the 1970’s. The road splits between the Never Summer Mountains to the south from the Medicine Bow Range to the north.
The formal attempts at conducting ski areas at the pass began in the 1930’s on the east side of the pass near Chamber’s Lake. Several small operations (think rope tows) were tried and abandoned over the years, including one called Ski North Park across Highway 14 from Seven Utes basin. Seven Utes basin itself has been the site of two developments that were left at the conceptual level because of physical and political issues. I doubt we’ve seen the last of the formal attempts to create a ski area at Cameron, there will always be issues with the idea, but given the number of skiers there will always be someone dreaming. Some great history of this area and a trail report are included in Peter Bronski’s Powder Ghost Towns that covers many great tucked away areas of Colorado.
After these sporadic tries at ski resorts never materialized, Cameron quietly supported a steady stream of backcountry and cross-country skiers for decades. If you like to think that you’ve ventured deep into the Cameron backcountry and discovered a skippable meadow or short couloir I would venture to guess that a skier in the 70’s or 80’s, unequipped with a social-media feed, called it their secret stash for a decade before moving on to other lines.
Several cross-country ski potentials have also been explored at Cameron Pass, with the only current groomed trails existing in the Gould area.
In 1989 the ski area within Rocky Mountain National Park was closed. The ski patrollers who worked there looked to lend a helping hand in several ways after the closure, including starting the Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol at Cameron Pass in 1990. This search-and-rescue team has patrolled, assisted with rescue missions and educated skiers on avalanche safety since then.
Cameron Pass was put on the skiing map again in 1999 for tragic reasons. That year in December a skier heading up to South Diamond Peak was killed by an avalanche. The next year, within a few hundred yards, a snowboarder was killed on the same mountain. Before TGR forums, before Powderbuzz, before being able to Google any ski line you wanted, skiers got their beta for good skiing from friends and from accident reports. This brought a lot of attention to the pass, providing details on the terrain for the first time on that large scale. More accidents, including fatalities in 2007 and 2013, kept Cameron Pass in the news and at the front of peoples’ minds. The numbers of skiers has been on the rise, as shown by some minor statistics; I guarantee there’s not a skier, plow-driver, water ditch operator, forest service worker, or search-and-rescue team member who would disagree.
Even with more popularity, and a few more tracks on the mountain, the future of skiing at Cameron Pass is bright. It’s a skiers’ pass, thoroughly secluded if you want to be, thoroughly wilderness in many areas, and with great snow most of the ski season.