Chicago Basin Ski Mountaineering

Chicago Basin Ski Mountaineering

Ski the most remote 14ers in CO!

Our 6 day Chicago Basin Ski Expedition travels to the home of the 14’ers in the Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains. Our objective for this one-of-a-kind trip will be to ski tour through the heart of the Weminuche Wilderness into Chicago Basin, then catch the D&SNGRR train on the way out.

Along the way we will spend 3 full days in Chicago Basin, choosing the best lines to ski, some of which may include skiing off of Mt. Eolus (14,034 ft.), Sunlight (14,014 ft.), and Windom Peak (14,055 ft.), though many other worth ski descents are to be found in the basin.

This is a one-of-a-kind trip in Colorado’s largest and most remote wilderness area. If you’ve skied in Europe, Canada, and South America, but haven’t yet seen all that Colorado has to offer, then this trip is the perfect fit to get your spring skiing fix right here at home!

It was a pleasure working with SJMG from the very start. I work overseas and had to communicate via email to ask questions and arrange my trip. I contacted SJMG and received a prompt response from Annie, the General Manager. We exchanged several emails and I booked my trip. She then put me in contact with my guide, Nate. Nate and I exchanged several more emails before the trip. He was very responsive and provided comprehensive answers to my questions. I met Nate on the first day of our trip and he was very easy to talk to. His expertise was evident immediately. Throughout the trip he was a great instructor, a patient observer, and very professional. I learned a lot and had a blast at the same time. It was definitely a memorable experience and I certainly plan to book another trip with SJMG and Nate in the near future. Thanks SJMG! – Gene K. Chicago Basin Ski Mountaineering, May 2017

Chicago Basin Ski Itinerary

Day 1

We meet early and board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway for the ride to the Needleton stop and our approach into Chicago Basin. Approximately 6 miles of hiking gets us into the upper basin and our camp for the rest of the trip.

Day 2

We have multiple options for ski descents in Chicago Basin including the West Face of Jupiter Mountain.

Day 3

Today we’ll skin up and climb Mt. Eolus and ski down off the summit. An incredible 4,000 ft. descent takes us back to our camp.

Day 4

Today we’ll head up to Sunlight and/or Windom Peak to assess conditions and determine the best descent. Alternatively, we may decide to ski the West Face of Jupiter Mtn (13,849 ft.).

Day 5

Another ski tour in the Chicago Basin area. Options are many!

Day 6

We’ll wake early and head on down the Needle Creek trail to our pick up location at the Needleton drop off at 11:45 am.  From there the group will head into Silverton and enjoy a celebratory lunch before a shuttle back to Durango. What a trip!!!

Ski Mountaineering Equipment List

  • Backpack: Internal frame, 50-65 liters.
  • Touring Skis: Skis with alpine-touring or telemark bindings.
  • Ski Boots
  • Poles: adjustable
  • Climbing Skins
  • Avalanche Transceiver: with fresh batteries
  • Probe
  • Avy Shovel: metal blade is a must
  • Alpine Ice Axe: 55-65 cm.
  • Crampons: general mountaineering crampons.
  • Ski Crampons: to fit your skis/bindings
  • Harness: Adjustable leg loops to fit over layers of clothes.
  • Locking Carabiner: 2 pear shaped, wide mouth.
  • Non-Locking Carabiners: 4
  • Belay / Rappel Device: ATC Guide or similar.
  • Ski or ClimbingHelmet
  • Goggles
  • Ski Repair Kit & Skin Wax


  • Socks: wool or synthetic ski socks
  • Base Layers: polyester, wool or silk bottom and top
  • Mid-Weight Top: synthetic, wool, fleece or similar.
  • Shell Pants: hard shell or soft shell. A pair with side vents are best.
  • Insulated Vest: down or synthetic, for extra core warmth.
  • Hard Shell Jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation.
  • Gloves: a pair of heavy gloves and a pair of medium & thin weight gloves
  • Down jacket or Insulated Parka
  • Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
  • Neck Gaiter, BUFF or Balaclava: optional, but nice to have
  • Sunglasses

Other Stuff

  • Sleeping Bag: 0 – negative 20 rating
  • Sleeping Pad (2): one foam one, one inflatable
  • Small Thermos: Optional, but nice to have
  • Water bottles: 2 liters
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm: water/sweat-proof
  • Headlamp: with extra batteries
  • Toiletries
  • Personal First Aid Kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
  • Stuff Sacks: for convenient packing
  • Camera
  • Lunch Food & Snacks: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
  • Down Booties/Slippers, Camp Clothes


Participants should feel competent and comfortable on “Black Diamond” rated runs at ski resorts. Participants should also be in excellent physical condition. We recommend that participants arrive in Durango at least 1 full day prior to traveling with us in the San Juan high country.

1Before Your Trip

Skiing and/or squats: do it. Cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling are great to build heart and lung endurance. Taking day hikes with your loaded backpack at a local park will help train your legs for the mileage you will do in the mountains.

2Follow Up Programs

Durango, Colorado: Getting Here

Durango is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip.

View Larger Map

Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Durango – La Plata County Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 20 minute drive from our office. Many hotels offer a free shuttle pickup. Buckhorn Limousine offers a shuttle as well.

Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Durango. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.

  • Denver, CO: 6 hours
  • Albuquerque, NM: 3 hours

Hotels: Durango has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.


Additional Information

  • Cost Includes:
  • Guiding and instruction with AMGA Certified Guides
  • Shelter, stoves, ropes, rock gear
  • D&SNGRR Train Tixx
  • Breakfasts and Dinners in the mountains
  • Avalanche probe, shovel, and beacon, boots, skis, and climbing skins are available for rent from our shop for an additional cost.

  • Not Included:

  • Hotel costs before, during or after the courses
  • trip cancellation insurance
  • personal climbing, skiing, or camping equipment, or gratuities.
  • Guide gratuity

  • Registration and Cancellation:
  • Advance Registration is required for this program.  You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System.  All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.

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