North America’s tallest via ferrata opens in Colorado


Outdoor enthusiasts typically head to the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Colorado to ski and snowboard its towering slopes. But now there is another reason to visit with the launch of a new via ferrata. The Arapahoe team say it’s the tallest in North America and is already welcoming climbers after it opened last week.

If you need a break away from the home office, Arapahoe Basin is the ticket. This region of the Rockies offers opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking and mountain yoga. And, for families, the park’s aerial adventure and disc golf courses add to the fun. Now there is another new attraction there, a via ferrata-or iron road-on the gnarled terrain at the top of the eastern wall.

Everything is wide open and unrestricted up there © Ian Zinner / Arapahoe Basin

Invented during World War I as a way to move troops, weapons, and supplies through the Dolomite mountains in Italy, via ferrates are popular across Europe. There are only a few in North America and the Arapahoe Basin team claim this one is the highest at 12,900 feet and is a few feet from the world’s tallest at Mount Kenya and Mount Kinabalu.

It’s a protected climbing course with carefully placed steel bars and handles, and you wear a harness and tie up cables in case you slip. It makes mountaineering accessible because you don’t need any climbing experience to participate. In fact, you don’t need to know anything more than how to climb a ladder. That said, you need to be in good physical shape and be acclimatized to altitude.

Climbers go up the via ferrata
You don’t need any climbing experience to tackle the via ferrata © Ian Zinner / Arapahoe Basin

“People come from all over to experience it, and we see a lot of adventurous families doing it together – sometimes including three generations at a time,” said Katherine Fuller, director of communications for Arapahoe Basin. “For some, this is one of the craziest things they will ever do. For others, it whets their appetite for mountaineering and rock climbing.

“Everything is wide open and unrestricted up there; you can see for miles and feel completely in nature,” she added.

Climbers set off on the via ferrata
The tour includes a scenic chairlift ride, equipment rental and guide © Ian Zinner / Arapahoe Basin

The ascent of the via ferrata is done via organized circuits. You can choose a half-day hike to an abandoned mine or a day hike to reach the ridge at 13,000 feet. base route and all necessary equipment and training.

A half-day excursion (approximately four hours) costs $ 175 per person. Day tours (approximately six hours) cost $ 225 per person. Both tours include equipment rental and a guide. A gourmet deli lunch is included on the full-day tour to eat at the top, prepared daily by the main restaurant.

If you are taking the via ferrata be sure to bring a backpack, warm layers, rain jacket, sunscreen, water, all the snacks you will need and be sure to carry sturdy shoes. For more information, see here.

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