Tahoe is almost snow-free and we’re a few days out from the middle of June. Still feel like sliding on snow? Head a few hours north to Mt. Shasta and/or Lassen Peak where fun skiing and riding is currently on tap.
After a few unreal weeks skiing above the Arctic Circle with Ice Axe Expeditions (photos from Week 1, more to come…) expectations were not high in terms of returning home to ski in the great state of California. I love being wrong. While we all love the Sierra Nevada our local taste of the Cascade Range-Mt. Shasta and Lassen Peak-usually offer some of the best late spring/summer skiing imaginable. Even in yet another low snowfall season timing has remained essential and as of this past weekend both peaks were offering quality turns for those who are stoked to keep shredding.
Of particular note is the recent opening of the Brewer Creek trailhead on Mt. Shasta. While the south section of the mountain gets the most attention from skiers and climbers, the east side of the mountain-particularly accessed from Brewer Creek-is arguably the most consistent pitch of skiing on this incredibly skiable big mountain. Currently, the approach will start with some dirt walking. The walk should only take 20+/- minutes before you can start skinning.
At present, the ascent is a fairly easy skin to 11k feet. From there a couple of solid boot packs are in,
but if you’re comfortable on your skins it is possible to skin all the way to 14k feet.
Overall, the route is in great shape after some recent precipitation, but as the story’s been this spring, timing is key. Temperatures are forecasted to be back to normalish this week into weekend, which is helpful, but winds are also forecasted to be up as well. This Saturday into early next week some light precipitation may show up. Either way it’s been really hot and skiing early has been beneficial for multiple reasons-snow quality, ski route integrity, wet slide hazard mitigation-however with the change in forecast mountain conditions will change as well. The route will still offer as good as skiing gets in the state right now for a little bit. Just keep a close eye on the weather and be ready to head north when you see a break.
In regards to the skiing, above 10k feet conditions are buttery smooth. Again, get on it early, or with the forecasted lower temps time your descent wisely. This is truly where the best skiing is at. Below 10k sun cups are out as is textured snow. The skiing is fine, just nowhere near the consistency and ripability found above 10k. Jillian Raymond and I did not notice much rockfall while ascending last Saturday, but there was some evidence of recent action so take caution. Also be aware of lining yourself up properly for your descent back to the trailhead. It’s easy to get pulled skier’s left or right depending on your exact line.
There is snow on other aspects of the mountain, but for skiing Brewer Creek is your best bet. Access via the Northgate trailhead is also an option right now, but the Hotlum-Bolam is not in as good shape for skiing as the Wintun. Stay up-to-date on current Mt. Shasta climbing and skiing conditions by checking in here.
To Shasta’s south, the most southern peak in the Cascade Range-Lassen Peak-is also holding enough snow for a snow slider to have some fun. The Devastated Area has been free of snow for weeks, but with access via the summer trail to the south, a couple of quick hours of hiking will bring you to the 10,463′ top of the mountain. Be advised that the summer trail is still undergoing maintenance so you’ll have to walk on snow partway up the mountain to keep the Park Service folks happy.
Here’s a look at the classic NE face.
While the face isn’t looking as tasty as it normally would be for this time of year the skiing is still of high quality for the top few thousand feet. It is not recommended to walk out to the road at the Devastated Area, but that remains an option. Beyond that you can circumnavigate back to the south with a combination of skinning and booting heading east, or just boot pack up the NE Face once the fun part of the pitch starts flattening out and ski back to your car via the East Face.
Either way, the classic status of hiking for 2k up the south and skiing 4400 vertical feet down the NE Face is long gone. However, the skiing is still good on the NE Face as well as on the quickly melting south aspect and the East Face shown here.
Jillian and I ran into several other skiers in the park this past weekend. All were skiing various other bowls, panels and ramps strewn about the greater park. It may be mid-June, but whether you head for a big run to Shasta, or want to do a little casual ski touring around the Lassen area, there are options, and based on the season it’s much better than you think. Happy shredding!
“State of the Backcountry” is sponsored by Alpenglow Sports. Established in 1979, Alpenglow Sports is Tahoe City’s original mountain shop. Specializing in backcountry and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, hiking, camping, and the mountain lifestyle apparel, Alpenglow is always psyched to offer premier user-based customer service.
Alpenglow Sports is thrilled to announce their inaugural Mountain Festival from June 22 – 30, 2013.
You can check into more regular “State of the Backcountry” conditions reports through its Facebook page linked here.
Logo created by Mountain Town Media
Previous “State of the Backcountry” Reports from the 2012-2013 season: