Mount Adams Ski & Snowboard Descent
The ski descent of Mt. Adams, Washington's second highest mountain, offers over 8000 feet (2400 m) of skiing. For those interested in skiing the Cascade's volcanoes, this presents one of the more reasonable objectives. Your guide's will select the line that offers the best skiing given the current conditions, but most trips involve a climb of the south spur, followed by a descent of the SW chutes or the South spur. This can be done as a 1-3 day program depending on individual fitness and the length of the the approach. We generally run this as 2-day program but it can also be done 3 day trip with the extra day being used to provide a more relaxed approach with time to ski many of the prime ski lines available on the south side of the mountain.
The typical ski season for Mt. Adams runs from late February well into July. We do not run many late winter early-spring trips due to the complications of reaching the mountain, which has no plowed road leading to the trailheads. If the trail has been cleared of downed trees and the road is entirely snow covered snowmobiles can ease the approach, but this is not always the case. Often there are long stretches of road melted out making it unworkable for snowmobiles. On earlier trips the approach is longer and a bit more complicated, but you are more likely to have good ski conditions with winter temperatures. Simply deciding to walk the extra distance works fine, but often means an additional day or just road walking on the approach and the exit. Ski descents made in May and June are more likely to provide spring ski conditions and the approach takes less time. There is also the advantage of longer days later in spring. Given the vertical gain of this trip you are almost certain to experience a wide-variety of ski conditions.
It is possible to ski from the summit of Mt. Adams, but conditions are often icy enough that some group members may opt to descend just below to the summit to the start of the better skiing.
Mt Adams Ski Descent Itinerary
Day 1: Group meets in Trout Lake, WA to do a thorough equipment check and check in with the Mt. Adams Ranger Station to register for our trip. We then proceed to the trailhead, and put in a low camp around 6200', with time in the afternoon to ski the lower flanks of Mt. Adams, an area generally more protected from the wind than the upper mountain. By camping low we set ourselves up for an easy return to camp if we opt to ski the SW chutes.
Day 2: Summit Mt. Adams and then descend the SW chutes route, or the route with the best skiing. Return to camp at 6200', pack-up and descend to the trailhead. We are typically back in Trout Lake by late afternoon and traditionally end the trip with burgers and beer in Hood River, OR.
Mt Adams Southwest Chutes SkiThis is one of the more classic ski lines in the State of Washington and was first skied in 1932. The actual ski line presents a bit over 4000 feet of skiable vert. You enter the chute at around 11,500' and the descent is between 35-45 degrees at its steepest section. Once at the bottom of the chute it is possible to traverse back over to the climbing route. In late spring this may require some time traversing snow-free areas, at which point we usually opt to ski the south ridge as it offers skiing all the way back to the trailhead.
Mt Adams South Ridge SkiWhen the Southwest chutes are out of condition or we have a group of skiers looking for less steep skiing, this is the logical descent route. From just below Piker's Peak at 11,657' this presents consistent 25-30 degree skiing.
Qualifications for Mt. Adams Ski DescentSki Ability: A ski descent of Mount Adams is not extreme, but you do need to have a solid set of ski skills and be in good condition. Things you should feel comfortable doing include: skiing with a 28 lb. backpack, skiing a wide variety of snow ranging from powder to breakable crust to corn, and climbing and descending 3500-4500' on skis for 2-3 days. You cannot undertake the Mt. Adams ski program without any experience outside of a ski area. Most participants have some experience AT skiing with a guide, and show up with some recent ski tours under their belt.
Ski Skills Assessment - Mt. Adams SkiIdeally we will have had a chance to ski with you in advance of your trip to Mt. Adams, but we realize this is not always possible. If you have skied previously with a ski guide we are always happy to discuss your ski ability with them if that will help you make your decision, but we have also provided the following list of ski skills if making a self-assessment as you ponder the trip.
Advanced Ski Skills
- Able to ski fall line in most snow conditions (powder to wind affected snow).
- Able to make parallel or stem-christie turns on 35° groomed or firm snow.
- Able to side-slip on firm slopes up to 35°.
- Able to ski moguls in soft snow.
- Able to do kick turns facing in or facing out on 30° slopes.
- Able to skate on level terrain.
- Able to ski fall-line in tight radius turns in good conditions.
- Able to ski black diamond runs at ski areas efficiently and in most snow conditions.
Meet Point for Mt. Adams Ski DescentUnless you make other arrangements with our office, we generally meet our customers for South side climbs (South Spur, Avalanche Glacier, etc.) at the Mt. Adams Ranger Station in Trout Lake, WA. The closest major airport in Portland International Airport (PDX). It takes about 2 hours to drive to Trout Lake from PDX. Enroute you pass through Hood River, OR, which can be a good place to eat dinner, buy groceries or spend the night before or after your climb of Mt. Adams. If driving from Seattle, it takes about 4.5 hours.
Mt. Adams Ranger Station
2455 Hwy 141
Trout Lake, WA 98650