Stevens Pass Backcountry Ski Tours
There are many options for high quality alpine tours around Stevens Pass Ski area and along highway 2 as you drive east from Stevens Pass. Season and current snow conditions dictate which tours work best on any given day. We offer set dates throughout the winter that give you the option to join a group of other skiers for less than our custom programs as well as the option to organize a day tour for yourself or a group of friends. Typical tours for our set dates take around 6 hours and usually feature around 3000-5000 of total elevation gain. Common trips include great skiing on Lichtenberg, Jim Hill, terrain around Lantham Lakes, Rock Mountain, Arrowhead, and a wide variety of other unnamed and often unknown spots. We offer set dates throughout the winter, but find that these work best as a custom, so do not hesitate to call the office and set up exactly what you want.
Who are these tours best for?If registering for one of the set dates, it is important that you have backcountry ski skills. These tours are ideal for people that have completed our AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course and our Alpine Touring Course. The focus is more on touring and less on instruction, allowing us to get in a solid tour. While you do need a decent level of fitness for alpine touring, your guide will break trail, set a sustainable pace, and work to maximize the fun and minimize the work. Choose a custom date and the trip will be tailored to you specific goals be they maximizing vertical or working on your skill set. Tours are open to skiers on AT or Telemark gear as well as competent split boarders, although not all tours are appropriate for split boards.
The TerrainMost runs in the area max out at around 1800' feet, but there are very notable exceptions such as the 4000' foot descent from the Swath, and the runs available deeper in the Chiwuakum Range and in the Rock-Mastiff-Howard region. In this area a guide can provide an individual or a couple with a nice day of skiing with minimal driving, or can provide a group of skiers with all the information needed to maximize your time in the backcountry.
The ExperienceWhen touring along US Hwy. 2 we usually have the area entirely to ourselves and we can nearly always find good, untracked powder. These trips can done be as day tours from the Seattle or Wenatchee areas, or can be combined with an overnight in Leavenworth that makes for a nice weekend. If you book a set-date trip, our office will provide you will pre-trip information and set a meet point that allows the guide to select the best tour for the current conditions.
Sample Stevens Pass Backcountry ToursThe following are a list of some of the tours we guide. Most of these tours have multiple variations and we are constantly coming up with new tours as conditions change.
Lichtenberg Mountain: Lichtenberg (5725') is located on the north side of US Hwy. 2 a few miles to the east of Stevens Pass. These tours originate in the overflow lot for Stevens Pass on the south side of Hwy. 2. (Note: do not park at the Yodelin housing development, or your vehicle will be towed). This area works well for 1/2 and full day tours. The more obvious good lines are the 1800' central couloir that runs directly toward the highway, or the equally large west face that runs down into the valley leading to Lake Valhalla. There are also some great hidden couloirs on the North side of Lichtenberg, as well as tours that can work over to Lake Valhalla and onto the peaks surrounding Lake Valhalla. One of our favorite tours climbs Mount McCausland (5747') and then descends into the Rapid River drainage. You can easily spend a few days in this area, not repeat a descent and get in a ton of vertical.
Arrowhead Mountain: One peak down valley from Jim Hill, Arrowhead Mountain (6030') provides a nice half to full day tour. Logging roads allow us to avoid the vegetation caused by a lower start, and provide a nice shot into a variety of NW through NE aspects leading to the summit of Arrowhead Mountain, which offers fantastic views of the Rock, Howard, Mastiff tour, as well as good views of the couloirs on Big Chiwaukum, the Swauth, and other peaks at the South end of the Chiwaukum Range. We like Arrowhead as it has tours for a wide variety of stability and can easily be combined with something like Jim Hill for stronger groups.
Ski Tours Accessed from Stevens Pass Ski Area: The Northwest Mountain School holds a permit that allows us to ski on USFS lands just outside the Stevens Pass Ski area. We are the only guide service permitted to ski in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness adjacent to Stevens Pass, which opens up areas like Christmas Bowl, Susan Jane Peak, and Josephine Peak. There are a wide variety of tours accessible by riding the chairs at Stevens and then heading into the back country adjacent to the ski area. On these days you are responsible for purchasing your own lift ticket to Stevens Pass. Most tours still require some hiking or skinning up. The downhill difficulty can be adjusted to about any level of skier, including advanced. If we named tours here, the locals would string us up, but you can be assured we know the terrain well.
Jove and Union Peak: These full-day ski tours originate from the Smithbrook parking area, which is located on the North side of US Hwy.2, roughly opposite the Stevens Pass Nordic Center. We generally conduct full-day tours in this area, with logical destinations including Jove Peak (5,925'), Union Peak (5696'), and Lake Janus.
Jim Hill Mountain: Having now approached Jim Hill from every imaginable angle, we have settled on the Lanham Lakes approach as making the most sense. We park at the Stevens Pass Nordic Center (2950') and work our way up the Lanham Lakes trail to Lanham Lake (4143'). Above Lanham Lake we wind our way up through nicely spaced trees on an NW facing slope (this provides a fun exit), and eventually gain a saddle at around 5450 that provides access to the Henry Creek drainage. From here we have several options for gaining the summit of Jim Hill Mountain (6765'). Once on the summit, we generally ski the NE facing slopes running from the summit down into the Henry Creek drainage, or with a strong group and good stability, we might take the NW slopes leading down to Lanham Lake. An alternate exit is to ski the Henry Creek drainage all the way down to hwy. 2
The Swath: From the highway this run looks big, and should be treated as such. While not a very steep descent, this follows the large slide path that runs from the most southern tip of the Chiwuakum Range at 6600' all the way down to Nason Creek at around 2600', providing a 4000' descent on what can be done in a busy half-day or a casual full-day. In most seasons the easiest route follows the logging road up to a spot where you can get into the couloir proper and then pick your way up to the top, the very corner of a broad ridge that terminates at the top of the run at 6600'. This tour requires decent stability. This is one logical starting point for the Chiwaukum Range Ski Traverse.
Rock Mountain: Park in the Gaynor slide path just east of the Rock Mountain Trailhead. Note: do not park here in high hazard, big slides have hit this parking lot, resulting in the closure of hwy. 2. From a 2800' start we climb relatively directly to just over 5500', roughly following the summer trail up the south side of Rock Mountain (6852'). Above 5500' the terrain eases back enough to make for more comfortable touring. We generally spend the day skiing various lines on the north, south, and west flanks of Rock Mountain. When in condition, the West face of Rock Mountain can provide a nice 1800' run, or the North face of Rock Mountain can provide even longer descents.
Rock - Howard - Mastiff: This is one of the top three tours in the Stevens Pass area and requires decent stability to safely do. This is a full-day tour that involves over 7000' feet of elevation gain and loss. We have the route itself dialed to the point that we are routinely able to get strong intermediate skiers through the day in 8-9 hours if willing to maintain a disciplined, slow steady pace. Once we gain the summit of Rock Mountain, the day breaks into a series of descents and climbs, culminating in the spectacular 1900' run down the east face of Mastiff to Lost Lake. We will summit Rock Mountain (6852'), Howard (7083'), and Mastiff (6741') along the way. We end the day at the Meritt Lake trailhead and run a short shuttle back to the parking at the base of Rock Mountain.
Itinerary Stevens Pass Backcountry Ski Tours
For these trips it is best to just give the office a call or drop us an e-mail so that we can come up with a program that works for your group. As guides we always start with a preferred trip, but then are sure to have an alternate plan or two if we find that stability, the weather, group strength, etc. indicate that our first choice is not going to be suitable on any given day. The point of these tours is generally to get out and get some exercise, climb some peaks, and get in a ton of great, downhill skiing.
Meet Points for Stevens Pass Backcountry Tours
The office will confirm your meet point once you have booked a guide for a ski tour. We generally use the parking spots listed below and then either park here, or drive to a more appropriate location, such as a small turnout along US highway 2.
Stevens Pass Ski Area Parking: We often meet here for the field day portion of our AIARE level 1 Avy Courses, or for ski tours in the slack country right around Stevens Pass. The best place to park is on the North side of the road near where the groomed path leads up to Skykline Ridge. During holidays and weekends, this lot can be filled to capacity before 8:30 am, so if you plan to park here check the calendar and arrive early if it is going to be a busy day.
Yodelin Overflow Parking: This is a few miles East of Stevens Pass Ski area and is located on the south (right as you head down the pass) directly across the street from the Yodelin housing development. Make sure you park on the South side of the road as you will be towed if you park in the private parking on the North side of hwy. 2.
Stevens Pass Nordic Center Parking: The Stevens Pass Nordic Center is located about 5 miles east of Stevens Pass Ski area. If traveling from the West you will make a right turn into the ski area. If traveling from the East (Leavenworth and Wenatchee) you will need to take a left onto the short access road that takes you from the one-way lanes heading west on hwy. 2 directly through to the parking for the Stevens Pass Nordic Center.
Equipment Rental:We have beacons for rent as well as Black Diamond probes and shovels.
Google Map Link: Stevens Pass Area Ski Touring Peaks and Parking Spots