Backcountry Skiing: 5 Beginner Runs Around South Lake Tahoe
By: Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe boasts some incredible ski resorts, but did you know that South Tahoe is also home to some of the best backcountry skiing in the country? With un-tracked powder all around, incredible lake views, and the solitude that comes with being outside the resort, a backcountry skiing adventure can be the highlight of a trip to South Lake Tahoe. Check out five of the best beginner ski tours below, but first a note on safety:
Everyone touring in the backcountry needs to have an avalanche transceiver, shovel, and probe. They also need to know how to use them and how to navigate. If your knowledge isn’t up to snuff, get a map and take an avalanche course or hire a guide before getting out into the backcountry. Backcountry Skiing Is Inherently Dangerous.
Know before you go. Please check the Sierra Avalanche Center website for avalanche conditions.
A local gem, Rubicon is home to beautiful old-growth glades right on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Panoramic views of the lake will greet you the whole way, and the North facing slopes often hold great powder many days after a storm. Getting to the true summit of the peak requires a short scramble which some might find difficult in their ski boots, so don’t be afraid to eat your lunch just below the rocky summit block.
Jake’s is a bonafide Tahoe classic. With some of the best views in the area, and backcountry skiing descents ranging from gentle trees to steeper chutes, there’s something for everyone on this fine peak. Just make sure you arrive early enough to get a parking spot. Jake’s is so popular with the locals that it’s tough to find one on a weekend or if there’s been new snow.
For the glade-lover in the group, Waterhouse Peak is hard to beat for a quick ski tour and there are open areas for those that are not as into backcountry skiing in the trees. The peak can easily be climbed and skied in half a day, and is home to some of the finest tree skiing around. With perfectly spaced old growth trees and a mellow enough slope to let your skis run, the slopes of Waterhouse are sure to remain a popular touring destination for years to come.
The Angora Fire Lookout is no longer in service, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of a ski destination. The 2007 Angora Fire which burned hundreds of homes also cleared out an area of burned glades just below the lookout, making for some spectacular open backcountry skiing. The lookout is just a short jaunt from Wintoon Drive, and offers great views of Fallen Leaf Lake and Mount Tallac.
If you’ve skied the Angora Lookout and want a little more of a challenge, take a trek up the Northeast Ridge of Echo Peak. Backcountry skiing on the Northeast Ridge offers a relatively mellow ascent and descent, but make sure not to venture too far off the path – Echo Peak is also a launching pad for extreme skiers, and is home to cliff bands and steep faces, so you’ll want to descend close to your skintrack so as to not end up in wrong place!
As you can see there are many great options for beginners and advanced skiers alike.
For the more experienced ski tourer, there is an abundance of top-notch ski runs around the lake. You can find ascent and descent routes, as well as guide text and pictures in the Alpine Ski Tours – Lake Tahoe: Southwest and Carson Pass topographic map.