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Backcountry Skiing in Oregon

01.12.16

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Backcountry Skiing in Oregon

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  • Stellar views of Cooper Spur and Mount Hood's summit (11,250 ft) from Cooper Spur Shelter.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
  • Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (5,066 ft) rises above Mirror Lake near Mount Hood.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
  • Earned turns down Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
  • A skier skins under the bergschrund on Mount Hood's south side route.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
  • Skiing West Crater off Mount Hood's summit.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
  • Dropping into Tumalo Mountain's east bowl.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
  • Enjoying some low angle turns on Vista Butte.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
  • More views of of Central Oregon Cascades.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
  • Little AK off Todd Lake Rim holds steep chutes and cliffs.- Backcountry Skiing in Oregon
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Oregon's Cascade Mountains are well known for their wintertime recreational offerings and bountiful snow packs. Mount Hood and Mount Bachelor draw a constant stream of local skiers and snowboarders to schuss and carve down their lift-served slopes. Beyond the ski resorts, however, among the peaklets, ridges, buttes and glades that flow along and near the Cascade Crest is another wintertime gem: pockets of powder-filled backcountry stashes. While this terrain requires some effort to reach and necessitates experience to travel through safely, Oregon's winter backcountry opens up a new world of skiing and splitboarding possibilities. 

Backcountry skiing is accessible in multiple areas around the state, from the Wallowas and Blue Mountains in the east to the southern Oregon Cascades, but it is the areas around Mount Hood and Central Oregon that offer some of the best variety and winter road access. Here you'll find beginner to advanced terrain from low angle tree skiing to big alpine descents. The following list will help orient you to what's out there.    

Mount Hood Area:

Eyeing a drop in on Mount Hood's east side. Photo by Matthew King.

Bend/Central Oregon Cascades:

The Central Oregon Cascades as seen from Tumalo Mountain. Photo by Jackie Arnal
  • Vista Butte: Low angle tree skiing. Good beginner route.
  • Tumalo Mountain: Tree skiing and steep, open east-facing bowl.
  • Todd Lake Rim: Advanced terrain and tree skiing options above Todd Lake. Long, flat approach.
  • Kwohl Butte: Butte descent south of Mount Bachelor. Long approach unless Mount Bachelor gate is open.
  • Mount Bachelor Spring Ski: Fun and accessible terrain after the resort closes in May.  

While winter backcountry adventures can be a fun and intriguing way to explore the winter wilderness, they can also quickly become dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant and life-threatening risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snow pack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities, each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions (including knowing when not to go), and be prepared/equipped for backcountry navigation and to employ avalanche training and tools. Expert backcountry guides are also available throughout the state to help you get oriented and travel safely. There is an etiquette to backcountry travel that helps keep yourself and others safe. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more. Experience, knowledge and informed and safe decision making are the means to a long-lasting and healthy relationship with the winter backcountry.

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