Backcountry Skiing in Washington

01.20.16

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Backcountry Skiing in Washington

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  • Powder found. Lake Susan Jane Bowl.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Fun pillows can be found on the bottom third of Lake Susan Jane Bowl.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Skiing Lake Susan Jane Bowl.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Enjoying the stashes at Yodelin near Steven's Pass.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Dramatic views and steep terrain near Snow Lake.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Edith Creek Basin in Mount Rainier National Park is a great place to learn the basics of backcountry skiing because of its easy access and the variety of low angle slopes.  - Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Touring up the west side of Edith Basin as the sun rises over the Tatoosh Range.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Hidden Lake Lookout in the North Cascades.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Great fall line skiing on Mount St. Helen's Worm Flows route.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Skinning up Table Mountain near Blewett Pass.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Traversing northeast along the ridgeline at Yodelin.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Skiing at Grace Lakes.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Steep and playful lines over Grace Lakes.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Beautiful panaramic views from Source Lake.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Blewett Pass offers great low angle skiing for beginners and is a great option on days when the snowpack is questionable.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Enjoying the open tree-skiing on flanks of Table Mountain.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Camp above Royal Lake.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Royal Basin in Olympic National Park offers plenty of lower angle slopes to mitigate wet-slide danger in spring.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
  • Earned turns at Royal Basin.- Backcountry Skiing in Washington
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Between the North Cascades, the Olympic Mountains, and the giant Cascade volcanoes in the south, Washington state has no shortage of captivating mountains. Folded among the state's alpine contours and topography are mountain basins and old-growth glades that are sure to pique the interest of the backcountry skier and split boarder. As a region with generally a healthy annual snow pack, Washington is considered a haven for snow-centric backcountry recreation, and it boasts a season that can last well into spring.

Skier and canine companion eyeing their line in the North Cascades. Photo by Benjamin Krause.

Keeping an eye on the snowline and freezing levels is the key to finding rewarding turns in the Evergreen State. During the cold winter months, lower elevation terrain such as the glades and bowls found around Steven's Pass and Alpental ski resorts can offer relatively easy access goods for the powder hounds. As winter turns to spring and the snowline makes its annual pilgrimage up the mountains, summer trailheads become accessible and the alpine basins of Washington's higher elevation ranges and volcano skiing become the draw.

While by no means comprehensive, the below list is suggestive of what the state has to offer, from beginner to advanced ski tours and from sidecountry stashes to committed backcountry overnighters. 

Spring corn harvest in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo by Benjamin Krause.

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, snowpack 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 you 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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