Jake’s Peak on Lake Tahoe’s west shore wins the Tahoe backcountry popularity contest, and for good reason. With a minimal approach to reach the skiable vert, a diversity of terrain that includes steep glades and chutes, and 2,000-foot descents over Lake Tahoe’s mesmerizing blue waters, one tour here keeps you coming back for more.
The setting at Jake’s is nothing short of spectacular. Old-growth red firs, lodgepole, and western white pines give way to mountain hemlocks that open to lake views looking northeast to Mount Rose and the neighboring westshore peaks of Rubicon, Hidden, and 9269’ towering above the cerulean waters of Rubicon Bay.
Perhaps Jake’s most enticing spots are the steep upper pitches found in the sheltered northeast facing glades above the midway bench at 7,600 feet. The slopes here frequently offer protection from winds that can be howling up above, and the old-growth forest is spacious for linking ripping turns. The gladed terrain on these aspects is generally the safer option compared to the more open terrain and chutes found on the open east and south aspects. Note that small slides can still happen here in the glades, so proceed with caution on storm and powder days.
While the east and south facing terrain is coveted, it receives far less traffic as it requires exceptionally stable snowpack. The south facing chutes above Emerald Bay need a larger snowpack as well, and the lower half melts out quickly in low snow years. When the snowpack isn’t quite as deep or stability is questionable, you’ll want to focus on Jake’s northeast aspects. When it’s dry at the carpark, skiers can still find good snow high in the glades, so don’t be afraid to go searching – you’ll likely be rewarded.
The most direct access for Jake’s Peak is from a parking pullout on the east side of Highway 89, a hundred yards south of the entrance to DL Bliss State Park. Walk back over the highway and start skinning to the right of large rocks that sit next to road. Head up the fall line of the lower section until you reach a bench at 7,600 feet. From here you’ll be able to see the steeper upper half of Jake’s where you continue your skin to the summit. Jake’s is notorious for skiers laying aggressively steep skin tracks. You may find it easier to carve out switchbacks on the steep sections.
Make sure to check Sierra Avalanche Center's daily winter avalanche bulletin to help inform safe backcountry decision making before venturing out: www.sierraavalanchecenter.org.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant 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 and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.