Simply put, the Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho are a gem. There are many rugged mountain ranges around the West that have received some sort of fame, whether it be due to national park status or the establishment of major ski resorts. The Sawtooths, however, have not received much attention, and because of this they are a wild and untamed range. The Sawtooths extend as far as the eye can see, with countless peaks, valleys, and rivers in between. This is a land of unnamed peaks and long approaches, a land where solitude is easy to find and rugged beauty is never far away. The Sawtooths are one of the most beautiful and wild mountain ranges in the Lower 48, and they should be high on the list for any outdoor enthusiast.
Skiing anywhere in the Sawtooth Mountains is a dream come true for the backcountry skier. While the vast majority of the routes in the Sawtooths either require extremely long approaches or a snowmobile, Galena Summit is an excellent area to start gaining significant elevation right out of the car. Galena Summit is the highest paved road in the Northwest, cresting at 8,720 feet, and it has a stunning variety of terrain. From mellow glades to fear-inducing alpine faces, Galena Summit truly has it all. To access the ski terrain, it is best to gain the ridge immediately from the car. There will most likely be a skin track established that gains the ridge directly from the road. Once on the ridgeline, it is mellow skinning until you reach a beautiful viewpoint where the entirety of the Sawtooths and the Sawtooth valley is sprawled out before you. From this point there is a bit of downhill, but generally you can keep ascending the ridge until finally a small summit is reached. It is not until you reach this summit that you will be able to comprehend how much terrain there is. From this point, there are two prominent peaks with beautiful bowls, numerous gladed slopes, and much, much more.
When venturing into wild terrain, it is imperative to tread carefully and let family or friends know where you go and when you go there. There is absolutely no cell service in this area. Make a plan, be disciplined, and enjoy the wild beauty of this rugged and extensive range safely!
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.