Three Fingered Jack is another Cascade volcano that offers some great, lesser-traveled back country skiing options for those willing to slog through the long and flat approach. Heading north from the Santiam Pass Sno-Park, the approach follows a route that is similar to the Pacific Crest Trail as you skin through burn scarred forest, the remains of the August 2003 Booth Fire. The fire-ravaged forest adds a unique element to the approach (and can afford some fun turns on the way out), but beware that it offers no protection when the sun is out.
The skin route is ultimately up to the individual. For this adventure, gain the ridge extending to the south of Three Fingered Jack. Traveling along the ridge can be punishing. Westward winds scour the snow and produce a never-ending array of rolling mounds. Alternate approaches may involve staying off the ridge to either side, but make note of cornice dangers to the east.
Above 6,500 feet, skinning will become increasingly difficult, and hiking becomes the better option. Continuing along the ridge, there is a minor summit at nearly 7,000 feet elevation. From this point, the ski descent is to the south. Alternative descents are available into the bowls to the west and east, but those would make for longer days. While alternate return routes exist, this route uses the west side of the ridge. Snow conditions were sticky enough that we had to skin the entire route out through side hill terrain.
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.