The Wallowa Mountains, often referred to as the “Alps of Oregon” or Oregon's "Little Switzerland," are nearly 40 miles long and feature year-round outdoor recreation opportunities accessing towering granite peaks and pristine alpine lakes. The warmer months can draw very large crowds to this beautiful area, as hikers and backpackers alike explore the stunning landscapes. As soon as the snow begins to fall, however, these mountains see very little traffic and become the perfect escape into snow-coated wilderness and rare solitude; for a backcountry skier, this place becomes heaven on earth in the winter.
The Wallowas have long been considered the underrated little sibling to Oregon's better-known Cascade Range. There's no denying that the Cascades offer dramatic volcanic peaks and great year-round skiing, but the Wallowas' vast terrain offers backcountry skiers with the rare opportunity to be enveloped by the mountains and get away from it all.
Rugged terrain, long runs, incredible views, and consistent snowfall make the skiing here top-notch. All ability levels will leave here smiling ear-to-ear with low-angle options, wide-open powder bowls and non-technical summits, as well as more challenging, steep lines and creative routes for the more advanced skiers.
This terrain requires some effort to reach and necessitates experience to travel through safely, but this winter backcountry wonderland opens up a new world of skiing and splitboarding possibilities. Many of the deeper routes require a snowmobile to access, but the following list will help orient you to some of the great options out there.
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.