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Jill Sanford | 01.03.2018

California… the land of strip malls, white sand beaches, and celebrity sightings… or so you thought.

Among skiers and snowboarders, California, and the Tahoe region in particular, is the one of the world’s premier winter sports destinations. The heavy snowpack is colloquially known as “Sierra Cement,” and it provides for comparatively stable snow (depending on conditions). Combine that with a variety of expert terrain, friendly beginning slopes, easy access to the backcountry from major roads, and you have a skier's and splitboarder’s dream come true.

The depth of options throughout the Tahoe region is a huge draw for this area, as well. From South Lake Tahoe all the way to Donner Summit, this region offers a ton of winter backcountry routes. Before going out, be sure to educate yourself on avalanche safety (we highly recommend taking an Avalanche 1 class through AIARE) and checking the avalanche forecast. The Sierra Avalanche Center is a comprehensive and complete resource--there’s no reason to get caught out in sketchy terrain if you learn how to use this tool properly.

Here’s a basic rundown of popular backcountry tours in the different areas within Tahoe and a couple popular options for each.

Donner Lake and Donner Summit

West Shore and Desolation Wilderness

Mount Rose

Carson Pass and South Lake

Backcountry Safety

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.


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