The Insider's Guide to Backcountry Skiing at Stevens Pass

Jeff Wilcox
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This feels unfair to write about, because no matter how concise and to-the-point we can be, we won’t have enough room for all the incredible backcountry access available to skiers and splitboarders in this section of the Cascades. Maybe they’re okay with us not sharing it all…but it’s not hard to find your own line with a smart crew. Either way you look as you drive up and over Highway 2, the road is merely bisecting a giant playground. Pick a pull-out, stretch on those skins, and have some fun.

Jeff Wilcox

Just past Stevens Pass, you’ve got the breathtaking option of Jove Peak, a personal favorite. This one is an all-day tour, and you’ll need to be in pretty good shape to do it. You begin by parking (on the west-bound side) on the long pull-out just before the highway split on the east side of the pass (only about 5 minutes before/after the resort). You’ll skin up and over one service road before dropping down another valley and then approaching Jove Peak. The skin up the actual mountain can get steep, and in  gloppy, warm, conditions, when the skins don’t do well in the snow, it can be tough. But the views from Jove are almost unbeatable, and the ski down can send shivers and goosebumps down your skin – not from difficulty, no, but from the wicked sensation of ripping wide turns beside the tree line down a long face of snow. Hug skier’s left, and enjoy every second of it. Be sure to be in tune at all times with the avalanche conditions (as always in the backcountry), as this section of the Cascades is one requiring the utmost attention to safety. That being said, it has a stellar reputation for a reason, and you’ll surely see more than one group out there at once. Pick a pull-out, pick a service road, and explore the mountains directly off of Highway 2. You can even drop in on the highway from the resort, hiking off the backside of Cowboy Ridge.

Skinning up Jove Peak
Skinning up Jove Peak Brian Bates

A Northwest favorite for backcountry is Scottish Lakes High Camp. Up in a beautiful mountain ridge, High Camp is a 9-cabin retreat for all winter activities, and the tiny and beautiful cabins go at about $70-80 per person on the weekend. For the access to the terrain here, as well as the beauty and solitude, this is well worth it. The skiing is, as is all backcountry, largely dependent on conditions. High Camp sits in the northern terminus of the Chiwakum range, and there is a plethora of touring options straight out of camp, from mellow cruisers to the spine-tingling black diamond turns. With a good base and deep accumulation of fresh snow, there are even movie-esque pillow lines to ski, only twenty minutes from camp. The experience is largely what you make of it, and no stays are guided or catered. Oh, and did we mention the hot tub and sauna? Not a bad way to end a day in the backcountry….

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