Who said ski season was over? It’s just shifted to volcano-skiing season, that’s all.
As ski season winds down, volcano season is just getting started. So, don’t put your backcountry gear away just yet! The volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest make for great spring ski mountaineering objectives, and there’s a wide range of peaks, depending on your ability, experience level, and how much you’re willing to suffer in the name of corn skiing.
For all of these routes, you’ll need proper avalanche safety equipment and mountaineering gear, ranging from crampons and ice axes to ropes, depending on what you’re climbing. Consider hiring a guide or taking a ski mountaineering course if this is new to you. (And even though you know this already, here’s your friendly reminder to check conditions before you go, and make sure you have the proper permitting before you start your climb.)
And as always—and this is where Flylow comes in—you’ll want proper layers: For spring volcano missions, that means lightweight base layers, insulating midlayers, and stormproof shells. As well as plenty of sun protection—hats, lightweight gloves, sunglasses. Our men’s Bandit Shirt and women’s Moonlight Shirt have become spring touring favorites amongst our team, since they’re lightweight and breezy enough for warm days and have a hood, long sleeves that cover your hands, and 50+ UPF for added sun protection. OK, here are some of our favorite volcanic peaks to ski at this time of year.
Lassen Peak, California
Lassen Peak, also known as Mount Lassen, is the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range and makes for a great first volcano to ski. The summit elevation of 10,457 is still high up there, but it’s a relatively doable climb that can easily be done in a day. The most common route for skiers is to wait until Highway 89 gets plowed to the Devasted parking area, where lava flowed during Lassen’s last major eruption in 1914. That usually happens by late spring, but keep an eye on current road conditions from the National Park Service. From there, it’s about a 4,000-foot climb up the north face.
Mount Shasta, California
This massive stratovolcano marks the southern end of the Cascade Range, along with Lassen Peak. You’ll see 14,179-foot Mount Shasta driving in from many miles in any direction. And though this peak is still a good option for more entry-level ski mountaineers, it does have some technical sections and shouldn’t be attempted without proper gear, training, and knowledge. It’s a lung-busting 7,000-foot climb to reach the summit, but the glorious ski down makes that haul worth every step. The Avalanche Gulch route, from Bunny Flat up the south side of the peak, is the most popular way up and down the mountain and is done in a day by most skiers. Flylow athlete Jenna Kane works as a guide on Mount Shasta—book a trip with her at Shasta Mountain Guides. Start early, check climbing and avalanche conditions before you go, and make sure you get a summit pass ($25) and a wilderness permit from the Forest Service before you set off.
Mount Hood, Oregon
The nice thing about 11,245-foot Mount Hood? You don’t need to climb it to ski the peak’s lower flanks. There are chairlifts on the mountain that operate all summer long. If that’s more you’re your speed, head to Timberline, the only ski resort in the country that stays open for 10 months out of the year and now boasts the most inbounds vertical—4,540 feet—of any ski area in the U.S. Or you can use the lifts to give you a bump toward the summit, if you’re going up the standard South Side route. Timberline Mountain Guides leads a two-day ski descent (from $840) of Mount Hood. Check the latest climbing conditions before you go, and climbers must have a wilderness permit.
Mount Adams, Washington
Most people consider Mount Adams—a 12,276-foot stratovolcano near the Washington-Oregon border—good training grounds for more technical ascents like Mount Rainier. Though the mountain is glaciated, the less technical south side is considered to be free of treacherous crevasses. Best of all? Most winters, there’s good corn skiing on Mount Adams well into July and you’ll be treated to over 8,000 vertical feet of skiable terrain on Washington’s second highest peak. From the summit, you’ll score views of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood. Alpine Ascents leads a two-day climb and ski descent (from $1,000) of Mount Adams, as does the Northwest Mountain School (from $300 per day).
Mount Rainier, Washington
Climbing and skiing 14,410-foot Mount Rainier is no easy feat. This is a real-deal mountaineering objective, with crevasses and high-risk glaciated terrain. Many people use Rainier as training for even bigger objectives like Alaska’s Denali. Though many people climb Rainier, not many bring skis to the top. But if you do, you’ll be treated to around 10,000 vertical feet of world-class skiing to the valley floor. Most of the guided outfitters on Rainier offer climbing, not skiing, but International Mountain Guides (IMG) leads a five-day ski mountaineering seminar on the volcano.