Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps in a snow cave, for the past six months, you’re aware that this has been one of the biggest and best snow years that Tahoe has seen in quite a while. So, what’s a ski bum to do now that the snow has started to melt from around the Tahoe region? Well, one could always hop on the bike and hit the trails I suppose. And while that’s certainly all well and good, it just doesn’t satisfy the craving for sliding down the snow that so many of us have. Fortunately, there’s a place not too far away, a magical land depending on whom you ask, that currently has all the spring corn skiing you could ask for. That’s right, I’m talking about Mount Shasta, elevation 14,179 feet, one of the tallest mountains in California.
Editor’s Note: Squaw Valley is still open for skiing and riding in Tahoe.
As in Tahoe, Mount Shasta saw an above-average snowfall this winter. To find out just how good the season has been, and will be, I met up with one of the co-owners of Shasta Mountain Guides, Chris Carr.
“We are at about 200 percent of normal and I would not be surprised to see more precip in June,” said Carr. “It’s happened the last couple years, including a 3-foot storm last June.”
Ask any Shasta local about why he or she loves the mountain and you’re sure to get a variety of answers. To many, Mount Shasta is a sacred place. There’s a running joke among the locals about hunting for portals to find the mythical Lemurians, a race of 8-foot tall humanoids that dwell within the mountain in their crystal kingdom. Though hunting for portals is certainly one reason to ski Mount Shasta, for most, including Carr, it’s more about the accessibility, generally good weather, endless fall-line skiing and plenty of moderate ski terrain.
Though hunting for portals is certainly one reason to ski Mount Shasta, for most it’s more about the accessibility, generally good weather, endless fall-line skiing and plenty of moderate ski terrain.
In order to get to the most accessible ski terrain on Shasta at this point in the season, all one needs to do is drive from the middle of town for about 20 minutes to the Bunny Flat Trailhead. From there, it’s simply a matter of skinning straight up Avalanche Gulch, the most commonly skied section currently. I say currently because, as with any big mountain and any big ski year, things will change as the snow coverage changes with the rising temperatures into July. Most seasons on Shasta you can find skiing through July; the difference this year is that it’s going to be good skiing through at least July.
There are quite a few options as to how one chooses to attack this burly, often-underestimated mountain. A preferred method for many skiers is to just go with an alpine start, commonly defined as between midnight and first light, and climb the whole thing in a day. As gear has gotten lighter and ski- and splitboard-touring has become more commonplace, this has begun to eclipse the more common multi-day ski trips. It’s not uncommon on a busy weekend for the parking lot at Bunny Flat to be overflowing nearly 1 mile down the road. However, for those looking to spend a little more time and really explore the mountain, Mount Shasta offers a plethora of excellent snow camping on virtually all aspects.
As amazing as this all sounds, according to Carr: “Don’t underestimate this challenge. Check in with the [U.S. Forest Service] climbing rangers and get your summit permits. Watch the weather and wind and start early.”
As with any skiing or outdoors endeavor, safety and fun should be at the top of your list. After all, the most fun days are the ones in which everyone makes it safely back to the bar to share the stories together.
So, if you’re just not ready to retire your sticks for the season quite yet, or maybe you want to tick this one off your bucket list, this season is the one to make it happen. After all, how many people can say they’ve successfully skied from more than 14,000 feet, down 7,000 feet of glorious corn snow? Come up, make some memories and give all your mountain biking friends something to be jealous about. After all, the dirt will still be here for you next weekend.