Backcountry Skiing Lassen Peak

Slipping and sliding on my climbing skins, sweat dripping into my sunglasses, I looked back down the steep, blinding-white snowfield I’m slowly switch-backing up to watch Bunker pass me, tentatively placing the toes of his snowboard boots on the hard snow, while Sylas, Jensen and Renda pound their way up on snowshoes, boards strapped to their back.

We’re carrying the tradition of a group of journalists who previously tackled the Ruby Mountains and explored the Trinity Alps. This time, we’re climbing Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park, with plans to ski and snowboard back down.


We reached a burned-off ridge and walk carefully on the loose scree – even so I manage to kick a rock down at Renda.


Bunker spotted the summer hiking trail, exposed and dry on a ridge to our east, and we decided to hike as much of the route as possible. We pass more hikers than skiers and snowboarders along the way, and stop occasionally to catch up on oxygen and enjoy the view of the coast mountains to our west and Sierra to the south – picking out the Sierra Buttes and maybe some familiar peaks around Tahoe.


Eventually we reach the top, dropping skis, boards, backpacks and other gear to scramble the last bit to the true summit, looking at the caldera and north to Mt. Shasta.


Summit marker.


Team shot, looking south, with Matt Renda, Sylas Wright, me, David Bunker and Adam Jensen.


Looking north, Shasta in the background.

With a large audience of hikers who still had to walk back down, we clicked into skis and boards, tentatively pointing down runneled and sun-cupped snow stained with red dirt. The steep pitch sends a couple of us sliding on their backsides for a few feet.

Rather than running it out to the bottom of the south-east aspect and a long slog back to the parking lot, we decide to click out for one switchback on the trail to get back to the steep and slick pitch we first climbed, now softened perfectly by the sun. Smooth, creamy turns all the way back to the car capped off the trip.