Best Places to Spring Ski in Washington’s Mt. Baker Backcountry
evo’s La Familia partner, Pro Ski and Mountain Service, is located in North Bend, WA and specializes in retail and mountain guiding services. They review some of their favorite places to spring ski in the Mt. Baker backcountry.
How does a solid 7500 vertical foot ski descent from the top of a steaming volcano, with views of Canada, the San Juan Islands, and the heart of the North Cascades sound? If this sounds like your kind of thing, Mount Baker is your kind of mountain.
Right around the time most of Washington’s ski areas are closing, the season for huge ski runs on Washington’s volcanoes is just getting started. As the snow melts up the Forest Service roads that access Mount Baker’s flanks, the spring snow is also getting into prime condition on the glaciers.
Options abound on Baker. There’s the full 7500 foot route up and down the Easton/Squak glaciers on the south side of the mountain, with a wide open glacial descent perfect for opening up high-speed arcs in the corn snow. These are moderate ascents and descents, but like everything on Baker require glacier travel skills and gear.
On the north side, Heliotrope Ridge is very popular for day ski-touring, with 2000-3000 foot runs and incredible views of the North Cascades and the full glacial amphitheater of the lower Coleman Glacier and Coleman Headwall. Although, typically, this requires a walk through the woods with your skis on your pack, the open snow fields are worth the hike.
Above Heliotrope Ridge, the Coleman-Demming route, one of Washington’s classic glacier climbs, leads to the Roman Headwall and the summit. This is where things begin to get steep and technical. Speckled with crevasses in late season or poor snowpack, you want to be prepared both technically and physically for this route. Hop on a guided trip like the Baker Bullet Train, a one-day ski ascent/descent with Pro Guiding Service, and when you push off the summit to ski the Coleman-Demming, you could be looking at up to 8000 feet of continuous skiing, depending on how for up the road you left the car.
Mount Baker is a truly classic ski mountain, and it’s an eye-opening experience to ski off its summit. Caution must be taken on its glacier routes, as they present all the hazards of glaciated travel. But if you go with a guide service, or take the time to get educated about safe glacier travel, late April may start signaling the beginning of the ski season you most look forward to.
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