Stevens Pass is home to some of the deepest snow and best tree skiing in the Pacific Northwest and is located only one and a half hours from downtown Seattle. North Cascades Mountain Guides offers traditional backcountry skiing trips, “Out-of-Bounds” skiing at Stevens Pass Mountain Resort and Snowmobile-Accessed backcountry trips out of Stevens Pass, Lake Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Blewett Pass.
We have a wide variety of offerings at Stevens Pass from huge multi-peak ski mountaineering objectives to gravity-fed powder skiing inside and outside of the ropes of the ski area.
NCMG offers three types of backcountry experiences at Stevens Pass.
1. Out of Bounds Skiing – Explore the terrain surrounding the ski area with a local guide. Your day will start before the lifts start spinning so you and your guide can go over the necessary safety briefing, including how to use your beacon, shovel and probe and how to get the most out of skiing with a guide.
Once the lifts start spinning you will hop on the chair and head to where the best snow is. On powder days that typically means several laps inside the ski area. This is a great way to warm up the legs before heading into the backcountry. Once the snow starts to get tracked out inside the ski area you will head outside the boundary ropes to explore new terrain. This terrain includes some amazing open bowls and tree skiing on Big Chief, steep chutes on Cowboy Mountain or, if conditions allow, a run down Tunnel Creek.
These trips do involve a bit of “booting” to get to the best runs but can be accomplished without specialized backcountry ski bindings or splitboards.
2. Lift-Assisted Backcountry – This differs from our “Out-of-Bounds” skiing program in that we only the use the lifts for one ride to access the higher terrain and then spend the rest of the day backcountry skiing using human power. This requires the use of Alpine Touring, Splitboard or Telemark gear and climbing skins.
The day will start prior to the first lift with a safety briefing. You will then take the lift up to your starting point and spend the rest of the day riding in the backcountry. Depending on the goals of the day and conditions, the first run will start on top of Double Diamond, Tye Mill or the Seventh Heaven Chair. From each of these starting points there are a wide variety of places to head into the backcountry.
3. Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding – With over 240 square miles of permitted terrain to choose from we can definitely find you the best snow and the coolest lines. Depending on weather and conditions we can stick close to the Cascade Crest where you will find the deepest snow and amazing tree skiing as well as some bigger mountain descents. We have been skiing in this zone for decades and know where to find the best lines.
We can also travel farther east, towards Leavenworth and Blewett Pass, where you will you will often find colder snow and a sunnier climate. Blewett Pass offers some amazing skiing and often holds cold, boot-top powder on the shady aspects. This lesser know area can stay good weeks after a storm and has a completely different feel to skiing near the pass. It’s much more like skiing in Colorado than Washington.
4. Snowmobile-Assisted Backcountry - We have several zones to chose from when using snowmobiles. Stevens Pass, Lake Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Blewett Pass all offer something different. Using snowmobiles to access more remote terrain allows us to make the most of the day and get away from the crowds. NCMG has been offering snowmobile-accessed backcountry in the Washington Pass zone for almost 20 years and we are excited to offer this opportunity to skiers in the Stevens Pass area. Guests will start out the day by snowmobiling to the base of the days objective, where they will then use their alpine touring equipment to climb to the top, and ski down for as many laps as the day allows.
Downhill skiing or snowboarding skills are the most important skills to have for this program. Participants don’t need to be advanced riders but the more experienced you are, the more fun it will be. If you are new to backcountry riding please make sure you are familiar with your gear prior to your day out in the backcountry. We will be happy to help you learn backcountry skiing and snowboarding but we want to make sure you get the most out of your day.
While it is helpful to have a Level 1 avalanche course under your belt, each tour will begin with an avalanche safety briefing and practice session for all of our guests.
Backcountry riding does require a certain degree of fitness. We can accommodate your day to your level of fitness, but the more you prepare, the more you will enjoy your day. Since these trips are arranged on a custom basis, it is easy for us to find a tour to suit your fitness level and riding skills.
More pre-trip videos can be found here - Pre-Trip Skiing Videos