A short and fun snowmobile ride up the spectacular North Cascades Highway provides access to the best backcountry ski and splitboarding terrain in the state. With the annual closure of the North Cascades Highway in the late fall thanks to heavy snowfalls, the season for backcountry skiing adventure starts lasts well into April. The touring opportunities in this zone are plentiful, and superb by any measure. The terrain is well suited for all abilities and our guides know the area better than almost anyone. It is, after all, our isolated and beautiful backyard – a powder paradise awaiting you.
In late October through November, it is often possible to get some great early season turns while the highway is still open (accessing the trailheads by car).
By late November or early December, the season really gets going as the highway closes and all access is by snowmobile.
Once the highway reopens in late April to early May, the season still isn't over - great spring skiing can be accessed by car.
- Snowmobile transport to and from the trailhead at the base of your backcountry ski tour
- Use of avalanche safety equipment
- Guiding by one of NCMG’s knowledgeable guides
We meet early in the morning at the NCMG office in Mazama. Your guide will cover the itinerary for the day, weather and snow conditions, all clothing and equipment needed, avalanche safety protocols, and any remaining paperwork. Soon afterward, we head for the trailhead (after a quick stop at the Mazama store for any last minute treats).
When the North Cascades Highway is closed in the winter, much of our ski terrain can only be accessed by snowmobile. NCMG guides will instruct you on how to safely operate and ride a snowmobile. We have numerous snowmobiles that we utilize and carry all of our gear on a cargo sled. This also allows us to bring extra clothes, emergency equipment and other supplies that we can leave at the machines when we return for the ride home. Guests will then travel up the highway via snowmobile to the base of their objective for the day. From there, you'll slap skins on your skis or splitboard and begin the climb. At the end of the day, the snowmobiles will be waiting to take you back to your car.
There are literally dozens of possible touring options available along the highway corridor, and we can accommodate a wide variety of skier abilities. We have guided many first-time backcountry skiers and can customize a tour to focus on avalanche safety, advanced touring techniques, or just getting the best turns possible. These tours are offered almost every day of the winter with advanced registration and arranged on a custom basis.
For those with backcountry skiing experience, we have terrain to accommodate all skier abilities from the enthusiastic intermediate to the expert ripper. Because our guides are out there most days of the winter, they are tuned in to finding the best snow and the terrain.
Between the snowmobile ride, the awesome touring terrain and plenty of untracked powder, along with the experience and knowledge of a NCMG guide, a day (or more) of backcountry skiing with NCMG at Washington Pass promises to be an enjoyable and memorable adventure.
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 splitboarding 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.
Ski touring and splitboarding does require a higher 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. Typical days of touring are between 3,000 - 6,000 vertical feet of climbing up and skiing down. Since these are arranged on a custom basis, it is easy for us to find a tour to suit your fitness level. Please let us know if you have any concerns about your fitness.
More pre-trip videos can be found on this page - Skiing Pre-Trip Videos