quiet slopes | avalanche mountain ski tour

8 miles . 3000 ft gain . 5330 ft high

Henry M Jackson Wilderness

I think people are fairly familiar with Pineapple Pass, Source Lake, and the Chair Peak Circumnavigation. But it seems that as people are chasing the super well known or the popular “you’ve made it” tour, they tend to neglect other little gems that are worth while. All power to those who enjoy laps on the same slopes every week, but my mind gets numb and I personally need a little more excitement in my life. But don’t get me wrong, I succumb to the same “eh, not feeling like much let’s just do one lap at Pineapple Pass” kind of mentality. If you’re willing, you can go just a touch further for some prime untouched snow, depending on the weekend it is. People are creatures of habit and love group think, so it was funny to see last time I was up at Avalanche Mountain the hoards of people who flocked to Roosevelt. Granted, that did look fun. I just enjoy a little solitude now and then and Avalanche Mountain fit the bill for just that.

Source Lake

This trip report is more of a hodgepodge of a couple experiences. More route descriptions than a specific trip report. The first time I was back here, I got a tad beat doing laps off the side peak of Snoqualmie Mountain and to avoid heading back down the Phantom Zone (think steep, icy trees), Kyle took me down a back side that ended up in the Snow Lake area just under Avalanche. This was my first introduction back there and snow was way better than coming up the Phantom Zone. Okay, expanding my horizons, this is a viable option to come out to.

Then, the next season, when I was about to stick to my favorite Source Lake objectives, Preeta suggested to head over to Avalanche Mountain. What??? Why would you go somewhere named that? Surprisingly, it’s got some lovely terrain as viewed on a map and it’s not any more avalanche prone than other areas nearby. We found a mellow way down to Snow Lake from the Snow Lake Divide, taking the very standard route where solid skin tracks are plentiful. Quickly, we transitioned back to skinning uphill and took our time to make it over to Avalanche Mountain. It’s very mellow terrain, where you probably would have some difficulty skiing down in parts. Short on time, and following random skin tracks, we called it quits after reaching the shoulder of Avalanche Mountain, not before soaking in views and taking one of my most favorite Snoqualmie Pass pictures ever. We headed down, traversing a bunch to make it feel less steep and to head toward our up track again. At the flat meadow, we started to head uphill again, making our way to the Snow Lake Divide.

On Snow Lake
Snow Lake from above
Peering down the Burnboot Creek Valley

My most recent trip, we took a new way down to Snow Lake Divide. We first semi-blindly followed a skin track and overshot the main face of Avalanche Mountain with a tricky transition. We ended up backtracking 200 feet in elevation to eventually follow a new skin track back to Avalanche Mountain Proper. Soon we started setting our own tracks, the first ones were set too steep to follow reasonably without my partner slipping a whole bunch. We made it to the summit block and decided it was unsafe to make it to true summit with the steep snow and high risk of fall when scrambling mixed snow-rock in ski boots. We navigated a few trees before popping out to the generous open slopes, meeting up with our uphill track again. Except for 2 skiers who came down right as we headed up the mountain, we didn’t see a single soul in this area!

So really, I think that this is yet another perfect ski tour for those looking to expand their horizons or those looking for some relatively low-key objective, minimal effort for some quiet turns. It’s not like the open slopes of Pineapple Pass or the thrill of Bryant Couloir, but it’s quite nice I think! Give it a try next time you’re waffling about where to go.

  • Park in designated uphill traveler lot at Snoqualmie and never skin up the resort. Read and know about where their red tape is, they seem to be changing their restrictions regularly, especially between seasons.
  • Sometimes you think you can walk a ridge, but think again when you’re in the Snoqualmie Pass area, it doesn’t always go.
  • Start at Alpental – I didn’t show it on a map, but there’s no one way to get up/down the Snow Lake Divide. Choose your path wisely! Please excuse the random straight line – recording error on my track.

Photos shot on Canon 5D Mark IV

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