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Lake Tahoe Backcountry Skiing 101: Trimmer Peak

trimmer peak tahoe backcountry skiing

Route Overview

Trimmer Peak

Starting Elevation: 6,500ft

Summit Elevation: 9,915ft (but most stop at 9,100ft)

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 3,300ft for one lap, including the skin back up to the saddle

Distance Covered to top: 2.5mi (plus another 0.5mi to return to the saddle from the bottom of The Elevens

Description: Trimmer offers relatively uncrowded skiing on some of the best glades around South Lake Tahoe.

The map included on this page is an approximation with only some routes included. Our full, high-accuracy maps of ski routes around Lake Tahoe are available here. Maps are available in both paper and downloadable format.

Intro

Trimmer Peak is an overlooked gem of the Lake Tahoe backcountry. When the snow levels are low, a trip out to Trimmer can be incredibly rewarding – it has amazing views of the lake, great open skiing in The Elevens, and fun, featured glade skiing on the lower slopes.

Despite this, and its proximity to South Lake Tahoe, Trimmer doesn’t get a ton of traffic. A large part of this is likely due to the fact that in low snow years, or whenever the snow levels are high, Trimmer’s lower slopes can be unskiable.

Don’t let this fact deter you – a ski of The Elevens is well worth a slog through the lower slopes, and if you can get the bottom slope in good conditions, this might just become one of your favorite spots.

Access

Parking for Trimmer is at the High Meadow Trailhead at the end of High Meadow road. This area is heavily used by local dog walkers, but there is usually enough street parking for a few cars here.

Make sure to park in such a way as to not bother the local residents or impede snow plows!

Ascent

From the High Meadow Trailhead, follow the summer trail for about half of a mile. Break out to climbers right onto a sub-ridge of Point 8455, and switchback all the way up the forested slopes to the saddle just east of Point 8455.

From here head south onto the ridge. Follow this ridge up until it mellows below the rocky northern summit of Trimmer at around 9,050ft. The true summit is south of here, but being some distance away, most skiers skip it in favor of getting in more skiing!

lake tahoe view
The view from Trimmer’s lower northern summit is worth the extra hike

To hit the Elevens, make a skiers left traverse across the face here if the conditions allow – remember that The Elevens are old avalanche paths, and may be unstable!

Descent Options

The lower section of The Elevens. The upper section was too good to stop and take photos…

Once you hit the path of your choosing, head straight down. The Elevens are quite open, and have thin trees to either side, so you can pick and choose your descent. This is by far the most popular descent on Trimmer Peak, and once you’ve skied it you’ll understand why!

You’ll get about 1,500ft of stellar fall line skiing here, before ending up near a small stream at the bottom. From here, skin southwest – either to regain your skintrack for another lap, or to regain the saddle near Point 8455 and return to your vehicle.

If you choose to return, the north face of Point 8455 can offer anything from superb powder skiing to a heinous death-crust. Try to time this one so you get the former and not the latter – in good conditions this lower slope can be just as fun as The Elevens.

Topo Map

We don’t have a topo map for Trimmer Peak (yet!) but Backcountry Ski Maps’ Lake Tahoe: Southwest covers nearby descents on the West Shore, Mt. Tallac, the areas around Meyers, and the Desolation Wilderness. The only map specifically made for backcountry skiers, it includes over 70 ski descents to help you make the most of the Lake Tahoe backcountry, and is available in both a GPS-enabled digital format for your phone, and a waterproof tear-resistant paper format that will never run out of batteries.

Check it out here:

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Lake Tahoe Backcountry Skiing 101: Rubicon Peak

Route Overview

Rubicon Peak

Starting Elevation: 6,250ft

Summit Elevation: 9,183ft

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 2,950ft

Total Distance Covered: 2mi

Description: Rubicon Peak is one of the true gems of the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. Perfectly spaced glades allow for excellent backcountry skiing, while a north-facing aspect and stunning views of the lake further add to the allure.

The map included on this page is an approximation with only some routes included. To purchase the full, high-accuracy map with many more ski routes around Rubicon Peak, the West Shore, and more, click here. Maps are available in both paper and downloadable format.

Intro

Rubicon Peak is a storm-day paradise for Tahoe area skiers looking for powder. Situated at the north end of the West Shore peaks, Rubicon is is just a smidgen less tall than neighboring Jake’s, but it packs a punch of its own when it comes to tree skiing.

Rubicon is, for all intents and purposes, entirely covered by well-spaced old-growth trees – the kind that make ski tourers drool. With all this tree cover and relatively few start zones, Rubicon Peak tends to make a great option for backcountry skiers searching for a storm day fix.

Rubicon has an unskiable rocky summit, which makes a fantastic spot for lunch on a nice day – the panoramic views of Lake Tahoe just below are difficult to beat.

It can get busy on weekends and pow days, but overall sees much less traffic than nearby Jake’s Peak.

Access

There are two winter parking options for Rubicon Peak. If snow levels are low enough, skiers can park on pullouts off of Highway 89. If not, it’s best to park at the dead end of Highland Drive (which will also save you about 650ft of skinning).

Both spots can fill up on busy days, and skiers have been occasionally ticketed in both spots as well.

The Tahoe Backcountry Alliance has proposed additional parking lots both at the end of Highland Drive and on Highway 89 to provide much more winter parking for backcountry skiers.

See their proposal here, and visit the TBA site to do more about ensuring winter access around Lake Tahoe.

Ascent

Navigating up Rubicon is incredibly easy. Keen Tahoe City skiers tend to put in a skintrack quite early, but if not, just head west from the Highway 89 pullouts or southwest from Highland Drive. Navigate through the start of the forest without crossing private property, and then just head up – due to the shape of Rubicon, it’s nearly impossible to head anywhere other than the summit by heading up from here.

Many skiers stop at the bottom of Rubicon’s rocky summit block. If it’s your first time in the area and you’re comfortable with a scramble in ski boots, it’s worth making the ascent to the top of the pinnacle – it’s got a great exposed feel and brings you the most rewarding views.

Descent Options

From the summit of Rubicon, any northward direction brings you to worthwhile skiing.

The most popular backcountry ski descent here is the Northeast Glades – they have the longest fall line descent, as well as the added bonus of always heading towards the lake. Just make sure not to ski into any trees while enjoying the view!

If it’s been a few days since the last storm, the slightly shorter true North Glades can hold onto snow slightly longer than the Northeast Glades due to their more favorable exposure. Heading directly north from the summit also sets you up better for your return if you parked your car at Highland Drive.

It’s tough to get in too much trouble here, so as long as snow conditions and group skills allow, it can be fun to do a couple of laps and explore all of Rubicon’s northerly aspects.

Topo Map

Backcountry Ski Maps’ Lake Tahoe: Southwest covers backcountry skiing and ski touring descents on Rubicon Peak, the rest of the West Shore, Mt. Tallac, the areas around Meyers, and the Desolation Wilderness. The only map specifically made for backcountry skiers, it includes over 70 ski descents to help you make the most of the Lake Tahoe backcountry, and is available in both a GPS-enabled digital format for your phone, and a waterproof tear-resistant paper format that will never run out of batteries.

Check it out here:

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Lake Tahoe Backcountry Skiing 101: The Peter Grubb Hut

Route Overview

Peter Grubb Hut

Starting Elevation: 7,200ft

Summit Elevation: 7,800ft

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1,025ft (800ft there, 225ft back)

Total Distance Covered: 5.8mi

Description: The Peter Grubb hut is a quaint, accessible Sierra Club Hut just off of Donner Pass. With easy access to Castle, Basin, and Andesite Peaks, this 15 person hut is a great introduction to overnight ski touring.

The map included on this page is an approximation with only some routes included. To purchase the full, high-accuracy map with many more ski routes around the Grubb Hut and the surrounding peaks click here. Maps are available in both paper and downloadable format.

Intro

grubb hut donner pass backcountry skiing
The Grubb Hut nearly buried in a big winter

The Peter Grubb Hut (more commonly known as just the Grubb Hut) is one of four Sierra Club huts in the Tahoe backcountry. Located in Round Valley nearby Castle Peak, the Grubb Hut is the most popular and easiest-to-access of the Sierra Club huts.

The Grubb Hut was constructed in 1939 as a memorial to Peter Grubb, an avid outdoorsman from San Francisco who died at age 18 of unknown causes at the age of 18 while on a cycling tour of Europe.

The hut is complete with a wood-burning stove, tables, and a kitchen area, as well as a sleeping loft that accommodates 15.

Access

Parking for the Grubb Hut is at the Donner Summit Sno-Park, and requires a Sno-Park permit, which can be purchased here for $5/day or $25 for an annual pass.

The hut itself also needs to be booked, which can be done through the Clair Tappaan Lodge.

Ascent

castle peak ski touring donner pass
A view of Castle Peak from the trail

From the Donner Summit Sno-Park, walk west towards the I-80 underpass, and cross under the interstate. On the north side of the highway you’ll reach the Castle Peak summer road. Follow the well-marked trail on a gentle uphill through the trees, enjoying the occasional glimpse of Castle Peak.

After about 2 miles, you’ll reach Castle Pass, the col between Castle and Andesite Peaks. From here continue heading roughly north, contouring below the ridge. You’ll soon hit a small outcropping overlooking Round Valley. Descend 100ft or so northwest from here to get to the Grubb Hut in the southwestern corner of the valley.

Descent Options

basin peak backcountry skiing
Basin Peaks’ drool-worthy South Face

There are many worthy backcountry ski descents right out your door from the Grubb Hut. You can view our full list of epic descents in the area, including the South Couloir on Castle Peak, the spines on the north side of the Castle-Basin ridge, and many more in our Lake Tahoe: North map. For now, we’ll leave you with two of the best descents visible from the hut.

The South Face of Basin Peak looms large over the Grubb Hut, begging backcountry skiers to lay tracks down its corn-laden slopes.

To ski this beautiful face, head north from the hut to ascend basin peak by its southwest flank. From the top you can ski just about any southerly aspect to get back to Round Valley and the Grubb Hut. Just be sure not to get into the small band of cliffs on the skier’s left side of the South Face!

castle peak donner pass touring
Castle Peaks’ West Glades as seen from just outside the Hut

The West Glades of Castle Peak are obvious from the hut. With sections of dense treese and sections of more wide-open terrain, they’re an enjoyable descent for most skiers, and see a bit less traffic than Castle’s south aspect due to their slightly longer approach from Donner Pass.

To ski the West Glades from the hut, head southeast towards Castle Pass but break northeast onto the ridge around 8,100ft. Skin up the ridge, trending climber’s left any time there is an obstacle to reach the summit.

From here the West Glades of Castle Peak will bless skiers with over a thousand vertical feet of fall-line skiing back into Round Valley.

Topo Map

Backcountry Ski Maps’ Lake Tahoe: North covers backcountry skiing and ski touring descents around Truckee, Squaw, and Mount Rose. The only map of the area specifically made for backcountry skiers, it includes over 100 ski descents to help you make the most of the Lake Tahoe backcountry, and is available in both a GPS-enabled digital format for your phone, and a waterproof tear-resistant paper format that will never run out of batteries.

Check it out here:

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Lake Tahoe Backcountry Skiing 101: Mount Tallac

mt tallac backcountry skiing

Route Overview

Mt. Tallac

Starting Elevation: 6,300ft

Summit Elevation: 9,735ft

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 3,475ft

Total Distance Covered: 6mi

Description: A true Lake Tahoe classic, a descent of Mt. Tallac is a right of passage for local backcountry skiers. With stunning views and a variety of terrain – glades, bowls, couloirs, and extreme descents – all just a short jaunt off the road, a descent of Tallac should be on every local skier’s list.

The map included on this page is an approximation with only some routes included. To purchase the full, high-accuracy map with many more ski routes on Tallac and the surrounding peaks click here. Maps are available in both paper and downloadable format.

Intro

Tallac’s summit views are not too shabby

Mount Tallac is the crown jewel of Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing. No peak in the area can rival this lakeside giant for variety of terrain. Add in stunning views of the lake, reasonable access, and relatively long runs, and you can see why this peak sits atop the wishlist for nearly every backcountry skier in Tahoe.

Tallac has enough terrain on it to satisfy even the hungriest of backcountry skiers. Bowls, glades, couloirs, extreme descents – it’s got it all.

The most popular descents on the mountain (the Northeast Bowl and The Cross) are visible from various points along the road, and even from South Lake Tahoe itself, but the peak also offers skiing on a variety of other aspects. When snow conditions are good, Mount Tallac is truly a dream come true for backcountry skiers.

Access

It used to be that skiers accessing Mount Tallac could park at the end of Spring Creek Road and get straight onto the snow. Unfortunately, property owners and the USFS now lock the gate at the entrance to the road.

Skiers now park at plowed pulloffs near the intersection of Highway 89 and Spring Creek Road, and then walk down the plowed road for about a mile to access snow.

The Tahoe Backcountry Alliance is working on improved access to this zone. To learn more and see how you can get involved, visit their site here.

Ascent

From the end of Spring Creek Road, head southwest for about a quarter of a mile through a short section of denser trees. You’ll quickly end up on the affectionately named “Sweat Hill,” where you can expect the eastern exposure to cook you in the morning sun on a Spring day.

Backcountry Ski Lake Tahoe
Does it get any better than this?

The trees become less dense here, and gradually give way to a more open slope. At around 7,400ft you’ll end up in a small flat at the bottom of the Northeast Bowl. Head climber’s right onto the prominent ridge from here. Switchback up the ridge until you reach the small flat at the top.

From the top of the ridge, trend climbers left to ascend the final 500ft of vertical of Tallac’s North Bowl. You’ll then wrap just around the south side of the peak to reach the summit.

Enjoy the incredible views. Tallac sits just off the lake, and affords views of the nearby West Shore peaks and the Desolation Wilderness, as well as electric-blue Lake Tahoe, and the smaller but equally pristine shores of Fallen Leaf Lake.

Descent Options

You might be tired of us gabbing on about how amazing Tallac’s terrain is, but once you’re up top, your mouth will drop at all the incredible ski descents available.

Just a little taste of the fun in the Northeast Bowl

The Northeast Bowl (also known as Corkscrew Bowl) is the most the most commonly skied backcountry descent from Tallac. It starts with a steeper ski down the North Bowl off of the summit. Make sure not to head skier’s right too early or you’ll end up in the mess of cliffs that you saw on your ascent!

At around 9,000ft, the North Bowl turns skier’s right and opens up into the mellower Northeast Bowl. This bowl is a true skier’s paradise, with the walls on either side allowing skiers to ride on a variety of aspects in order to find the best snow conditions.

Ski the bowl all the way down to the the little flat at the bottom, from where you can rejoin your skin track for another lap, or follow your tracks down to head back to your car.

For experience ski tourers seeking a bigger challenge, The Cross drops in just south of the summit of Tallac. The true entrance, known as the Elevator Shaft, is steep and committing, so most skiers instead choose to take the softer entrance to skier’s left before joining up with the Cross proper.

This descent is an ultra-classic, due to its combination of superb skiing and incredible views. In fact, it’s such a classic that it’s on the cover of our Lake Tahoe: Southwest ski touring map!

The Cross in all its beauty

Follow the high walls down through the couloir before enjoying another thousand-plus feet of excellent fall-line skiing down to about 7,700ft. From here you’ll need to start heading skier’s left to get back to the bottom of the Northeast Bowl and your skintrack.

Tallac is home to dozens more runs like the Hanging Face, Baby Cham, Cathedral Bowl, the Northwest Trees, the East Bowl, S Chute, and more. You can find more backcountry ski descents, as well as alternate approaches on Tallac in our Lake Tahoe: Southwest map.

Topo Map

Backcountry Ski Maps’ Lake Tahoe: Southwest covers backcountry skiing and ski touring descents on Mount Tallac, the West Shore, the areas around Meyers, and the Desolation Wilderness. The only map specifically made for backcountry skiers, it includes over 70 ski descents to help you make the most of the Lake Tahoe backcountry, and is available in both a GPS-enabled digital format for your phone, and a waterproof tear-resistant paper format that will never run out of batteries.

Check it out here: