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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
- Lake Tahoe: Southwest and West Shore$11.95 – $25.95