This is our video description of what it is like to take a ski tour with with SMC
We are probably biased, but we believe that this is what the Sierra Nevada has in spades; long tours in the Sierra with warm days, perfect corn snow, spectacular scenery and no crowds. We are stunned that people flock from California to Europe to ski, ignoring the best spring skiing in the world in their backyard.
These trips do take a certain skill level and we suggest that those starting out start with our Introduction to Touring Skills. Before undertaking one of the advanced tours you need to have done one of the easier ones.
You need to carry a multi-day pack and be comfortable on skis so these tours are not for everyone. But if you are prepared these are the best tours you will find anywhere.
Hilton Creek Mini Tour — Two days
This is a great tour to start on and fits readily into a weekend and it even has that skiers dream; more downhill than up hill. We head up the Rock Creek road a mile or so before cutting up onto Hilton Bench and our first night amidst lakes and lodgepole forest. After a short tour near camp, Day Two finishes with a long gliding run down to Highway 395 near Crowley Lake and a shuttle back to the vehicles.
Mammoth to June — Three Days
This tour from Mammoth to June Lake is an ideal introduction to backcountry touring. It is only three days long, a perfect long weekend. The skiing is moderate and the scenery outrageously beautiful. In the summer the Thousand Island Lake and Agnew Pass area is a popular destination, but in winter it is deserted and perhaps even more beautiful than ever. In fact we like this tour so much that we offer it several times during late winter and spring.
Yosemite High Country — Five Days
This tour is quite possibly one of the best introductions to longer backcountry ski touring. It takes one into some of the most beautiful terrain in the Sierra Nevada, the skiing terrain is straightforward, and the traveling days are not too long, allowing time to drop the packs and to enjoy unencumbered skiing. The initial part of the tour follows the line of our Mammoth to June ski tour and this continuation is really no more difficult â€“ just longer and more fun. Everyday brings a new vista and the campsites are perfect. What else is needed?
Beneath the Palisades — Four Days
This tour is not well known, except by locals, and in some years no one ventures into this part of the Sierra during the winter and spring. The crossings of the passes are short, steep, and high linking together two of the most beautiful areas in the Sierra’s Dusy and Palisade Basins. Staying on the west side of the divide for most of the tour, the jagged crest of the Palisades is never more than a mile away as we hug the slopes of some of the Sierra’s highest peaks. Days are not too long and we try to find time to ski some of the fantastic slopes along the way.
Ionian Basin — Six Days
The Ionian Basin sits in the heart of Kings Canyon National Park, above the rugged gorge of Le Conte Canyon. Mt. Goddard dominates the region and the gentle slopes on its southeast side offer one of the great ski descents of the Sierra, but so remote that it is seldom skied (except by us!). We plan on at least two nights camped in the heart of the Ionian, allowing several days skiing with only a daypack. Remote and little known, this is a wonderful loop trip that should be on everyone’s wish list.
Ritter Range Circumnavigation — Five Days
Anyone who has driven Highway 395 towards Mammoth has seen the Ritter Range on the skyline with the large bulky peaks of Ritter and Banner alongside the serrated spires of the Minarets. Even better is the view from up on Mammoth Mountain where the range and its peaks dominates the skyline and in winter the snow covered slopes and valleys just ask to be skied. Our goal is a loop starting and ending in Mammoth and along the way hopefully summitting the main peaks of the range.
Tour de Darwin — Four Days
A great loop tour, this trip starts and finishes near North Lake, above Bishop Creek. We ascend Paiute Creek up into the wonderful ski terrain in the Alpine Col region. With a base on the Darwin Bench our itinerary allows a layover day to enjoy long runs on nearby Goethe Peak or perhaps Mt. Darwin. Highlights include great views of the entire Evolution area and northern Kings Canyon National Park. We find this tour to be a great warm up for the Sierra High Route.
Paiute to Rock Creek — Five Days
A true Sierra Crest tour, this is one of our favorite moderate ski trips. The tour features gentle skiing across Humphreys Basin, a spectacular traverse around Bear Creek Spire, and the exhilarating open skiing down the bowls of Granite Park and Rock Creek Canyon. As a five-day trip our itinerary allows plenty of time for taking a run or two without a full pack at the end of the day. If you want to make the trip longer pair this with its continuation along the crest: the Rock Creek to Mammoth tour.
Sierra High Route — Six or Seven Days
This is “it”; the ultimate Sierra Classic ski tour. First skied in its entirety in 1975 by Sierra veteran Dave Beck, this subtle line linking high passes and long contours around huge snow filled bowls has become the goal of many a backcountry skier. Starting in the low desert of the Eastern Sierra and crossing some of the more rugged parts of the Sierra Nevada this is not a tour for the beginning skier. Often compared to the famous “Haute Route” of the European Alps or Colorado’s Tenth Mountain Trail, this is a true extended wilderness ski tour, with no huts, few other people and no nearby roads. For the experienced backcountry skier with good backcountry skills it will be a truly outstanding venture; the essence of ski mountaineering.
Itinerary: We offer two variation starts to this wonderful route
- The classic and original route from Symmes Creek and over Shepherd Pass
- The slightly longer, and our favorite, variation start from Onion Valley, over Kearsarge Pass and rejoining the regular route at Milestone Creek.
Rock Creek to Mammoth — Four Days
If you do not have time for one of the longer advanced tours but still want some great skiing and challenging pass crossing try this tour. We have abreviated this tour some from past years and now start off with a bang climbing over the trickiest pass first, Halfmoon Pass. From here we stay close to the crest and head north finishing at the gustatory delights of Mammoth.
Monarch Divide — Seven Days
While the Sierra High Route has become the most popular of all trans-Sierra tours there are numerous other tours that are just as good but are unknown, except to locals and Sierra experts. The Monarch Divide is one of these. This has easily become our favorite Sierra ski tour so if you have already skied the High Route or want a challenging remote tour where few others venture this is a your perfect option. The route stays high, rarely dropping below 11,000 feet as it follows the entire crest of the Cirque Divide.
Clarence King and Gardiner Basin — Five Days
This is the trip for the ski mountaineer. Not only is the skiing great, the pass crossing are technical and then we included ascents and ski descents of mounts Cotter and Gardiner. No one else goes here so expect wilderness ski mountaineering at it Sierra best.
The Great Western Divide — Nine Days
The longest tour in the Sierra, this covers the highest and most rugged terrain in the range. We start at Kearsarge Pass and finish at Mineral King on the west side. This is the ultimate trip for the Sierra connoisseur.