Sierra Wilderness Ski Tours
The finest backcountry skiing in the world…
If you’re not after a ski tour you might be interested in our other Off Piste Skiing programs.
Although winter can be cold and stormy, come spring, days usually warm up to short-sleeve temperatures and classic Sierra corn snow offers fantastic skiing and easy traveling conditions.
Great snow and incredible scenery – just two of the reasons why we consider these spring tours to be some of the finest you will find anywhere in the world. We offer a range of tours from moderate three day trips to tours more than a week in length.
Skis are the mode of transportation into this world, but the ability to carve elegant turns is not always necessary. On our basic tours the ability to hold a steady gliding traverse and execute a strong kick turn are the most important skills. Tours include all necessary group equipment, food, avalanche beacons, and other contingency gear. Trans Sierra tours include van shuttles to and from the trailheads and an air shuttle back to Bishop. This saves as much as a day and a half of driving and allows you to spend more time in the mountains and less in your car. For most these trips we’ve made a digital topo map from Topo software. They’re big files but interesting and good for figuring out exactly where the route goes. Access these maps via our PDFs page. We’re always adding more ski tours so check back here frequently. We’ve also started scheduling a year and a half out so tours that aren’t running this year probably will next year.
Two day tours
Hilton Creek Mini Tour, Level II
We know that more than a couple of days off work can be hard to obtain so we have designed this tour to fit in a weekend. We start up Rock Creek Canyon before heading north up onto Hilton Bench and cross over to the Davis Lakes area, to a camp nestled next to a frozen lake amidst pines and meadows. The next day we descend out Hilton Creek and our pick up point near Crowley Lake.
Mt. Humphreys Mini Tour, Level II
This is another quick hit tour, fit into a weekend, though a day or two prior at altitude will help you perform at your best. This trip loops around Humphrey’s neighbor, “Peaklet”, in a fun two day loop. We leave the Buttermilk road and climb to our camp at the head of the North Fork of McGee Creek. In the afternoon we ski the bowls above camp under Humphreys; the next day we cross a small steep pass to the south fork of McGee. We expect to be back at the vehicles by mid afternoon.
Three day tours
Mammoth to June, 3 Days, Level II
This is the ideal short backcountry ski tour and has become one of our most popular trips. Three days long, it offers straight forward and rewarding skiing along its entire length. We leave from Mammoth Mountain and easily descend to camp near Agnew Meadows. Day two takes us across the slopes of San Joaquin Ridge, with expansive vistas across the Ritter Range and the Minarets, to camp in the serene beauty of Clark Lakes. The last day we cross Gem Lake and finish with a descent to June Lake. A great trip and our earliest starting tour.
Four Day Tours
Rock Creek to Mammoth, 4 Days, Level III
Winding through a little-traveled section of the Sierra crest this route offers varied skiing and superb scenery. Pass crossings are steep and sometimes technical. We gain scenic Pioneer Basin via Mono Pass then glide into the pristine beauty of Dorothy Lake via amazing (and well-named) Corridor Pass. From here a winding high line passes the dark metamorphic rocks of Red Slate Mountain and takes us to the Mammoth Lakes Basin and good times in town. Pair this with the Paiute to Rock Creek tour for a superb longer Sierra Crest tour.
Five day tours
Paiute Pass to Rock Creek, 5 Days, Level II
You don’t have to be an expert skier to enjoy one of the most beautiful sections of the Sierra Crest. This gorgeous route starts at North Lake and traverses Humphreys Basin, Royce Lakes, and remote Granite Park before ending with a spectacular technical crossing of Spire Col beneath Bear Creek Spire, and a final swooping descent down Rock Creek Canyon. This is the essence of Sierra ski touring and some folks just do not want to end here – choosing instead to continue on with the Rock Creek to Mammoth tour, which starts directly after this tour, heading north along the crest.
Tour de Darwin: Paiute to Lamarck, 5 Days, Level II
A great loop tour, this trip starts and finishes near North Lake, above Bishop Creek. Two days takes us up over Paiute Pass 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. A spectacular ski over Lamarck Col completes the tour.
Beneath the Palisades, 5 Days, Level II
Entering at Bishop Pass, we traverse above stunningly beautiful Dusy and Palisade Basins via a devious line directly below the rock walls of the Palisades, one of the most rugged parts of the Sierra. Our route offers exhilarating skiing and high col crossings before the long descent down Taboose Pass to the desert of the Owens Valley. All along the way are breathtaking views to the west as we camp in high basins dotted with frozen lakes. This is our own special tour and one where the chances of encountering other people are slight. The Sierra wilderness at its finest!
Yosemite High Country Tour, 5 Days Level II
This extends our classic Mammoth to June tour by several days by diverging at Clark Lakes and heading to a camp alongside scenic Thousand Island Lake, below Mount Banner. We then cross Island Pass, and descend into Rush Creek before crossing into Yosemite National Park. Views of the Yosemite high country abound as we traverse the apex of the range via Lost Lake Pass and the impressively steep Kuna Connection. We finish by skirting Tuolumne Meadows and enjoy a final long run down the Tioga Road.
Ritter Range Circumnavigation, 5 days, Level II+
We’ve realized that though the Ritter area is popular in summmer it’s overlooked as a spring skiing destination. We’ve passed by so many times on the Mammoth to June tour, and the Yosemite High Country tour we decided it was time to give the tour around Mts Ritter and Banner a closer look. This tour starts easily enough at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area but quickly gets into ski mountaineering terrain. If all goes according to plan we’ll ski from within a couple hundred feet of the summit of Ritter.
Six day tours:
Ionian Basin Tour, 6 Days, Level II/III
The seldom-visited 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 day pack. Remote and little known this is a wonderful loop trip that should be on everyone’s wish list.
Sierra High Route, 6 or 8 Days, Level III
This is “The Sierra Classic” and the goal of many a ski touring aficionado. First skied by Sierra legend Dave Beck in the 1960’s, this trip follows a subtle line composed of remote cols, high traverses, and sweeping alpine bowls. Always challenging, but never extreme, this incredible east to west crossing combines the alternately rugged and gentle beauty of the Sierra with some of the finest wilderness skiing imaginable. High above tree line exhilarating descents await the experienced skier.
We offer two versions: the traditional start from Symmes Creek to Shepherd Pass, or our favorite, the Kearsarge Pass and Erickson Col route which includes steep pass crossings and wonderful skiing in the Upper Kern River basin. Both routes join at Milestone Creek, above the Kern, and continue on across the standard route via Triple Divide Peak and the Tablelands, ending at Wolverton. We finish with a return flight back to Independence (saving a day of driving).
Clarence King and the Gardiner Basin
Little known and remote this is an amazing basecamp tour and an outstanding trip for every ski mountaineer. In two full days we cross Kearsarge and Glen Passes and into the little-visited Gardiner Basin which we are almost sure to have to ourselves for the next three days. What separates this venture from other trips is our goal of climbing and skiing peaks, namely Clarence King (which can be skied from very near the top), Cotter, and Gardiner (which has one of the all time classic ridge traverses in the high Sierra).
Seven days and longer:
The Great Western Divide, 9 Days, Level III
This is it, the longest and most difficult self-contained tour in the Sierra with the easiest pass crossing probably equal to the most difficult one on the High Route. You need to be a proficient backcountry skier, comfortable on all terrain and all snow types. If you are, this may be the tour for you. Traversing from north to south along the spine of the rugged and remote great Western Divide the tour takes on all the terrain that the High Route avoids. We enter at Kearsarge Pass and descend to Ouzel Creek before climbing up to Mt Brewer, the high point of the Great Western Divide. We cross the High Route at Triple Divide Peak and continue south, descending from Sawtooth Pass to beautiful Mineral King. We fly via charter back to Bishop at the conclusion of the tour.
The Monarch and Cirque Divides, 7 Days, Lev III
When we first skied this route we wished we had discovered it along time ago. If you have already skied the Sierra High Route or are looking for a challenging remote tour then this is the experience for you. We ski from east to west, starting at Glacier Lodge out of Big Pine, and cross the Sierra Crest to gain remote Upper Basin and the Cirque Divide between the Middle Fork and the South Fork of the Kings River. Above tree line travel, high pass crossings and long peak descents characterize this unique and little known tour that we think is even better than the High Route. We return to Bishop via charter flight.
Sierra Crest Tours
Sierra Crest Tour Series
We’ve led tours along the Sierra Crest for years but we’ve decided to give it a more organized approach so that individuals desiring to cover the entire Eastern Sierra Crest can have the chance to do so. Contact us for more information.