Shoulder Season Skiing in the Cascades

Post by blogger | October 28, 2013      

Eric on his way up to Skyline Divide. Click all images to enlarge.

It’s “shoulder season,” the time when summer activities lose their hold on me and I start pursuing powder and peaks. In the Pacific Northwest we received a huge dump in early October which dropped over 3 meters on the high country. We hiked up the snow-covered trail to Skyline Divide for the first turns of the season.

The month started with stormy pow skiing on high sub-alpine ridges near Mt. Baker. Recently the weather has been better, and we’ve ventured into higher country to find above-average backcountry conditions for this time of year. Following are photos from various PNW outings this October.

Adam enjoying some protected powder on the north face of east Goat Peak, with the western summit behind.

Adam enjoying protected powder on the north face of east Goat Peak, with the western summit behind.

Eric skiing heavy powder on Skyline Divide. One early storm worth brought about 3 feet of fresh.

A few weeks later, Adam surveys the snow that's still a long ways away on Hadley Peak (with Mt. Baker behind).

High up on Hadley Peak. Even though temps felt like they were in the 70's, powder lingered on protected slopes.

Adam dropping down a nice couloir on Hadley Peak. I'd never been to this area before. It proved to be awesome!

This last weekend we climbed the Coleman Glacier on Mt. Baker. Here Adam climbs above crevasses on the Deming Glacier.

Enjoying a beautiful sunset in the mountains with friends. After hanging out for a while we skied down in the dusk.



16 Responses to “Shoulder Season Skiing in the Cascades”

  1. jake October 28th, 2013 12:17 pm

    Greetings Lou! Glad to hear someone is already getting after it up in the PNW.

    I have been completely consumed by your and other’s stories of backcountry adventures over the last year or so and, as a Washington resident myself, I wanted to know how to get involved. I have been nothing but an alpine/park/side country skier my whole life and am hoping–this year–to begin dipping my toes in what the Cascades have to offer from a touring/backcountry standpoint. Only thing is…I dont know where to start. If you were hoping to get a friend into touring/backcountry skiing, what advice would you share with them and what resources would you recommend they look into? In other words, point me in the direction for a successful beginning in touring the Cascades. I’ve skied all around the West Coast and Canada and the closest I’ve been to the backcountry was off resort skiing in Jackson Hole. Im in my 20’s and have never felt better about my skiing. There is just so much that the NW has to offer, I feel it is best to begin in my own backyard.

    Hope to hear from you soon.



  2. Louie Dawson October 28th, 2013 2:34 pm

    A great place to start is by taking a avalanche safety course. The stuff you’ll learn is indispensable, it can literally save your life. Also, it’s a great way to meet some other skiers who are getting into the backcountry. There’s courses offered all over the country, and a bunch in Washington. You can find a course here:

  3. Charlie October 28th, 2013 2:59 pm

    Agreed; avalanche knowledge is essential. Terrain, weather, and snowpack combine to produce counterintuitive phenomena. Quality avalanche courses are the fastest way to gain a comprehensive picture of the field.

    The mechanics of touring are covered by trusted ski partners, courses from community groups like the Washington Alpine Club (I help with the course) and the Everett Mountaineers, and a bunch of quality guide outfits throughout the range.

    Make it a goal to read more than 70% of this year’s forecasts from the avalanche center. is a helpful community resource.

    And, this Sunday is the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop. It’s not aimed at beginners, but you can’t help but learn something cool/fun/useful. Look for tickets at brownpapertickets.

  4. Diane October 28th, 2013 3:16 pm

    Make sure your partners are avalanche educated too . It’s the only way to make sure your group is making the right decisions about where to go and what to ski . The best thing about avalanche courses is it makes you aware that the backcountry is a very different playground compared to side country, slack country, and of course ski areas.

  5. Jack October 28th, 2013 3:21 pm

    I’m East Coast and very new to this, but I am using/have used a guide for an initial experience, plus side-country skinning to build skills in an accessible environment. Some resort skiing on my new AT gear to adjust technique, etc.
    AVI One course is on the docket for me, too. I’ve been reading a lot and Wild Snow continues to be a great resource.

  6. Lisa Dawson October 28th, 2013 3:31 pm

    Thanks Jack! It’s definitely wise to dial in your equipment, muscles, and technique in a safe area close to or on the ski area before venturing out into the wilderness where mishaps are much less forgiving. And guide services are a great resource. I always seem to learn something new when go on a guided trip.

    Jake, learn how to do an efficient kick turn for the uphill track. It will make your day much more enjoyable. Happy turns!

  7. ShailCaesar! October 28th, 2013 3:35 pm

    Canadian Avalanche Centre ( has a really good online tutorial that takes about 2 hours to complete. Great to do just before your first Avy course!

  8. JRJ October 28th, 2013 6:36 pm


    I had the same questions when I arrived in the PNW a few years ago. I found an organization called the Mountaineers, got involved in their avy education and backcountry skiing courses, and took advantage of the backcountry tours one can sign up for to build uphill skills and meet other folks. ( The price to join is nominal, and they have multiple branches in Western Washington. Their courses are pretty well priced, and I made a group of friends that I now tour with regularly.

    You should also check out turns-all-year (, which has a great set of forums filled with beta and includes an area for finding touring partners.

    As others have said, the critical first step is getting an adequate avy education, which I think these days means an AIARE Level 1 course, as Louie indicated earlier. There are numerous outlets for this depending on your location, and easily google-able.



  9. Drew Tabke October 28th, 2013 7:08 pm

    Maaaaan! You’ve been skiin’, man!? Whooa… I’ve been surfin’ and, like, hangin’ by the water, you know. With the bros, just like havin’ campfires and surfin’ you know? What month is it anyway? Whoa!

  10. John October 28th, 2013 10:04 pm

    Maybe I’m feeling a little contrary, but I’d say rather than launching straight into an avalanche class it may be better to take an “intro to touring” type class. My Avalanche 1 class involved a woman blowing her knee out in her rented touring setup that she did not know how to use. I think that having at least a slight grasp of touring basics prior to an avy class would be a great benefit…Or buy a touring setup, do a couple of mellow trips with understanding friends then take a class. Either way welcome, I hope you are able to figure it out.

  11. Jim October 29th, 2013 10:15 am

    FYI: currently has a deal on 2 days of guided backcountry skiing near Steven’s Pass in the Cascades. It could be a way to get some safe BC experience at a discount.

  12. Nick October 29th, 2013 10:44 am

    The other group that I would recommend checking out is the Washington Alpine Club. The members run many types of classes including Backcountry/Avalanche and Randonee/Telemark skiing.

  13. Nick October 29th, 2013 10:47 am

    Oops, just noticed that Charlie already mentioned the WAC.

  14. Jay October 29th, 2013 2:52 pm


  15. gerard October 30th, 2013 3:31 am

    Education and experience. Lots of experience. A saying among the pros ” no such thing as an avalanche expert” .

  16. Dave November 1st, 2013 10:30 am

    Sweet. Always enjoy the PNWet TRs.

  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube

WildSnow Twitter Feed


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version