Ski Mountaineering in the Olympic Mountains
In the realm of ski mountaineering, the Olympic Mountains are relatively unexplored.
A small handful of objectives are accessible within a day, including Mt Angeles & Klahhane Ridge, Mt Ellinor, and Mt Washington.
To go deeper into the range requires multiple days, but it is here that the possibilities really unfold.
Options for ski mountaineering include peak ascents, base camp style forays, and high traverses. While these tend to be spring/early summer trips, with good conditions a few of these can be attempted in winter.
SINGLE DAY OBJECTIVES
Mt Angeles: 2000′ descents of varying difficulty, on all aspects of the mountain.
Klahhane Ridge & Rocky Peak: This craggy 2 mile long ridge line offers extensive chutes, couloirs, and steep north and south facing terrain. See Klahhane Ridge Ski Touring.
Mt Ellinor & Mt Washington: Big lines in the southeastern Olympics.
MULTI-DAY OBJECTIVES & SKI TRAVERSES
Hurricane Ridge to Deer Park: 2-4 days, the classic ski traverse in the Olympic Mountains, see Hurricane Ridge to Deer Park Traverse.
Royal Basin: Great spring skiing terrain, with bigger descents on Mt. Deception, in the Needles, and surrounding terrain.
High Divide & The Bailey Range Traverse: An expedition suitable for spring, across some of the biggest ski terrain in the Olympics. There are numerous variations depending on how much terrain you want to cover. 4-9 days.
Mt. Olympus Massif: A spring ski expedition to Mt. Olympus is a serious undertaking, but very doable. The Mt. Olympus massif offers terrain similar to what you’ll find in the remote ranges of Alaska, with valley glaciers, and many incredible ski lines. Hiring llamas can make it possible to go in expedition style with plenty of food and gear to set up shop for a week or more on the Blue Glacier.
This program is offered on a custom basis for private groups and individuals. For more information on custom programs and rates, see Custom Programs.
These programs range in length from 1 day to 9 days and itineraries are arranged on a custom basis. Please inquire for more information.
Sample equipment list for 1 day objectives. A good example of a multi-day ski mountaineering equipment list can be found on our North Cascades Ski Touring page.
☐ Skis with touring bindings – AT, tele, or splitboard: Your setup needs to be suitable for uphill touring and downhill skiing/riding.
☐ Boots: AT, tele or snowboard boots.
☐ Poles: Adjustable poles with powder baskets (ex: Black Diamond Traverse).
☐ Climbing skins: Fit to skis (ex: Black Diamond Mohair Mix).
☐ Ski crampons: Recommended.
AVALANCHE SAFETY GEAR
☐ Transceiver: Modern, single frequency [457 khz] transceiver, preferably less than five years old. A digital 3-antennae model is highly recommended (ex: BCA Tracker 2, Mammut Pulse Barryvox, Peips DSP). RENT
☐ Shovel: Lightweight avalanche shovel. A metal blade and extendable handle are recommended (ex: G3 Avitech, BCA Companion EXT). RENT
☐ Probe: Dedicated probe, ski pole probes are not sufficient. RENT
☐ Day pack: 30 to 40 liters, should have some sort of ski attachment system (A-frame, vertical, diagonal, etc).
There are many possible layering combinations for your upper body. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
☐ Baselayer top: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric (ex: Patagonia Capiline 1 or 2).
☐ Lightweight insulating layer: Light fleece or synthetic layer (ex: Patagonia R1 Hoody).
☐ Softshell or shell jacket with hood: For wind, snow, rain, cold, etc.
☐ Puffy (insulated) jacket: Synthetic or down with a hood (ex: Patagonia Micro Puff).
☐ Baselayer bottoms: Medium weight (ex: Patagonia Capiline 2).
☐ Ski pants: Regular ski pants will work, however we recommend a system of both a lightweight softshell pant, as well as a lightweight hardshell pant with full side zips. This provides maximum versatility for backcountry conditions.
☐ Socks: Wool or synthetic, they should work well with your ski boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not heavy socks. Your ski boot liners provide plenty of insulation.
☐ Warm hat
☐ Sun hat: Baseball cap, visor, etc – Weather dependent.
☐ Light glove: For touring.
☐ Ski glove
☐ Sunscreen: SPF 30 or greater, avoid spray on (ex: Doc Martin’s of Maui).
☐ Lip balm: With SPF protection.
☐ Buff® (optional)
☐ Water bottles(s) or hydration system: Water bottles should have a screw top (no bike bottles); hydration system should have an insulated tube.
☐ Water purification tablets: Small bottle of Iodine tablets or similar (ex: Potable Aqua). Avoid chlorine dioxide tablets as they are light sensitive and require 4 hours purification time.
☐ Thermos (optional)
☐ Lunch food
☐ Camera: Don’t forget extra batteries.
The following gear is not required for this course, however if you have any of the following items please bring them.
☐ Airbag pack RENT
☐ Ski strap
☐ Repair kit: We suggest carrying a small repair kit with items specific to your ski or splitboard equipment. Extra binding parts (including mounting screws), an extra tip loop for your skins, an extra pole basket, etc. Other great MacGyver items are bailing wire, zip ties, and duct tape.
☐ Wax: For skis and to prevent snow from glomming onto your skins.
☐ Watch: Altimeter recommended.
☐ Notebook & pencil
- Required level of experience varies by objective.
- At minimum, participants should be advanced skiers.
- Excellent physical fitness is required for all objectives. Participants should be comfortable skiing with a pack, ascending and descending 3,000′ vertical feet in day.
- Guiding and instruction
- Permit and insurance costs
- Food, lodging and transportation
WHERE TO MEET
Option A: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Option B: Fly into Port Angeles (this option may not be logical for some objectives). Kenmore Air flies daily from Sea-Tac and is an Alaska Airlines partner (domestic flights can be booked with Port Angeles as the destination).
There are many car rental agencies in Sea-Tac. There’s also a Budget Rent-A-Car in Port Angeles.
Varies by trip.
Check out our Weather & Avalanche Resources page.
- Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering by Martin Volkin, Scott Schell, and Margaret Wheeler.
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