Reno Tahoe has some epic ski resorts, but groomed resort trails aren’t every skier’s cup of tea. The Tahoe backcountry is the place to be for thrill-seekers in search of the trail less traveled. Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing offers you access to miles of wilderness, with breathtaking views, fresh snow, and more trails than you can shake a pole at.
Backcountry snowboarding and skiing is done in unpatrolled and ungroomed areas outside of a ski resort’s boundaries. This means that a lot more work and responsibility fall onto the skier. The biggest (and sometimes most appealing) difference between backcountry skiing and downhill skiing at a Lake Tahoe ski resort is the freedom it gives you. No schedule, no lift lines, and no rules. Sounds like an adrenaline junkie’s dream come true.
Backcountry skiing in Lake Tahoe isn’t all fun and games. The sport requires a little extra elbow grease than the average day on the slopes. Backcountry skiing often means skinning into the Lake Tahoe wilderness to find the perfect place to send it. You’ve got to earn your turns, but the fresh powder is worth it.
While shredding in the Reno Tahoe backcountry, safety should be your top priority. Get acquainted with the Lake Tahoe backcountry before you drop in and spend extra time learning Tahoe avalanche safety. Keep an eye on the snowpack in the weeks leading up to your trip and always check the avalanche conditions before hitting the slopes. Sierra Avalanche Center is an excellent resource on avalanches in the Reno Tahoe backcountry, including daily avalanche forecasts and educational guides. Alpenglow Expeditions offers in-person AIARE avalanche safety training to help backcountry skiers of all levels build a strong foundation of avalanche education and preparedness. Courses offered include AIARE level 1-3, teen AIARE 1, and avalanche rescue.
Your gear plays a huge role in keeping you safe and comfortable while backcountry skiing in Lake Tahoe. Spend time researching the equipment needed and drop by a local shop to chat with an expert before heading to the trails. Aside from your backcountry skis and typical ski gear, like your skis, poles, and clothing, consider some safety items in an emergency. A beacon, probe, shovel, and map of the area are good to have on hand.
For backcountry snowboard and ski gear — including safety equipment — start shopping in Reno before you hit the mountain. Check out Bobo’s Ski Board Reno, Village Ski Loft, BlueZone Sports and Ski Pro to find gear for the whole family.
For gear in Truckee, visit The Backcountry, Tahoe Mountain Sports, and Tahoe Sports Hub for all your backcountry needs. And if shopping brings you closer to the lake, Tahoe City is the place to go. Find your gear at Alpenglow Sports and Tahoe Dave’s Ski and Boards.
Once you’ve packed your gear and your mountain buddy is riding shotgun, you’ll be ready to hit the slopes. Just beyond the Biggest Little City lies an abundance of untouched wilderness waiting to be explored.
For those looking for something close to town, Mt. Rose is roughly half an hour from Reno and offers some of the highest elevation Lake Tahoe skiing in the region. Although this is one of the longest journeys for backcountry skiers at seven miles, the top of the mountain provides top-notch views.
For something a little less intimidating, Tamarack Peak in the Mount Rose wilderness is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. With only a 1,000-foot journey, this short and sweet backcountry skiing spot is a must-visit. Incline Peak is another must-ski spot close to Reno. To access it, park on 431 Mt. Rose Highway on the other side of the Tahoe meadow. Like Tamarack, Incline Peak is the perfect place to go if you’re short on time. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views over Carson Valley and the lake. Even better, you’ll be a short drive away from the Reno restaurants, bars, and nightlife to satisfy your apres-ski needs.
Castle Peak and Basin Peak in Northwest Tahoe offer some of the best views of the lake, but the 1,800-foot elevation gain from the trailhead reserves these spots for the truly committed. Rubicon Peak and Jake’s Peak on the southwest side of the lake offer amazing views of Lake Tahoe and plenty of powder to shred for the most dedicated of skiers.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the terrain to cover, check out the Tahoe Ski Atlas by Alpenglow Publishing Studio, chat up local backcountry enthusiasts or connect with a Reno Tahoe guiding company to get started. Alpenglow Expeditions offers private sessions to guide you through the Tahoe backcountry, which is an excellent option for visitors unfamiliar with the area.
In addition to Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing, our region is the perfect destination for many other exhilarating activities. Explore all winter activities in our area, including snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and more.
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