Southern Oregon Backcountry: Siskiyou Skiing

southern oregon backcountry
Taylor on the skintrack, with untouched Southern Oregon backcountry gold behind her.

This weekend, Taylor and I headed South along I-5 to Southern Oregon aiming to sample the Southern Oregon backcountry and ski a smaller cascades volcano, Mt McLoughlin. Unfortunately, with a busy week last week, Tay forgot to move her shovel and probe from her race pack to her touring pack, so on Friday evening we discovered that we didn’t have the right kit to go ahead as planned. We cursed bad fortune and looked for alternate ideas.

southern oregon backcountry powder
I found a few good turns here and there in some of the lightest snow the PNW has to offer.

southern oregon backcountry powder
Taylor found some goods as well.

Taylor had toured near Mt Ashland before (she’s from Southern Oregon), and said that there was a lot of mellow terrain to be had, so we ventured out under blue skies with the goal of staying out of avalanche terrain.

southern oregon backcountry views
Though the Siskiyou range is not very high, it has amazing views of the Southern Oregon cascades. Here, Mt Shasta rises in the distance behind Taylor.

Conditions were really superb, with recent snowfall of 1-2 feet which had consolidated into some really fluffy pow on a soft base. I was initially skeptical of skiing in the Southern Oregon backcountry; driving in the valley surrounded by spring flowers, you’d never guess that snow existed within the Siskiyou mountains, let alone skiable, wintry snow.

Southern Oregon backcountry altitude
Some of the ridge lines host blackish granitic rock piles that collect rime in a typically Oregon way.

Everything that we skied is accessible from the summer road which leaves the Mt Ashland ski area parking lot to the Southeast. The road leads around behind the ski area and into a large bowl which houses a seemingly unused winter shelter. In this valley, “if you can see it, you can ski it”, and everything falls more or less into the 20-30 degree range that we were looking for.

southern oregon backcountry ski map
A map of the area with some of the runs that we skied marked. Mt Ashland is the peak that begins the rightmost ski line. (USFS map from CalTopo)
southern oregon backcountry ski mountaineering
Taylor tried to talk me out of skiing from the true summit of Mt Ashland, but it added a bit of spice to the otherwise meadow-skippy day.

One thing worth knowing about this area is that almost nobody else is skiing it, and the folks who are aren’t going far from the parking lot. We skinned 1-2 miles away and had complete solitude all day. If you’re in the are and the weather is fine, I can’t recommend it enough.


Category: Skiing


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