This is the page that will make some local ski tourists grumpy, because some people still insist that Pocket Creek is a secret. Clearly they haven’t been recently. But still, I urge them to calm, because even if you read this, you may still have trouble finding the place.
The reason that Pocket Creek is so beloved by some is that is can hold soft snow even when most other places have been wind-blasted. It’s protected glade is somehow sheltered from most winds, so while it’s not a very long run at all, it’s often a good one. This is also a good jumping off point for skiing in to Badger Lake/Butte, which is where I recommend that you go for solitude if you’re grumpy about other skiers at Pocket Creek.
It’s worth noting that Pocket Creek is one of the lowest-altitude runs in this guide, so you can’t simply rely on the forecast for Timberline or Meadows to know if it’s going to be raining or snowing at pocket creek. If the forecast is borderline, it’s probably raining. Low altitude also means that Pocket Creek is late to come into season, and usually won’t be accessible without shenanigans until at least late December. In some recent, warm, dry years it has gone largely unaccessed due to low snow.
The approach to Pocket Creek is challenging because it involves a bit of navigation by dead reckoning (or faith, or phone GPS). Inspect the map before reading further.
Begin by parking at the Northeast end of the Pocket Creek Sno-Park, by the bathroom. Skin the obvious road, ignoring the first main road fork to the right, which is an XC ski track in winter. Shortly after crossing a bridge, continue as the road turns right and look for a trail/small roadcut that leaves the trail to the left (uphill). This is not the way that you want to go, but just past this trail begin a rising traverse uphill. There is a thin wall of mature Timber here which hides an older clearcut full of Christmas-tree sized trees. Ascend by tedious switchbacking through this clearing, punch through the dense vegetation band at the top, and emerge again onto a road cut.
If somehow you miss the turnoff for the lower clearing, you’ll know you’ve gone too far when the the road forks into a Y. Don’t panic, just turn left and follow that road fork uphill. It will switchback and lead you back to the top of the first clearing. This can be a great option during low snow, to avoid the vegetation in the lower clearing.
From the second roadcut, continue uphill and slightly to climber’s right through small trees until you sight a clearing, deemed the “middle glade” on the map. Skin up the climbers left margin of this glade to it’s top, traveling just below a large stone outcropping and underneath an impressively large tree. Exit this clearing into the woods at it’s highest point on the far climber’s right side.
Here’s where the faith navigation begins. Skin uphill bearing to climber’s right. It’s hard to go too high, but it’s possible to go too far across too early. Still. A natural climbing angle bearing to the right and zig-zagging to avoid all of the fallen trees has never failed to go to the right place. Continue uphill and to climbers right until another clearing comes into view. This is the main clearing.
Because Pocket Creek is not a big ski run, your name will be cursed if you skin up it. Skin through the trees to climber’s left of the clearing until reaching the top. Most skiers will rip skins here and do laps in the upper clearing. If interested, you can continue further to the top of the ridge, which is not far and which harbors a short meadow which can be skied in addition to the main clearing.
Make laps on the main clearing, being courteous to other parties by spooning tracks and not freeriding all over the small slope. Everyone likes fresh turns. If a party occupies the main clearing and you want fresh snow, note that there is another shorter fork of the main clearing to looker’s right which will permit additional laps without overlapping with the other party. The trees above this side-fork also offer good skiing when coverage is adequate.
Descend via the route of ascent. Try not to ski down the skintrack, as repeating the process through a period of high pressure will make it very challenging to skin to Pocket Creek. Personally, I hate skiing the lower cut, which would need a solid trimming to be worthwhile in most snow years. Instead, I ski the second glade by the obvious fall line until the road, and there I turn left. If others have been that way recently, you can ski back to the bridge without difficulty. From here, skins are needed to get back to the car, but someone is always going to try to skate it anyways.
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