Best Ski Tour in Tahoe: Desolation Traverse

It is hard, you need a shuttle and the most fun downhill ski is avalanche prone, but it is so good.


This is a great one, if you can pull it off. The timing needs to be good, some fresh snow but not that deep and fresh because the avy danger on this ski is very real. I’ve seen massive slide paths on the backside of Mt. Ralston with at least a 10 foot crown. However you can cheat a little on that slope by staying way left.

Here is how you do it. Park at one of the pullouts on Hwy 50 just downhill from the Sierra at Tahoe turnoff. Skin up Mt. Ralston, but look at a map (or phone) so you don’t climb the wrong mountain. Mt. Ralston can not be seen until you get up the ridge.

Ralston Bowl

Then you get one of the best downhill pitches in the Tahoe Sierra. Really. Drop in anywhere from Mt. Ralston (steep, cliffy and scary – I’ve never done it) or just keep heading left until you feel comfortably scared. Sometimes there are small cornices to get by but usually you can get through them to the left.

Head towards Ralston Lake (will be frozen of course) and ski across desolation wilderness and ski up to the top of Echo Peak, again using maps to get to the top of the correct peak.

Then ski down the Tahoe side of Echo, and preferably you’ve done it before. You don’t head straight down to Angora Lakes because it cliffs out. Head down and right, staying in the trees for safety. You’ll eventually drop down into the flats and unfortunately you’ll need to skin up again to get over to North Upper Truckee Road. We usually park at the end of Wintoon Rd. and try not to upset the locals.

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