Doerte and Mike skinning up above Skyline Lake.

Stevens Pass Heather Ridge Ski Tour 5,400'

Trip Report

Stevens Pass Washington


February 25, 2006


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There are some easy places to Backcountry ski, such as Skyline Ridge at Stevens Pass across from the Stevens Pass Ski Area on U.S. Highway 2. It is an easy morning drive from Seattle, and there is plenty of room to break your own trail and explore if you have the strength. Even with the abundance of powder, and skiers, we were able to ski untracked snow all day!

To get there, follow your map to Monroe, then go east on U.S. Route 2 to the summit of Stevens Pass. Park on the north side of the highway in the large ski area lot. From the parking lot, climb north along a road as it passes cabins and climbs to a power shack. From here go straight up or switchback up the ridge, staying near the trees. The route levels out and in a half-mile comes to the lake at 4,800 feet.

Kenny and Suzanne dig snow pits and do snowpack analysis as Ira watches.


It is a short but steep climb of 1,200 feet to the ridge, and frozen Skyline Lake. The lake is surrounded by second growth trees and snow covered boulders. On the rare clear days ( I have never been here on a clear day) you can enjoy views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mount Stuart, Mount Daniel, and Glacier Peak.

We had simply superb skiing on the north and west facing slopes and glades of Heather Ridge. The Thursday before had brought more than two feet of light and fresh Cascade powder on top of a sun crust from two weeks earlier. Thursday and Friday had seen many natural occurring avalanches throughout the Cascades so we were extra careful.

After doing a snowpack analysis, we all made several descents in the dreamy snow. 

There were others around ( of course) but mostly everyone was very happy to share the wonderful powder. The area still had plenty of untracked lines left at the end of the day!

Mike does the rutschblock test. It failed with one easy jump, a 4.


We also did a shovel test, and shear test.

Our pits on a sheltered and gladed north aspect showed a favorable and homogenous upper 3' with only gradual hardness changes, on top of the crust from Feb 15.  In this area, test results showed good stability.

Here is a short video of Ira's rutschblock test:


Ira's failed with easy weighting, a 3.

Here is Gary Brill's report to the Avalanche Center:

Gary Brill

Central Cascades WA



Stevens Pass Heather Ridge

From an avalanche class Saturday, I would confirm the untrustworthiness of the snowpack where wind exposed. Pole testing shows poor structure beneath a stiff slab in these areas. I had the feeling that if the slab could be made to fail very extensive propagation and remote triggering of a deep slab was possible. On the other hand, a series of pits on a sheltered and gladed north aspect showed a much more favorable and homogenous upper 3' with only gradual hardness changes. In this area, test results showed good stability. The structure at Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie Pass was very similar in the upper layers, but with more faceting beneath a much weaker crust at Stevens. Hazard Considerable where wind exposed at Stevens.


Kenny making a nice run on AT gear.

Snowpack Analysis for 02/25/06 from the Avalanche Center:

Generally decreasing winds and snowfall Thursday night followed by some slow snowpack settlement on Friday have helped to slightly reduce the recently higher avalanche danger in most areas. However, very fragile weak layers of faceted snow or surface hoar remain beneath about 1 to 3 feet of new relatively low density snow, along with a relatively poor bond of the new snow to an old crust formed during fair warm weather in early-mid
February. Fortunately in some areas, the new snow has either not been cohesive enough to propagate fractures or the weight of single recreationists has not been enough to cause weak layer failure near the crust. The result has been very good powder skiing or riding in some locations where wind has not been a factor and more isolated instabilities have been reported. However, many avalanche professionals (including this forecaster) are expressing a significant lack of trust of this “apparent” snowpack stability. Field reports continue to indicate relatively
wide variations in the danger over short distances, possibly related to wind effects. And isolated 1 to 3 ft easily skier triggered slabs were reported as recently as late Friday afternoon in several locations near Snoqualmie and Stampede Passes. Also during the past several days, some slide releases have been remotely triggered and have quickly propagated long distances, as well as releasing from unusual locations. This is not a trustworthy snowpack. Stability tests and significant caution are advised before venturing onto any steeper wind affected and/or wind loaded terrain.

Although heaviest snowfall of 1 to 3 feet was received in the Olympics and Washington Cascades from about Mt Rainier northward and slightly less recent snowfall was received in the southern Washington Cascades and Mt Hood areas, strong winds near many exposed ridges combined with the new snowfall to produce a generally increased danger in most areas, especially on lee terrain above about 5 to 6000 feet where wind slabs ranging from 1 to 3 feet remain probable early Saturday. While less new snowfall along the Cascade east slopes Thursday produced an overall lower danger, a similarly unstable snow structure resulted. Hence some shallower but still rather sensitive soft slabs are still possible on lee slopes, especially in higher terrain near the crest where such slabs should become a little larger and more probable.

Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center

Our team! Mike, Suzanne, Ira, Kenny, Doerte, and Mike

Thanks to Kenny Kramer and Gary Brill for an excellent day!
 10.3 miles traveled, 2,700' skied.

Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center


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