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General Information: Waterhouse Peak is a Tahoe local's treasure. Although the climb is neither long nor difficult, the skiing off this indistinct peak offers backcountry tree skiing at its best. This heavily treed, north facing slopes of this mountain hold powder long after the snow on the other peaks has turned to thick Sierra Cement or breakable crust. You'll have to get out quickly after a storm, however, if you want untracked powder since this is a powder-hound's paradise. After a good storm, you'll find many hard-core backcountry skiers doing laps on this moderate peak.

 

Where To Start: From South Lake Tahoe, head out Highway 50 toward Sacramento, turning left onto Highway 89 (Luther Pass) past the "Bug Station". Once on Highway 89, head up towards the pass, past the "Big Meadow" parking area to where the road flattens. Park in a large turnout just before the beginning of Grass Lake near the pass.

 

Trail Description: Looking south from the parking area, you can see a tree covered mountain that looks far too heavily treed to ski. It's not! Open swathes cut through the trees offering plenty of room for an advanced intermediate skiier to link turns. You actually do not climb or ski Waterhouse Peak proper, but peak 9380 just northwest of Waterhouse. From the turnout, head south and slightly west along the usually well established trail. If there is no trail, congratulations, you get first turns! Of course you also get to break trail! Head towards the right flank of the peak, switch-backing steadily up the side of the mountain. Stay right to avoid the steeper terrain on the ascent, but if you come to the ridge, do not cross it, instead ascend the ridge. The forest thins as you approach the summit and the route is obvious. On top, you get fine views of the Meiss and Big Meadow areas to the south, including Red Lake Peak, another fine Tahoe peak. When you are ready to descend, look for openings in the trees that will allow you to link turns. The slopes are steepest right under the peak, getting downright "cliffy" if you head too far to skier right. To find the more open area, stay to skier left.

If you have time and energy once you reach the flatter part of the mountain, turn around and head back up for another lap! Have fun.

Environmental Concerns: Just the usual, pack it in, pack it out.

Advisory: Although this area is heavily treed and we have never seen evidence of avalanches, the rule of thumb is, "if you can ski it, it can avalanche." You will find many parties skiing Waterhouse during and right after storms. You should not take this as defacto evidence that the snow is stable. You should always make your own snow stability evaluation. In any event, be sure to always carry proper avalanche gear including, beacons, shovels, and probe poles and know how to use them!

 

 

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