Top 5 Backcountry Runs Around South Lake Tahoe

Guest Author | BackcountryBackcountry
Lake Tahoe, backcountry, map
Waterhouse Peak, home to some of the finest storm day terrain in the country. Credit: Backcountry Ski Maps
This is a guest post written by Eddy van der Kloot, mapmaker and owner of Backcountry Ski Maps

Brought to you by SCARPA Backcountry Week

Lake Tahoe is home to some of finest backcountry terrain in the world, and while locals might argue over whether Truckee or South Lake has the best touring, the truth is that you can’t go wrong with either side of the Lake.

Here are five of the best descents accessible from South Lake Tahoe, in no particular order:

Jake’s Peak – East Slopes

No list of tours around Lake Tahoe would be complete without a mention of Jake’s. The Northeast Trees are a mid-winter classic, while the East and Southeast aspects are some of the most popular descents in Tahoe come Springtime. Rising directly out of the lake, the summit of Jake’s has one of the finest views around – with Lake Tahoe sprawling on one side and Tallac and the Desolation Wilderness on the other.

Make sure you arrive early to get a parking spot. It’s well worth the effort for nearly 2,500 vertical feet of stellar skiing on your way down!

Lake Tahoe, backcountry, map
The summit of Jakes Peak has one of the finest views around. Credit: Backcountry Ski Maps

Waterhouse Peak – Northeast Glades

Waterhouse just might be home to the finest storm day terrain in North America. With a primarily Northeast aspect, and big, well-spaced old-growth forest covering most of its slopes, Waterhouse is the perfect trip during a storm. A short approach only sweetens the deal.

Because of the aspect, elevation, and tree cover, snow here tends to be of great quality during the monster storms that hit the Sierra. If you’re looking for pow, Waterhouse is the place to be.

Lake Tahoe, backcountry, map
Mount Tallac’s prized run – Cross Couloir. Not for the faint-hearted! Credit: Backcountry Ski Maps

Mount Tallac – The Cross

Mount Tallac is one of the most prominent peaks around Lake Tahoe, and its prize run, the Cross Couloir, is ever-present when walking the streets of South Lake Tahoe – which means you can boast to your buddies and point out what you skied over après beers.

The Cross is such a ubiquitous line that it is featured as the cover photo of the new Lake Tahoe ski touring map, available now at:

With a slope of around 45 degrees, the Cross is not for the faint of heart, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you make that first turn in!

Lake Tahoe, backcountry, map
Pyramid Peak, a familiar sight for anyone familiar with the Tahoe Basin. Credit: Backcountry Ski Maps

Pyramid Peak – North Face

Anyone who skis regularly in the Tahoe Basin will be familiar with the sight of Pyramid Peak looming distant on the horizon. But despite its aesthetics, this picture-perfect mountain doesn’t see as many skiers as you’d expect.

The peak is remote and requires a long approach regardless of which direction you come from. Unless snow levels have been low, the approach often requires walking on dirt in order to hit the snowline. But it’ll all be worth it when you top out on the summit, towering over Lake Aloha and the rest of the Desolation Wilderness.

If it isn’t too wind affected, ski the steep and open North Face for the ultimate run. Otherwise, head out to the East Face in search of better snow.

Lake Tahoe, backcountry, map
Not feeling up to Cross Couloir? Mount Tallac has mellower descents – but still 3,000-feet of vertical. Credit: Backcountry Ski Maps

Mount Tallac – Northeast Bowl

If the Cross is too much for you to handle, you can still enjoy the splendor of Mount Tallac by skiing down it’s “trade route”, the Northeast Bowl. You’ll get all the same views, and likely better snow – since the shape of the bowl means that you can fish around for the best conditions.

The top few hundred feet are steeper before opening into a mellower section of bowl where you can really start to open up your skiing. With more than 3,000-feet of vertical drop and skiing starting right at the summit, your legs are sure to be sore after this one.

Lake Tahoe, backcountry, map
‘The Cross’ features on the front cover of the new Lake Tahoe ski touring map. Credit: Backcountry Ski Maps

If you’re interested in learning more about these lines and many more in the South Lake Tahoe area backcountry, check out the new Lake Tahoe: Southwest ski touring map/guide, available at local retailers and online in both paper and digital format at The topographical map shows approach and descent routes, and has photos and guide text on the back to get you to some of the best lines in the zone.

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