Report from May 6, 2022, and written by the Blackbird Mountain Guides team
Type 1 fun season is in full swing up here at the corn skiing capital of the world – Mount Shasta! After receiving a wallop of season-saving storms in mid-April, conditions are starting to feel a bit more spring-like. The corn snow on West facing aspects between 9,000’ and 13,000’ is mind-blowing with the right timing! However, the warming spring temps are also causing the lower reaches of the mountain to melt out quickly in places. The window for type 1 style skiing (the type without carrying your skis on your back for miles) is rapidly closing.
Over the past few days, I had the privilege of guiding a backcountry skier on the mighty West Face of Mt. Shasta. Our approach to Hidden Valley on day one was rather easy. We skinned up Giddy Giddy Gulch and skied down to our camp. After setting camp and melting water, we opted for some “hippy” cruiser turns below the foot of Casaval Ridge.
The skinning was easy, and the corn skiing was unbelievably good! Nothing beats corn skiing at 7 PM with a golden sunset below two of the most iconic summits on the west coast: Mount Shasta and Shastina!
On our second day we opted for a tour and climb of Shastina, the iconic sub-peak of Mt. Shasta. After a casual start, we found our way up easy volcanic ramps to the foot of the Lightning Bolt Couloir. While the Lightning Bolt is not really a true couloir, this proud line descends from near the summit of Shastina directly down towards Hidden Valley. It is distinctly visible from I-5 far below.
On top of this, the Lightning Bolt Couloir on Shastina offers a near-perfect 30-degree pitch as you link turns down the side of the massive volcanic cone. The climb up our line was in great condition. We worked our way to the summit of Shastina and then proceeded to leapfrog to camp far below, railing turns in perfect corn snow.
After one night on Shasta, conditions in the lower West Face/Hidden Valley zone quickly began to shift. On our exit, we discovered that the lower approaches above Horse Camp had burnt out. What had been easy skinning a day earlier was now a convoluted nightmare of rock and hollow snow patches.
The window for skiing the West and South aspects of Shasta is starting to close – and quickly! Two-plankers, knuckle-draggers, telemarkers and other snow sliders are recommended to make the corn pilgrimage sooner rather than later. Those approaches are not going to get any easier – get after it people!
Despite the bad news for skiers and splitboarders on Mount Shasta, climbing conditions are becoming quite good! April’s snow has transitioned into firm and predictable climbing early in the morning with the lower approaches melting out.
The bottom line for climbing is there is little to no post-holing! Leave your snowshoes at home! Casaval Ridge looked to be in great shape – on my to-do list between trips this week. I had a glimpse of the Whitney and Bolam Glaciers from the summit of Shastina – the snow cover looks very thin and there’s lots of blue ice showing. The North side would probably be a good time if you have two tools, a rope, a partner, and a few ice screws for protection, as well as an early start!
I will have some more condition updates early next week from the corn skiing vortex. Until then, cheers!
Words and photos by AMGA-trained Blackbird guide, Jason Smith. Jason has been busting out Shasta trips this season, he’s your go-to guy for Shasta conditions reports!