Sierra Backcountry Conditions: Late Spring Skiing in the Sierra

Zach Armstrong | Post Tag for BackcountryBackcountry | Post Tag for Conditions ReportConditions Report
skier making turns in soft spring snow above lake tahoe
Soft snow above Lake Tahoe. | Photo: Zach Armstrong

Report from May 11-12, 2024

Ah, spring in the Sierra. A time when you can get soft turns in on the high elevation peaks, then dip your tired feet in Lake Tahoe when you’re finished. This weekend we found a few soft turns on Rubicon Peak, Mount Judah, and Donner Peak. The sun was shining and the corn was ready for harvest.

Rubicon Peak tops out at 9,187 feet and is located on the west side of Lake Tahoe. A little over two thousand feet of climbing sets up some great north aspect skiing in ideally spaced trees right above Lake Tahoe. The tree skiing was made trickier by the eye-catching good views of Lake Tahoe almost the whole way down. Spring growth now competes with the last little bit of snow hanging on at lower elevations. We were still able to find a way through the maze of melt and skied almost all the way to the car.

The next day we headed up to Donner Summit to do some exploring on the backside of Mount Judah and Donner Peak. Due to our tired legs we planned a much smaller day with a little over 1,200 feet of climbing. Donner Summit has lots of exciting terrain to take in while making your way up. Several steep chutes tempted us, but the sun was really cooking the snow, encouraging us to stick to lower angles. The backside of Mt. Judah features a huge bowl and monster sized cornice. Recent avalanche activity kept us out of the main bowl, but we enjoyed some great turns before traversing over to Donner Peak.


Saturday: Rubicon Peak

two backcountry skiers walking on a snow free road
Starting up Rubicon. | Photo: Zach Armstrong
skier in open glade with views of lake Tahoe in the background
Harvesting the corn. | Photo: Zach Armstrong
skier throwing up wave of slush in bright sunshine
The corn is ready for harvest. | Photo: Zach Armstrong
skier navigating tight trees with green plants peeking through a thin snowpack
Searching for the exit portal in the thinning snowpack. | Photo: Zach Armstrong

Sunday: Mount Judah and Donner Peak

two skiers boot packing up steep slope on donner peak
Another day, another boot pack. | Photo: Zach Armstrong
two skiers skinning uphill towards mount judah
Skin track heading towards Mt. Judah. | Photo: Zach Armstrong
skier making a turn in a huge sunny bowl with large cornice overhead
Getting some turns on the backside of Mt. Judah. A good day to stay off the steeps. | Photo: Zach Armstrong
skier in full sun enjoying a low angle bowl with large trees in the background
Plenty of sunshine on Donner Peak. | Photo: Zach Armstrong
two skiers entering an old train tunnel covered in graffiti
Finishing the day off with a stroll through the snow sheds. | Photo: Zach Armstrong

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