Not technically in California, but the skiing’s so good at this close to the border location we’re giving it honorary status. Mount Rose is the third highest peak on the Nevada side of the Tahoe basin. Mt. Rose Ski Resort is also a 25-minute drive from Reno, making it accessible but also an overlooked spot for backcountry skiing near Tahoe. The 10,776-foot (3300 meter) peak is part of the 30,000-acre Mount Rose Wilderness area. Especially helpful for ski touring, the namesake highway gives skiers a head start at 8,000 feet (2500 meters) in elevation. Access is easy from the top of highway 431. The Mt. Rose Wilderness has meandering meadows, challenging descents and plenty of chutes and basins to choose from. Plus, unlike other Tahoe backcountry skiing destinations, routes along the highway are dependable and rarely crowded.
Tamarack, Incline and Relay Peaks are worthwhile objectives
Aside from Mt. Rose summit objectives, skiing adjacent Tamarack and Incline Peaks are popular options. Tamarack Peak is a 1,000-foot (305 meter) climb from the car and has great views back to Lake Tahoe. The skiing is good on all sides. The northeast facing Hourglass Bowl is popular and less crowded. There’s also an Hourglass variation that will take you back to the Mt. Rose highway. The east facing Proletariat run, which is steeper, but the terrain is wider, allows for bigger turns. Another Mt. Rose Highway favorite is nearby Relay Peak for low-angle touring.
Find really long and low-angle ski touring on a skin from Tahoe Meadows to Relay Peak — the views of Lake Tahoe are some of the best in the area. It should be noted, though, that this tour shares a snowmobile path. Avoid heading into the Galena Creek Drainage, if you tour east routes. Also, traversing back around the mountain to reach your car requires staying high or another ascent to connect back with the highway.
Don’t head out before checking Mt. Rose backcountry conditions
Remember, Mt. Rose Highway backcountry conditions are worth checking before heading out for the day. The summit can be more difficult due to wind conditions in the winter. Mt. Rose’s elevation, however, results in great powder for much of the season.