California’s ‘secret’ slopes

The exhilaration of deep powder, challenging runs and few crowds lure skiers to California’s “secret” slopes. PHOTO COURTESY VISIT CALIFORNIA

California is known for great skiing in Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley, Mammoth and Big Bear, but the state also has many secret slopes for backcountry skiing, as well as other “snow fun” activities. 

Mount Shasta’s backcountry

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Mount Shasta is known as one of the top five ski mountaineering peaks in the world. Its backcountry is loaded with deep maritime snow, and the reliable weather makes it ideal for intrepid skiers looking for the best off-piste runs. With an altitude of more than 14,000 feet, Mount Shasta is an adventurer’s paradise.

Mount Shasta offers hard-core skiers the adventure of a lifetime. The vertical relief is more than 7,000 feet, with just your own determination to get uphill. This is backcountry skiing, split-boarding and ski mountaineering. Hire a guide for a one to four-day “outside the boundaries” experience.

June Mountain

June Mountain Ski Area

3819 CA-158, June Lake


Located in Mono County, this under-the-radar area delivers great powder and more than 7,000 acres of challenging terrain for backcountry skiers to explore. Its standard slopes are perfect for families, especially since kids under 12 ski free.

June Mountain refers to itself as “California’s Family Mountain” because of its “family friendly” atmosphere that features ski trails for every level of experience and ability. June Mountain is only a 20-minute shuttle ride from Mammoth and a one-hour plane flight from LAX. 

The June Lakes area is known for steep alpine flanks towering thousands of feet over the lakes on the narrow valley floor. The hanging bowls, rocky spires and tumbling couloirs have given the area the tourism tagline, “California’s Switzerland.” Skiers looking for fresh powder and deep snow that’s under the radar should seek out June Mountain. 

A number of companies offer guided backcountry ski tours. 


Tenaya Lodge and Badger Pass

Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite

1122 CA-41, Fish Camp


Badger Pass Ski Area

7082 Glacier Point Road

Yosemite National Park


Just two miles from Yosemite’s South Gate in Mariposa, Tenaya Lodge is the ideal base for exploring the trails of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada forest. Ski from Badger Point to Dewey Pass to take in incomparable views of El Capitan and Yosemite Forest. 

A Yosemite tradition since 1935, the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area (Badger Pass Ski Area) is the oldest ski area in California and offers a range of national park winter recreation for enthusiasts of all skill levels. A perfect family destination with 85% of the terrain devoted to beginner or intermediate skiers. 

Cross-country skiers can enjoy nearly 100 miles of marked trails leaving from Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, including 25 miles of machine-groomed trail for striding and skate skiing. The Nordic Center rents all types of Nordic skis (classic, skate and telemark) as well as snowshoes.

For those who want a bit of fun snow play, a tubing hill adds to the ski area’s allure.

Dodge Ridge Ski Area

1 Dodge Ridge Rd



Located in Tuolumne, Dodge Ridge is the closest ski area to San Francisco. Featuring 67 runs, 12 lifts and 1,600 vertical feet with 862 skiable acres, the area has something for everyone from challenging ski runs to first timer and children’s lessons.

Opened in 1950, this family-owned and run resort was founded on the ideals of family. Beginning with the Purdy Family and since 1976 with the Helm Family, Dodge Ridge celebrates core family values. 

Alpenglow Expeditions

1985 Squaw Valley Road #23

Olympic Valley

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One of the top guiding companies in Squaw Valley, Alpenglow Expeditions, offers a backcountry tour allowing newbies to explore the backcountry in a single run, using the chair lifts at Squaw Valley. The tour gives guests a taste of backcountry skiing and riding in The Tram Ridge zone beyond Broken Arrow.

Ski and ride outside the ski area boundaries of Lake Tahoe’s premier resort with Alpenglow’s AMGA certified guides. Riding the lifts means less time hiking and more time skiing and riding this incredible backcountry terrain.

The expeditions include the coveted terrain of National Geographic bowl outside of Granite Chief. Each group has their own private guide. Priced at $235 per person (four skiers minimum). This tour is for intermediate and advanced skiers. Good physical fitness is recommended. At a minimum, skiers/riders should be able to ski multiple laps in ungroomed terrain and hike for up to an hour while carrying a light pack. 

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