Alpine Lakes High Camp ski adventures!
Nestled in the trees in the high country of the eastern slopes of the Cascades you can find cozy cabins waiting for you to set out and explore the ski diverse terrain, far removed from the resort crowds and mayhem.
Written by MM guide Arthur Herlitzka
On an early weekday morning in late January of 2021 Jose from King 5 News program Evening Magazine, Mark Gunlogson and a group of Mountain Madness guides met up with Justin Donohue and Cedric from Alpine Lakes High Camp. We met with our ski gear and enough food for two nights and three days of backcountry skiing. We had a short briefing about the plan for the day, and soon commenced loading up the snow cat, snowmobiles, and epic 4×4 land rover snow machines for some trail breaking.
The team was set — enough of us found schedule alignment to warrant a trip up to the Alpine Lakes High Camp. The high camp consists of various A‑Frame style off-grid wooden cabins and bunkhouses, a main lodge with dialed commercial kitchen communal space and board games, utility shed, and did I mention wood fired sauna and ice plunge?
Where’s it at? — the Alpine Lakes High Camp is situated on private land bordering the wilderness boundary of Alpine Lakes Wilderness, 8+ miles deep and the only way to get out there in the winter is via hiking or a snow cat ride. A few minutes hiking out the cabin door and you are stepping foot into Wilderness and National Forest. We met the crew about 30 minutes west of Leavenworth toward Stevens Pass at the garage facility where the snow machines are kept.
As we would discover, the place is great for all levels of skiers and snow boarders and a great reason to take a backcountry ski course to get prepared for this unique Cascadian experience.
Our goal for this trip — to familiarize ourselves with the operation, the logistics, the lodging, and most importantly the surrounding ski terrain. Jose came equipped with camera gear and mics to make a King 5 news story about the MM collaboration with Alpine Lakes High Camp.
Our first day after travel and unpacking consisted of shredding down ‘Wild Bill Hill’ right out the door of our lovely cabins. The hill provides 700ft of low angle tree skiing to lap on a whim, so we Jose took advantage of the accessibility to coordinate some interviews and a few camera shots of powder turns. We turned in early to cook some nourishing food and prep for a scouting mission the next day.
A good nights sleep and overnight temperatures of 14 degrees F accompanied by 18 inches of new low density snow meant it was game on for trail breaking and an adventurous day. Even with our close proximity to Stevens Pass, the overnight new snow for Stevens was only 5 inches compared to the 18 inches we got. Not complaining…
So much new snow in such little time contributed to us dialing back our terrain selection for skiing as the snowpack was showing us signs of instability. Best not to push it too far when the new snow hasn’t yet bonded well to the preexisting snowpack. We stuck to low angle terrain and made sure our ascent tracks didn’t expose us to any avalanche terrain.
Fortunately with skillful terrain selection, a high avalanche danger day doesn’t mean you cant ski powder safely. We headed west of the high camp toward Mt. Baldy and the Alpine lakes to get a view of future ski objectives and get the approach dialed in for our next trip. Not to mention some deep powder turns.
Although human powered skiing is enjoyable, we were keen on experiencing the benefits of having some machine assistance as well. After scouting the Baldy zone we returned to camp to refuel and finish our afternoon with a snow machine taxi ride to go ski some fall line powder and pillows. Nice!
On our final day we continued familiarizing ourselves with the landscape and of course scored a few machine powered laps on a classic run in the zone named Heart Stopper. All in all, a successful trip providing our Mountain Madness guides with the tools and knowledge to facilitate epic adventures for our future guests in the area.
We all agree that Alpine Lakes High Camp is a great venue for both beginners and advanced skiers alike. Whether it be guided cat skiing, human powered adventures into the alpine, overnight AIARE Avalanche courses, or Backcountry Skiing Fundamentals courses, the high camp is a prime place to bring family and friends, skiers and non-skiers for a remote rustic outdoor experience close to home.
Until next time.