Location: West Shore – Lake Tahoe, CA
Duration: 1-2 hours
Elevation Change: 2,357′ – from 6,830′ to 9,187
Recommended Map: Emerald Bay, California
Map of General Route:
With some real sweat and skilled skinning, you can wind your way up to one of the most unreal lake view backcountry ski descents. Half the reason why you’re sweating is to beat the crowds to the top. The ski terrain is only moderately steep, but the skin tracks hide in the trees where it gets steeper. Locals prefer to avoid any chance of repeat avalanches that have shown us some real damage in the past. There’s a reason why you’ll see missing strips of trees in places. There are some common starting zones you should steer clear from, but Jake’s gets skied enough for you to figure it out by just showing up a little late. You’ll still get fresh tracks.
Don’t park in either of the Bliss State Park lots on either side of hwy 89. Skiers could rally for access to these lots in the future, but it hasn’t been neccessary. Caltrans kindly and reliably plows out a large pullout on the east side of hwy 89, just south of the Bliss State Park headquarters. Bring a big shovel; you’ll still need to help work out a clean parking spot after recent snow. The Eldorado Sherriff who has been patrolling this area recently told me he would NOT ticket skiers who park in this spot. It seems to be a pullout just for skiers that has been maintained by Caltrans for decades. THANKS!
You can see the entire lake and most of Desolation Wilderness from the large summit area of Jake’s Peak. This mountain offers beautiful and widely spaced old growth trees on its north and east slopes. Finding your way to the car on the north side can be tricky at times, but you’ll always hit the road if you go downhill. Look for tracks, listen for the road, or head back uphill to find the skin track if you get turned around down low. If you ski the popular wide-open, east facing avy paths, continue all the way to the road and walk back to your car.
When it’s time for springtime corn snow, park a mile further south on Hwy 89,at the Emerald Bay Avalanche Gate Closure Turn-around. Make sure you are well off the road, and not blocking room a plow may need at the turn-around. In times of firm morning snow and deep coverage, try just booting straight uphill above your car to the summit. Or skin up the snow covered dirt road, past the old cabins, and head up the avy gully above Emerald Bay. This area has recently become quite popular. The terrain is very steep up higher, and there are no trees for a reason… be careful over here.
Skiers have received parking tickets at times parking at the above mentioned “avy gate closure” due to the Nov – May rule. I got one on a sunny day, when I wasn’t in anyone’s way. The Caltrans plow crew had just told me I could park there that morning, as they always do. The local Sheriff says he will not ticket anyone in the early springtime, inferring that you don’t have to wait until May 1st if spring-like weather comes early. Anyway, you probably aren’t parking here during the wintertime because the slopes above are less safe compared to the North Side. Or maybe you know your snowpack and want to climb this south gully for one of many hidden steep couloirs on this side of the mountain. You can see them all from the Bayview Trailhead Parking area, drive over there and turn around!