Twin Peaks/Grouse Rock
Location: West Shore – Lake Tahoe, CA
Duration: 1 – 2 hours
Elevation Change: 1,678′ – from 7,200′ to 8,878′
Recommended Map: Ward Peak & Sunnyside, California
If you’ve skied Alpine Meadows, you may have wondered how to get over to this nearby backcountry beauty. The summit has amazing views of Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness, and a bit of rock scrambling to reach the top. Stepping down into the notch between the two peaks is also a bit unnerving as you pass your skis to your partner. Don’t drop them! The top few turns are about 50 degrees, but have never been scary wind hardened snow from my trips up there. Perhaps the wind doesn’t hit the slope as hard at the top. Obviously a ski descent like Twin Peaks is not for beginners. I guess you could ski back the way you came up if you don’t want to drop the main line.
Your choices are either to skin a long and sometimes icy 1000’ to the top of Twin Peaks from the edge of the Alpine Meadows Ski Area, which also entails navigating your way to the Sierra Crest from the top of Ward Canyon, near the Sherwood Chair. If you want to earn your turns without a lift ticket dangling from your jacket, park at the end of Ward Creek Road; a 5-mile drive from the Sunnyside area on the West Shore. The privately owned parking area at top is maintained for Ward Canyon residents, for accessing the Sherwood Chairlift. They have been friendly towards skiers going for early season powder, or anytime this backside lift isn’t running. Don’t park here when the chairlift is in operation, as you will be competing with homeowners that have a parking pass. The backside of the ski area usually opens around Christmas, just in time for you to graduate to bigger Tahoe ski tours anyway.
In 2016 I heard that KSL Corp doesn’t want you skinning up to Grouse Rock or anywhere in the backcountry from or near the ski area. They lease the land from USFS and something about their permit allows them to perform avy control and possibly even dictate travel anywhere you could conceivably ski from the ski area boundary. Ummmmm that doesn’t surprise me from KSL. But we are going to access our public lands to enjoy human powered recreation my friends. Seriously! People have been backcountry skiing Twin Peaks for decades before KSL real estate developers heard of Lake Tahoe. I like to skin up below the peak and just to the climbers right and don’t go near the now controversial Grouse Rock area. You could possibly just boot straight up the face, but then you are exposing yourself to less understood conditions for a long time, and possibly even other skiers. It is doubtful however that you’ll be sharing a Twin Peaks ski descent with another party on the same day, although snowmobilers track out the lower slopes. If you find good snow on the way down, lap it again. The descent of Twin Peaks is a lot of time and effort for a relatively short slope.
You’ll need skins to get back, as the terrain is quite flat below the Twin Peaks. And consider a lap below Stanford Rock, to the left of the peak. Skin up into those steep NW facing trees by first gliding downhill with skins off from the Sherwood Chair. Back to the Grouse Rock backcountry ski terrain, this is a popular early season slope to ski. It doesn’t take much snow depth to cover the ground below the Sierra Crest right here. And no one is parking up there because the ski area backside isn’t open yet.
Location: West Shore – Lake Tahoe, CA
Duration: 1 hour or less
Elevation Change: 1,433′ – from 7,040′ to 8,473′
Recomended Map: Ward Peak & Sunnyside, California
Stanford Rock is a West Shore quickie you can hit from the bottom of Sherwood Chair, at Alpine Meadows Ski Area. Stanford Rock offers a short, moderately steep, treed slope, that holds winter powder for a long time. Climbing up to Stanford Rock is worthwhile just for the stunning and close range view of Twin Peaks. From the Sherwood Chair, head downhill unnaturally, and away from the lift. Find the base of the north facing treed slope you saw from you car, and pick the path of least resistance. You will often find a skin track here. Coming back can get a bit confusing, and requires putting your skins back on for a short stretch. Head over for a run below Grouse Rock if you still have time.
I’m not sure what Alpine Meadows stance is on ski touring in this area. USFS owns all the land, and you can’t accidentally lure the resort skiers up the hill and into trouble.
Park at the end of Ward Creek Road; a 5-mile drive from the Sunnyside area on the West Shore. The privately owned parking area at top is maintained for Ward Canyon residents, for accessing the Sherwood Chairlift. They have been friendly towards skiers going for early season powder, or anytime this backside lift isn’t running. Don’t park here when the chairlift is in operation. The backside of the ski area usually opens around Christmas, just in time for you to graduate to bigger Tahoe ski tours anyway.
Map of General Routes: