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 as this peak stretches out for half a mile from the north side to it’s east and south slopes.
For skiing the north and east sides, park near the entrance to Bliss State Park. In 2016 the CA State Parks told us that skiers can park in their small building lots, but I’m not sure I would trust that. They also said they would plow the un-used Bliss state Park Entrance parking lot, and did in 2015/2016, but didn’t in 2016/2017. There are not enough parking spaces out on hwy 89, as TRPA reduced skier access in 2016 all along hwy 89 right where we always depended on it. CALL THEM! TRPA is equally charged with enhancing recreation, as they are to protect lake clarity. In fact they completey erased our Jake’s Peak parking (the most popoular backcountry ski tour in Lake Tahoe), and only restored some of it only after the public went crazy in 2016. Please thank the Caltrans drivers who plow the hwy 89 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. CARPOOL and conserve parking along hwy 89 for other skiers! You can probably get 10 cars in the North Jake’s Peak pullout during stormy weather. We need triple that. The Eldorado Sherriff who has been patrolling this area told me he would NOT ticket skiers who park in this spot. There used to be more pullouts near this spot but TRPA reduced them, and Cal Trans has not been clearing them lately.
You can see the entire lake and the northern half 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 steep and straight uphill above your car to the summit. Most people skin up the snow covered dirt road, past the old cabins, and head up to an obvious saddle and 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. You will need good skinning skills and/or ski crampons at the small headwall.
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!