Location: Mt. Lassen National Park
Elevation Change: 2-4000′
Recomended Map: National Geographic – Lassen National Park
Mt. Lassen 10,457′ is a friendly Northern California peak to ski. There are small sub peaks surrounding it and a nice view to the north of Mt. Shasta on a clear day. You get the feeling of the chain of Cascade Volcanoes which start with the one your standing on. Rent an RV and let’s go! Mt. Lassen gets a ton of snow and it hangs on through the summer. The crux is getting to the slopes before the sun cups are too deep. The National Park does not plow the road for skier access. Call them and ask why not? Here is the strategy for each possible access point and the timing.
The southwest “Chalet” parking lot on hwy 89 is open all winter at 6700′. This is pretty far from the peak but doable in a long day at 13 miles and a 3700′ climb. Most people ski the smaller sub peaks from here. When the highway is mostly melted, some people will bike beyond this point with their skis to get to Mt. Lassen. This road opens to the higher south side parking lot at 8500′ in mid July, at which time the snow is very sun cupped everywhere. The steeper north and west sides will have less suncups. Go anyway. It’s a cool volcano and there is very little snow left anywhere else in the state worth skiing generally by July. And certainly not conveniently right next to your car like this higher south side parking lot. People rarely complain about the sun cups just because the novelty of climbing an easy Volcano to ski in the summertime is a kick in itself.
Another possibility for skiing Mt. Lassen in early season is to approach from the Manzanita lake Campground at the road closure on hwy 89, a few miles north of the peak. You can see the west slopes from your car and just beyond Manzanita Lake, which borders the road. I’m not sure if it’s okay to leave your car and go skiing from here, as I’ve never seen a park employee during the road closure. They do plow around the area near this gate. Go for it and leave a note on your car that you’ll be back soon!
The best ski descent on Mt. Lassen is the north side. Highway 89 becomes plowed to the “Devastated” parking area in early spring. This is a 3ish hour drive from Truckee and puts you about 4000′ below the summit. The snow is at your car and you rarely share the peak with more than one other party if any. The snow on the north side will be fairly smooth through the end of May and sometimes pretty good through June. The top looks extremely steep from far away, but it’s not bad. You can enter the north side on either side of the peak with a slope angle of about 35 degrees, or have fun walking down into the 40+ degree start just under the summit rocks. Remember; don’t drive north on hwy 89 from Truckee thinking your going to get to the devastated area parking lot before July. Check the Mt. Lassen road conditions on their website.
When hwy 89 finally opens all the way through the park in July, you’ll want to ski the north side for it’s smoother snow. However you also will want to take advantage of the higher south side parking lot where snow is at the car. The Devastated area beneath the north side will be burned out most likely quite a bit up the mountain. So when the road opens finally in July, I recommend parking at the high south side lot. After gaining the summit in 2000′, consider skiing about halfway down the north side. Put your skis on your backpack and hike back up when you run out of snow. Bring boot crampons, as the terrain is a bit steep for skinning everywhere on the upper north side. You’ll have logged about 4k and explored both sides of the peak, with no sand schlogging.
Combining Mt. Lassen with Mt. Shasta is a great weekend. Big brother and little brother about 100 miles apart. Bring ski and boot crampons to any Volcano or spring ski tour above tree line like this. The snow can be firm and the terrain is steep on the upper half of these volcanos. I haven’t skied the surrounding area, but it is fairly popular. Put some pictures of your trip in the reply to this website post please! OH, and Mt. Lassen last erupted between 1914 and 1921. It probably won’t erupt while you ski it though. Hard to say.