Sierra Eastside

The eastern Sierra backcountry ski touring is simply world class.  Rocky peaks and steep chutes with strings of lakes below them.  A mecca for spring touring.

US Highway 395 travels up the Owens Valley to the high brackish waters of Mono Lake, underneath the 14,000 foot crest of the Sierra.  From the Mojave desert in the south to Nevada in the north, there are no roads open that traverse to the west for 250 miles.  Dozens of roads approach the Sierra, some paved and many more dirt.  There may still be some first descents here, though it has become a spring ski touring and mountaineering hotspot.  Want to drop into some death-defying chutes?  This is your place.  Pray the chutes are truly death-defying.

There is also fine ski touring country.  In the short days of winter, the few plowed roads provide your best access to the mountains, but you may also find good touring the desert valley.  More and more areas become accessible as the roads melt out in the spring, with May and June being highly popular.

Please assess your abilities and what sort of activity or adventure you can safely pursue. No warranty is made regarding the accuracy of this information and all your activity is at your own risk. Check avalanche advisories, weather reports, trail conditions, etc.  Know what to take.

See Kickapedia for explanation of terms.


Mammoth Area Weather


Nordic Resorts

State areas

  • Rock Creek offers extensive touring opportunities, with overnight accommodations and food offered trailside by Rock Creek Lodge.  The lower five miles of trail are usually groomed and beyond that is some of the best off-piste x-c exploring to be had anywhere.
  • California SnoParks provides a full listing.

Other areas

  • The eastside of the Sierra is a spring touring paradise.  Most all of the roads heading into the Sierras will have some sort of touring at the point where their plowing stops.  Even touring across the flats of the basins (of which there are endless opportunities) can be exhilarating when there is enough snow.  Snowmobiles often share trails but are few.  There are also excellent touring opportunities on roads on the east side of the basin, heading into the White Mountains, the road to Bodie ghost town and others.  Highway 120 (to and over Tioga Pass) offers excellent snowmobile-free touring opportunities when it is plowed in May or June.
  • The Inyo National Forest publishes a guide to ski areas and a winter recreation map that shows the areas closed to motorized use
  • The Inyo National Forest includes lands both in the Sierra and the White Mountains (which forms the eastern wall of the Owens Valley).  The White Mountains offer incredible ridgeline skiing through ancient bristlecone pine forest with extensive views across the Owen Valley to the High Sierra.
  • In the Bridgeport Winter Recreation Area in the Humboldt Toiyabe Forest is Sonora Pass. Highway 108 closes for the winter at Pickle Meadows. From there skiers can climb towards the Pacific Crest Trail.


  • Tamarack Lodge, close to Mammoth, is an old resort with a charming lodge and wonderful restaurant, with easy trails around the Lake Mary lakes.
  • Many options in Mammoth Lakes, June Lake and Bishop.

Wilderness Lodges

  • Rock Creek Lodge, in the wonderful Rock Creek valley, offers private cabins and home cooked meals with access to some of the finest low angle kick and glide touring on the eastside.  Five miles of trail are generally groomed.  They also offer a private yurt at the end of the groomed trail up Rock Creek, where the really fun touring begins.  The yurt has a wood and propane stoves with cooking utensils.  It sleeps up to six if everyone really likes each other. Beyond that, as you ski further up the string of lakes, you may need to lay the tracks, or you may get lucky!
  • The summer camp office at Tuolomne Meadows serves as a backcountry hut.


Rental Shops

Guide Services

  • Sierra Mountain Guides offers backcountry ski tours in this mecca for ski touring.
  • Sierra Mountain Center offers a number of trips and programs for winter (as well as summer) skiers and climbers out of Bishop.
  • SWS Mountain Guides provides backcountry ski tours and mountaineering on the Eastside as well as Mt. Shasta.

Other links

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