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Alice Lake – Sawtooths Idaho 3-day Ski tour

Alice Lake Wilderness 3-day Ski tour April 9-12, 2021

Sawtooths near Stanley, Idaho

My second ski tour in Idaho will be hard to top. My friend Craig Wolfrom and his friend Baldwin invited me on their spring ski tour to Alice Lake in the Sawtooths. Henry and I drove out to Craig’s house in Hailey, and we towed their really old snowmobiles out to give us a 4-mile bump across Pettit Lake. We didn’t have peaks in mind or any real beta, but Craig had been out there in the summer. I just needed to see one picture online of this area in summer to be sold. Plus, if this is the zone Craig picked out for his season ending backcountry ski trip in his local backyard mountains, that’s all I need to hear. Craig is a professional outdoor photographer and does weddings as well. If you are in the Sawtooths and need those services, look him up! He is also a pro on the river. AND Craig worked at The BackCountry in around 2001 for a year or two.

The weather looked great. Temps went down to zero at night, which wasn’t awesome, but daytime temps were perfect with no wind. I took a ton of pictures and haven’t looked at them since that one day we got back to Tahoe. That’s a sign that life is good. I get busy doing other fun things and taking more pictures I won’t look at for years. Now that I’m working on this website blog, I get to check out my shots and look at a map again to remember where we actually went.

The snowmobiles didn’t look so perfect. The “better” one lost its pull chord on first yank. It was pretty cold outside to enjoy working on a snowmobile, but Craig and Baldwin knew what to do. Go figure. They had a strap to wrap around the starter wheel and a few pulls got it running. The older sled was for me and Henry to double up on. It topped out at about 7 MPH, and we crossed our fingers as we rode straight over Pettit Lake on the very last day anyone had any business crossing that lake. There was open water all around the shore and the surface was a funny blue color that looked like the last stage before melting. On the return 3 days later, I just skinned around the whole lake. No way was I getting on the sled again for no reason. The other guys rode across and lived obviously, but at that point it looked really bad. I suggested just leaving the sleds there and collecting them next season.

Once across Pettit Lake, we began a beautiful 6-mile skin into Alice Lake with about 1600’ of climbing. We set up our tents and went out to check out the snow. I suggested a Northwest facing side of a ridge that looked like a small peak across the lake. I was thinking some sun warmed crust could ski ok in the afternoon and we would get up high to see what ski objectives looked worthy. And how sketchy can the snowpack be on a west face? In the Sierra, west facing terrain gets stripped and isn’t usually very steep. This was just the ticket to see that the local big peaks were Perfect Peak and Snowyslide.

After our 1500’ west facing trial slope, we skied over to the big guy next door called Perfect Peak. That was too tricky looking to summit, so we skinned up to another point on the ridge. I named this Facet Mountain. It was pure 12” deep facets on top of shale rock. No avy danger there, let’s call it “weak over rock”. That skied ok and we went back to crash hard in the tents. The bonus of suffering cold winter snow camping is that you are in position to climb the best peaks in the morning. Let the sun hit the tent and get a leisurely start if you are camped at Alice Lake. We might have been skinning by 9am I bet. The surrounding peaks are about 2000-3000’ up.

On day two we aimed for Snowyslide. It looked pretty friendly and was east facing, with a long ridge up top that was a bit more serious to travel for the summit. We left our skis at the top of the snow slope and used crampons and ice axes to climb up to the top. That was amazing. I know you can climb this peak in the summertime. I would go back for a night at Alice Lake and some similar peak scrambling. There was no wind on top and we took a gazillion pictures. The ski down was pretty good on old pow, and we decided to get one more peak in. Next door was a perfect 35 degree south facing run off peak 10,049. We found perfect corn snow for 2000’ back to the tents. That night I easily cut down dead trees with my folding saw and we had an amazing fire for the second night in a row. I called this second peak Mount Wolfrom, for Craig who got us out there.

On the 3rd day of our ski tour, I knew I wanted to ski the two-bump peak right in front of us. I called it Tale of Two Tities. I’m not weird or vulgar but come on…. that’s what it should be called.  We scored some old dry powder up there and beat the afternoon warming that was coming. At the bottom of this 1500’ chute the 3 of us lounged in the warm rocks and watched Craig go back up alone to ski a beautiful little notch next door to TTT.

We nailed this trip. No intel, and we found every peak in site to be a good ski peak. We saw really sweet west facing terrain to ski on the back side of these peaks, but I know I won’t be back to multi-day tour in the same area again. And Perfect Peak almost went through to the top. We could have made that work with a little more investigation. I loved the rock formation called El Capitan, halfway between Pettit and Alice Lakes. There was a steep line that craig said his guide friend skied a week earlier by rappelling into it.

The Sawtooths are big and kind of friendly. Nothing too steep or high. Easy parking. Good weather forecast and no crowds. You just have to deal with lower snowpack depths and persistent weak layers in the first half of the year. Or maybe that’s all year. We are not avalanche pros, but we know Idaho isn’t the Sierra. Hire the real pros at Sawtooth Mountain guides and they will have you on remote peaks no one has heard about at home. I love looking at their IG.

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