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Stanley Idaho 3-days ski touring

3 days Skiing near Stanley, Idaho

In the beginning of March 2021, Marty and Danny joined me on a road trip to ski around Stanley Idaho. We didn’t have much snow in Tahoe, and I had never put skins on in this area. I have been out here over 10 times on mountain bike and dirt bike trips. The Sawtooths and Surrounding mountains between Ketchum and Stanley feel like being in Bridgeport to me; another recreation paradise I love. We had been out there 6 months earlier to ride and hike, so I decided to check out a few of the same peaks with snow on them.

Our first stop was skiing in the Titus Creek Drainage with my friend Craig. He lives out there and designed a tour for us that kept the angles low, due to some weak layers hiding in the snowpack. That’s the norm out there. We parked on the side of the road about a mile south of the Galena Summit XC Center and skinned up a ridge with great views in every direction. Craig took us to a NW facing run with burned forest and about 30-degree slope angle. We skied shin deep cold powder about 1500’ down to what I believe is Titus Creek. He was driving, I didn’t ask where we were. I’m just looking at Caltopo right now and guessing. We gained a little more trust in the snowpack and played around on the lower half of Titus Peak. We realized when we were way out there that we probably could have skinned to the summit on an east ridge. The temps were heating up and we had skied enough to call it for the day, content with our loop out there. The Galena Summit area offers a lot of ski touring possibilities and some food, as well as possible lodging at the little Nordic center right there.

On day two I picked out Thompson Peak 10,750’ to explore. This is the highest peak in the Sawtooths, which I hiked to the top 6 months earlier with Patrick, Danny and Sherrid. This was an amazing hike with the top 1/3 off trail. We slept in the Galena XC parking lot and drove north over Galena Summit in the morning to park in the Stanley Ranger Station Parking lot. We skinned the Thompson Peak summer trail route passed the huge, beautiful lake below Thompson peak and Williams Peak. The snow was wind hardened but we didn’t need ski crampons to reach the plateau at around 10,000’. Unfortunately, we didn’t see enough snow on the North or West side of Thompson Peak to ski, so we wandered around and enjoyed the views of surrounding peaks before heading back down. One solo skier came by doing a circumnavigation of Mt. Thompson. He came up our way and skied around the back of Thompson and descending on the south side of the peak, forming a lollypop tour from the Ranger Station. I also noticed that from the 10k Thompson Plateau, you could ski north to Goat Lake, or pop over towards Stanley Lake. Maybe Spend a night or three and stash a car on hwy 75.  I don’t know if Mt. Thompson gets snow up on top to ski off the summit in a big year. I’d say most likely. We were out there in a 75% normal snowpack.

On day three I decided to ski something at Banner Summit, which is on hwy 75 about 20 miles west of Stanley. It’s at the “horn”, which is a shape in the curve of the road. There are really great mountain bike and moto trails in this zone. It’s also a snowmobile access point. Banner Summit gets nearly double the snowpack compared to Sun Valley, Idaho. We had heard from the Galena XC owner that this was the case at this time. Deeper snow usually means less weak old facets to worry about down low in the snowpack. I only found one mention of this area online, and it was talk of ski touring nearby Copper Mountain. That looked similar and ok, but we wanted due North exposure. When we pulled over in the truck at the Banner Summit Sno Park, we could see a sweet Jake’s Peak type 2000’ mountain with a nice ridge to climb. We hopped in the skin track across the road from the truck and did two great laps in powder from the summit. Now I see this terrain is advertised on the Sawtooth Guides website as a location to go with their ski guides. This is a really pro guiding operation. I don’t know the guys personally, but I follow them on IG and know they are the real deal. The Sawtooths of Idaho look amazing. There are some Yurts you can rent through the guide operation as well. Don’t tell anyone you are from California, or that you read about the ski tours on my website. Swapping plates away from California wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

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