Wallowa Mountains - Backcountry Skiing

These flagship mountains of Northeast Oregon offer rugged and expansive terrain, with legendary areas such as Norway Basin, McCully, and Wing Ridge. While popular in the summer, the Wallowas are largely untouched in the winter since access is difficult and the local outdoor crowd are mostly hunters and snowmobilers. La Grande Ride offers local expertise in trip planning and other support services. The Wallowa Alpine Huts offers the ski guiding service and yurt rental in the Wallowas.

Many locals refer to it as "The Eagle Cap." Most of the range's peaks are around 8000' to 9000', with several above 9000' which comprise 12 of the top 20 highest peaks in Oregon. The glacier carved valleys create some winter navigation problems, with avalanche danger being a major concern. At least 3 fatalities have happened in the Aneroid Lake area and 2 near Halfway. Be sure to use the Wallowa Avalanche Center for information before travel.

Common access points include Salt Creek Summit, Cornucopia/Halfway, Hurricane Creek, and Joseph/Wallowa Lake. Our backcountry ski map access pack provides detailed descriptions and maps for backcountry access in the Wallowas. See also Hikes in the Wallowas for some summer trails that might give you some more ideas, but keep in mind that many summer trails travel through terrain traps. Also, many of the trailheads aren't accessible by car in the winter.

Burger Butte Ski

The summer trail to China Cap offers a relatively safe approach to Burger Butte summit, where there are several ski options. But beware, as Burger is the site where a large avalanche on the NW face tore through mature timber in 2011 leaving a new slide path is strikingly visible from across the valley in La Grande. The route here starts at Buck Creek Trailhead and departs from the trail before is wraps around Burger to the North.

The approach to the summit via this route is not too technical. The last 100 ft. are a little more difficult but you'll find some relatively benign exits of...
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Cornucopia Peak Backcountry Ski

The ridge of Cornucopia Peak creates a large U-shaped ski-able formation with a pretty consistent shape on both south and north aspects. The top of the ridge is mostly 35-40 degree-angled slopes that gradually run out to mellower terrain. This can make for both fun skiing but challenging terrain to climb with avalanche danger. The route shown here is meant to be one of the less dangerous ways to gain the ridge, starting at the bench where Schneider Cabin is located.

The SW aspect is known by the locals as "Avalanche Alley," a common spot where snowmobilers poach wilderness and have t...
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Salt Creek Summit SnoPark

This is the launch point for the most popular winter destination on the east side of the Wallowas. The road is plowed to Salt Creek Summit at 6120' where there is a large parking lot, bathrooms, and a warming cabin. For skiing, nordic, and snowshoeing, this start point is very close to the wilderness so you can have quick access to high terrain without the need for a snowmobile. There is plenty of snowmobiling opportunities here too, to the south and east of parking. Read more about Salt Creek Summit SnoPark