Given the level of backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering occuring today, few mountains in the lower 48 states have been left unexplored. Nonetheless, the Washington Cascades remain one of the more wild and raw ranges south of the 49th Parallel. Writing a guidebook to skiing Washington’s Cascade Range that represents the current level of skiing and exploration taking place is no easy task, but it’s exactly what Martin Volken, founder and owner of Pro Guiding Service, and his fellow ski guides have done. Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes Washington offers a diverse collection of tours and traverses that speak to today’s aggressive ski scene while still offering classics that should make the to-do list of any backcountry skier.
Three years in the making, the book includes 81 tours in six regions – the Olympics, North Cascades, North Central Cascades, Central Cascades, Mount Rainier and South Cascades, plus a final bonus tour, the Spearhead Traverse, north of the border in British Columbia. From the easily accessible slopes of Mt. St. Helens to aggressive modern descents like the North Face of Buckner and the Cascade-Johannesburg Couloir, Volken and crew offer something for everyone.
Understanding the task to write this book was a large one, Volken enlisted the expertise of his follow ski guides to ensure local knowledge and know-how would permeate the book. The routes are well researched and easy to read, with contributing authors noted for each tour. The included maps are nice for reference, but you’ll have to establish your own gps coordinates if putting together a tour plan. All routes include overall difficulty ratings as well as specific ski skill ratings based on slope angle of descent and an overall commitment rating related a route’s remoteness.
Though Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes Washington shares some common routes with Rainer Burgdorfer’s original (and revamped version of) Backcountry Ski Washington’s Cascades , Volken’s new book looks at the Cascades with an eye for aggressive, modern routes and traverses, where snowmobile access, steep midwinter descents and multi-day adventure define the sport. Volken’s book has plenty of options to keep you inspired, and it lays out 11 multi-day traverses including the classic Ptarmigan and more recently pioneered North Central Cascades traverses.
The Washington Cascades encompass 15,000 square miles. In Volken’s words, it’s the area’s “no huts, no help, no heli atmosphere” that defines it. Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes Washington offers a diverse collection of tours, descents and traverses that showcase this very atmosphere.