Maybe you’ve totally skied out Mount Ashland and are looking to mix it up. Maybe you’re just backcountry-curious and want to get in on the uphill ski trend. Regardless of your motivation, southern Oregon offers dozens of perfect places to learn how to backcountry ski or splitboard.
The region’s plentiful snow, vast stretches of public land, and variety of slope angles make it a haven for beginner and expert shredders alike. Of course, even these more mellow slopes can be subject to avalanche activity from time to time. Make sure you have the proper avalanche education and safety equipment, and always travel with a group of experienced backcountry skiers to help mitigate risk.
Now, without further ado, here are a handful of the top recommended spots for beginner to intermediate backcountry touring near Medford, Oregon.
The backcountry zones south and west of Mount Ashland offer some of the most accessible backcountry terrain near Medford. Because many of the slopes are only between 20 and 30 degrees steep, the area is well-suited to beginner and intermediate backcountry skiers. To access it, park at the lot just east of the Mount Ashland ski area. You can either descend Mount Ashland’s south-facing slopes, or tour west along NF-20 to find more solitude and a range of descent options, up to and including the fun, mellow west slope of Siskiyou Peak.
Long descents and gorgeous views make Mount McLaughlin one of the best options for weekend skiing near Medford. Here you’ll find glacially carved bowls with a variety of slope angles, as well as steeper terrain that caters to more experienced skiers. To get to the good skiing, trace the summer trail up the East Ridge (about 4.3 miles and nearly 4,000 feet of gain to the top). You can continue all the way to the summit or stop around 8,000 feet to access fun, open skiing on the south and east sides of the ridge. If you go all the way to the top, target the south-facing slopes for more stable snow, or retrace your steps down the East Ridge for a lower-angle route back down.
Crater Lake National Park closes its Rim Road to cars in the winter, giving human-powered outdoor adventurers (and the occasional snowmobiler) full reign. There are plenty of fun ski lines to be had within the park, but the section between The Watchman and Hillman Peak is one of the most accessible options. To get there, park at Rim Village, and tour clockwise around the lake, taking a spur to the west to reach the top of The Watchman. Once you top out, transition for a fun descent going north to the base of Hillman Peak. Then transition again, tour to the top of Hillman, and descend back down the way you came. From there, tour back to your car.