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Top 5 Glaciers to Ski This Summer

Before dropping the Middle Teton, Griffin Post and his crew had the opportunity to contemplate their sanity.

Before dropping the Middle Teton, Griffin Post and his crew had the opportunity to contemplate their sanity.

Copyright: Zahan Billimoria

If hiking for your turns during the spring means you’re committed, what does hiking for you turns during the peak of summer make you? Aside from chemically unbalanced, it makes you lucky. A number of glaciers still exist in North America (believe it or not), from the Sierras to the Tetons, offering skiers and riders excellent backcountry skiing and summer ski touring opportunities. 

Here are the top five glacier skiing spots in North America to scratch (or should we say shred) that summer skiing itch. As is likely evident from the photos and video below, some of these lines are very steep, technical and high-consequence with tricky conditions (not to mention crevasses) that require avalanche training and ski mountaineering skills. Going with a guide or somebody who knows the route and conditions is advised. 

1. Grand Teton National Park: Glacier Route, Middle Teton

Iconic, daunting and beautiful, the Glacier Route (east face) of Wyoming's Middle Teton is no cupcake. The lengthy trek tops out at 12,350 feet and delivers some 7,000 plus feet of vertical straight to your quads (trailhead to summit). Be prepared to leave in the wee hours of the morning and to do some serious boot packing near the summit. 

2. Glacier National Park: Salamander Glacier

Just as the park's name implies, summer skiers and splitboarders will find multiple options for glacier fed ski turns in Glacier National Park, situated in in Montana's Rocky Mountains. Salamander Glacier spans approximately 42 acres (as of 2005) at an elevation of 7,200 feet. The glacier sits on a shelf on the east side of the ridge. Salamander Glacier can be reached via Grinnell Glacier Trail (the trail is 5.5 miles one way and gains 1,600 vertical feet).  

3. Mount Shasta: Hotlum-Wintun Glacier

When your friends ask you what you did today over a round of beers this August, you can coolly reply, "Today, oh, I skied a volcano." Mount Shasta is located in the Cascade Range of northern California, boasting a 14,162-foot summit. To access the Hotoon permanent snowfield located between Hotlum and Wintun glaciers for summer skiing, take the Brewer Creek Trail to the north side of the Hotlum-Wintum Ridge for direct lines and crevasse-free descents. 

4. Sierra Nevada: Palisade Glacier

Located in the John Muir Wilderness area of California's Sierra Nevada, Palisade Glacier descends from North Palisade Peak (the third highest peak in the Sierra Nevada range at 14,242 feet). Hike or skin up the North Fork of Big Pine Canyon to access and ski the Palisade glacier. Ascend the glacier beneath the vertical walls of Temple Crag and descend nearly 2,000 feet back down to Third Lake or, if the legs and lungs are up for the challenge, keep heading upward toward your choice of couloirs.  

5. Mount Rainier: Paradise Glacier

View of Mt. Rainier from Summit House.   - © Becky Lomax

View of Mt. Rainier from Summit House.

Copyright: Becky Lomax

Mount Rainier claims the highest point in Washington State, scraping the sky at 14,411 feet. This stratovolcano is a training ground for mountaineers across the Northwest, providing a variety of ascents and descents. Paradise Glacier is home to a number of crevasses, so it's best to ski earlier in the summer and be aware that route selection is key. To mitigate the danger, hike up the relatively crowded Muir Snowfield to access the Paradise descent.

Ski Resorts Still Open 

Glacier Summer Skiing Notable Mentions:

• Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: Tyndall Glacier
• Mount Hood, Oregon: South Side Route (Hogsback)
• Mount Baker, Washington: Boulder Glacier
• Wind River Range, Wyoming: Titcomb Basin

Expect to pay a climbing fee and obtain a climbing permit (if required) before attempting some or all of these climbs. Note: heavily researching each of these routes is recommended, as they vary by skill level and can be extremely dangerous to the uninitiated climber.


Before dropping the Middle Teton, Griffin Post and his crew had the opportunity to contemplate their sanity.  - © Zahan Billimoria
View of Mt. Rainier from Summit House. - © Becky Lomax
Palisade Glacier - © Jeffrey Roe
Backcountry: Glacier NP: Header

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