Eastern Sierra Backcountry Ski Conditions

Eastern Sierra Backcountry Ski Conditions

Skinning under Ruby Peak in the Eastern Sierra backcountry during an Eastern Sierra Basecamp Trip.  2024-03-25.  Photo: Anouk Erni.

Eastern Sierra Backcountry Ski Conditions

2024-03-31  |  Rock Creek 3 Day Basecamp Trip


Road from SnoPark to Pack Station had been cleared of snow when we arrived. We used the road flanks to skin up, but walking would have worked as well. Past the Pack Station, the road had not been maintained and had about 2-3 ft of snow coverage. We established basecamp at 10400ft at the south end of Mack Lake about ½ mile past the Mosquito Flats TH. The stream to the south had a few water access points there when we arrived at 1pm (4 hr approach). I didn’t measure HS at basecamp but there was plenty of it, and a foot of new snow had fallen within the last 48 hours.

During our approach to basecamp, snowfall increased from S-1 to S2 and then stayed constant for the rest of the day. We toured in the afternoon to the base of the west flanks of Mt Morgan, but due to time and lack of visibility, we turned around before the west flanks and skied mellow trees. Snow here was a variety of wind slab and soft pow. Bowls and gullies had plenty of snow, but due to the previous week’s warm temps and snow melt, there were some sharks lurking beneath our skis especially in the benches descending to basecamp.

Overnight: snowfall increased with little wind, accumulating 1ft HSN by morning.

Skinning deep, fresh snow in the Rock Creek Drainage in the Eastern Sierra Backcountry.  Photo: Anouk Erni.

Skinning deep, fresh snow in the Rock Creek Drainage in the Eastern Sierra Backcountry.  Photo: Anouk Erni.


Toured through the Ruby Lake drainage and benches to access Ruby Lake. The recent storm snow was upside down and made for very slow travel. We skied Ruby Headwall on the SW side of the lake, where the slope maxed out at 35 deg we could do laps and reuse the skin track if we wanted. However, the HSN above the lake increase to 2-3t, and setting track here was even more arduous than expected. We transitioned at around 11800ft.

A fresh blanket of snow on blankets the terrain in the Rock Creek Drainage in the Eastern Sierra Backcountry on Saturday. Photo: Anouk Erni. 

The Rock Creek Drainage in the Eastern Sierra Backcountry. Photo: Anouk Erni.

On the up track, I heard repeated localized whumphing but no other evidence of instability on the slope we intended to ride. Up higher on the N slopes below Ruby Pk ridgeline, wind slab crowns and dry loose were prevalent. Dry loose was evident throughout the range on all aspects. The upside down storm snow also caused a slow descent with no float. I probed at around 11400ft and found several weak layers within the new storm snow, a buried P crust with 3-5cm of 4F facets underneath, then a strong mid pack beneath that. I could feel the snow from last year below. 

Overnight: very cold temps, estimated below 0F with some winds

Chilling at camp after a day of skiing deep snow!  SlingFin tents make camp comfortable in the Rock Creek Drainage in the Eastern Sierra Backcountry.  Photo: Anouk Erni.


From the previous day with a period of direct sun, breakable crust had formed in treed areas. The surface snow was either extremely cold, crusty, or moist, but all of it prevented us from gliding downhill. The previously cleared road below the Pack Station had 3-6 inches of new snow, which helped, but we had to free heal without skins down to the SnoPark. Very strange surface snow to be sure - it was more of a Nordic ski experience at this point.

Overall, coverage is good in open slopes, gullies, bowls and couloirs, and even more so with this recent storm. Once the new snow settles, it could be really good skiing back in there. Still, with fresh snow, travel is slow and far for big objectives if one can’t get to Long Lake to basecamp. Hopefully once this snow settles and firms up in the flats, this scenario will change. I suspect that if spring weather comes back to us, there will be some great skiing in Rock Creek in April and possibly May.


Skinning deep, fresh snow in the Rock Creek Drainage in the Eastern Sierra Backcountry.  Photo: Anouk Erni.


Skinning out of the Rock Creek Drainage on Day 3 in the Eastern Sierra Backcountry.  Photo: Anouk Erni.


Conditions Report by Blackbird Guide Anouk Erni.

Anouk is an Aspirant Mountain Guide through the American Mountain Guides Association.  

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