Passports: Five Springtime, Roadside Attractions

This article was originally published in April, 2014. 

Break out the warm-weather wax and buy another propane tank for your portable grill—it’s corn, couloir and road-lap season. East to west, snow-removal crews are hard at work clearing high-mountain routes that have been impassable during the winter months. And soon, they’ll be ready to ski, offering high-elevation, late-season turns, hot laps and roadside grilling well into early summer. Here are five mountain routes to get you there.

“The Most Beautiful Mountain Highway in the State of Washington”

A springtime tour on the Mesachie Glacier near Washington Pass. [Photo] Larry Goldie, North Cascades Mountain Guides

A springtime tour on the Mesachie Glacier near Washington Pass. [Photo] Larry Goldie, North Cascades Mountain Guides

Washington State Route 20 // Mazama, Wash. to Newhalem, Wash.
Highest Elevation: 5,477 feet
Typical Opening: mid-May
Average Snowfall: 60 feet
More Info:

“The terrain is incredible, it’s really stunning and it’s easy to get above tree line. A lot of people don’t get to ski the North Cascades Highway any other time of year so it can be busy; but there is so much terrain that people are spread out. Most come up and do the Birthday Tour. It is the most popular…it’s a day tour, a loop. A lot of people ski off the Washington Pass area, too, up by Blue Lake and near The Spires.” —Adrienne Schaefer, North Cascades Mountain Guides

The highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide

September snow on Independence Pass. [Photo] Shay Haas

September snow on Independence Pass. [Photo] Shay Haas

Colorado Highway 82 // Aspen, Colo. to Twin Lakes, Colo.
Highest Elevation: 12,095 feet
Typical Opening: mid-May
More Info:

“It’s a wonderland for all sorts to things. In the spring you can ski in the morning and then rock climb in the afternoon. Most people ski Geissler, Independence, Blue Mountain, Grizzly Peak or Yellow Boy. You just have so much high terrain available because you can drive so high, and you can ski all aspects.” —Dick Jackson, Director of Aspen Expeditions Worldwide

“It’s a great spring ritual here in Aspen to go up and have the opportunity to have great skiing about a month after the resort is closed. It is also a good place to introduce all ages to the bc. That is where I introduced my kids at the age of 10.” —Mike Maple of Aspen, Colo.

“The most spectacular eight miles of driving in New Hampshire”

The Mt. Washington Auto Road in March 2014. [Photo] Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce
The Mt. Washington Auto Road in March 2014. [Photo] Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce

Pinkham Notch, N.H. to the summit of Mt. Washington
Highest Elevation: 6,145 feet
Typical Opening: mid-May
Average Snowfall: 250 inches
More Info:

“It can be a popular place…it’s just the timing and how the snow has been. Sometimes all the snow melts before we are able to get the road opened. It’s different from people’s usual thoughts of Tuckerman Ravine: it’s laid back, really mellow. You can go make a few runs, stop and eat lunch and then go make a few more. There is also some really serious terrain in the Great Gulf: it’s a little bit of a hike and it’s really technical, steep, no-fall skiing. —Howie Wemyss, General Manager at the Mt. Washington Summit Road Company


“An All-American Road”

Beartooth Highway Clearing, April 29, 2014 from MontanaDOT.

US Route 212 // Red Lodge, Mont. and Cooke City, Mont.
Highest Elevation: 10,947 feet
Typical Opening: mid-May
Average Snowpack: ~150 inches
More Info: 

“You can drive up to 11,000 feet and ski a bunch of bowls and chute. There are quite a few lines to do yo-yo laps on, like Rock Creek Headwall and Gardner Headwall. Memorial Day is usually a pretty good party up there. People are hanging out—they have their campers and vans— and there’s definitely a scene up there. It’s become growingly popular over the years and brings people from all over the state.” —Austin Hart, Beartooth Mountain Guides

The Gateway to Yosemite

Ellery Lake near Tioga Pass. [Photo] TK

Early summer at Ellery Lake and Bowl near Tioga Pass. [Photo] Jerrye and Roy Klotz

California Route 120 // Yosemite, Calif. to Lee Vining, Calif.
Highest Elevation: 9,941 feet
Typical Opening: Early May
More Info:

“People are going for serious skiing—it’s not like a party hangout. People get up and go early. Everyone is excited to get up around 10,000 and go ski the steeper stuff: Dana Couloir, Solstice Couloir, Ellery Bowl. People like to ski toward Mt. Conness, North Peak and White Mountain.” —Mimi Vadasz, Alpine Skills International

Related posts:


  1. hey! You had an awesome article about skiing Highway 20 in one of your back issues. I went through my 12 year old stack and could not find it. Do you have an archive or a way I could find it. Perhaps you could help? Thanks guys

  2. Not that I’m giving up sacred knowledge, but a trip to the icefields parkway in Springtime is a must for the enthusiastic spring Skier looking for powder in April. Enjoy. See you at Beartooth Pass for Memorial Day!

Speak Your Mind