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All out Southback Traverse

Crystal Mountain

Hitting all the main peaks in the Backcountry of Crystal Mountain

Ski Touring Difficult

23 km
3 km
3 km
1 day +
Low Point
1.3 km
High Point
2.1 km
All out Southback Traverse Map

The Southback Full traverse is the perfect spring mission when all the stars align. What you need is for it to be a few days after a storm where people have been getting into the backcountry then a nice clear day. You will need an early start where you can summit and ride all the main peaks within the Crystal Mountain backcountry. There is no doubt that this is a long day but if you pull it off then this is a ski tour you will remember for many years to come.


The Southback Full Traverse can be started either by lift access heading directly to the Southback or via skinning up Silver Basin. The policies at Crystal has changed over the years but this is one of the Southback trips that doesn’t have an access issue.

The traverse starts at the northeastern Col of 3 Way Peak where it is an easy ramp all the way to the summit. Once on top drop down the main gully and start traversing hard skiers right just as you get to the bench until you get just below a tree covered ridge. With a little bit of luck there will already be a skin track up to Joe’s Band Ass Shoulder but if not lay a few well placed switch turns to gain the ridge. Standing on top focus your attention on the Northeast slope and ride down following a gully on the skiers right. Before long this gully will start to be filled with trees and it is time to switch over to ascending for your next run.

By now you are just a bit north of a run named Gunbarrel and with a bit of navigating on a treed ridge you will soon enough be next to where you drop in. Traverse to the summit of Gunbarrel with caution as this is a huge avalanche trap and should only be done if you feel confident with stability. Once on top ride all the way down to Upper Henskin Lake before starting you next ascent. Directly south of you is a wide open slope that you need to skin up the lookers left side before doing a steep traverse into Dogleg Bowl. You will spot a nice ramp that leads all the way to the ridge then before long you will be standing on the summit. Make your way down the Northeast slope before dropping into a nice gully which is north facing and once in the flatter terrain switch over to skinning and do a low angle climb East towards Bear Gap.

Once at Bear gap then it is a relatively easy climb up the west ridge of Pickhandle Peak. Standing on the summit focus your attention on the North bowl as you start descending into Pickhandle Basin with the end goal of riding all the way to the base of Crystal Mountain. Making your way down be cautious as there is a waterfall you will need to go skiers right of which is just above the Gold Hills lift. Once past that ride to the base and refill on calories and drink as much water as you can hold as you still have two more climbs.

Leaving the base of Crystal Mountain make your way up the groomer on the lookers left of Gold Hills. Following the maintained trail through the forests you will soon hit the summer hiking route up Bullions Basin and make your way up. The trail is quite straightforward until you reach the upper basin where you need to start heading west with a slight gain in elevation. If done correctly you will reach the northwest ridge of Bullions Peak then follow this all the way to the summit.

Standing on top of Bullions Peak focus your attention on the skiers left side and drop this gully all the way to the bottom of the basin where you need to switch over to skinning. Head north and back to the summer trail where after the trail switchbacks start looking for a relatively open treed slope on the lookers left. This is the access point to East Peak where you need to follow the trees up with some well placed switchbacks and before long you will be standing on top and ready to descend. There are many different options for the descent but one of my favourite options is following the West ridge until connecting once again with the summer trail and riding it all the way to the Crystal Mountain Base.

If you made it all the way to the end of this trip congratulations as it is a long one. Now you have a good idea of how long and involved this ski tour is….Good Luck.

Click here for a trip within the area and much more photos https://www.whereiskylemiller.com/crystal-mountain/crystal-southback/



Serious gradient of 30-38 degrees where a real risk of slipping exists.

Medium Exposure (E2)

2 out of 4

As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.


1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

between February and May


  • Bowl
  • Face
  • Alpine
  • Ski Safari
  • Tree Skiing

Equipment required

  • Skins

Similar routes nearby