Entry Level Steep Skiing


6 - 7









FATMAP difficulty grade



The northwest face of Pattison is a fairly good entry-level steep skiing run.

A popular route that is accessible via Blackhomb Glacier, it requires long traverses through rugged summit terrain to reach couloirs with good visibility and relatively simple, straightforward descents. Avalanche risk is graded ATES: Complex as there are several steeper faces that require skinning up.

It also crosses several glaciers.

It is recommended to have a crevasse rescue kit on hand and the full suite of ski mountaineering skills.

Getting to the face involves a lot of up and down, with many transitions, a great way to train for ski mountaineering races or traverse efficiency. Because this route is accessed from the Blackhomb Glacier, you will need to have a pass or purchase a Backcountry Day Pass.

The Backcountry Day Passes require you to show you have the appropriate equipment when you buy it.

They cost $70.

Honestly, this price is too high unless you are doing the full Spearhead Traverse. From the base, take Exalibur to Exelerator Chair.

Ski down to the Glacier Chair, and then the Showcase T-Bar.

A brief bootpack gets you onto the track in Blackhomb Bowl.

Walk a ways to the east and drop in farther along.

Stay high as you head to the east-most ridge.

As you approach, you will see the backcountry gate.

Pass through it, take a sharp turn through rocks, and arrive at the skin-up area.

Likely there will be many other people here. Skin across the bowl, aiming for the northeasterly col closer to Spearhead Mountain.

At the top of this col you transition, then drop down to the moraine, following it and staying high.

You can also drop right into Lakeside Bowl for better turns as you will have to skin up anyhow to get up Decker's north face. At Decker, transition and head up its north face.

This aspect gets as steep as 25 degrees in places and convexes quite a bit, making it a prime spot in unstable conditions.

Even when you see a skintrack, it's important to make a decision here and discuss risk among the group.

This is one of the highest risk sections of the day. Once you get to the Decker col, it looks steep, but keep your skins on and descend toward the ridge.

Keep the ridge until it hits the north ridge of Trorey.

There is normally a good spot to hop in here.

It's briefly steep, but with skins off you can zip down and across Trorey's face.

Skin up and begin heading up the glacier doing a "J" arc to the southern ridge of Pattison.

If the light is good, you should get an excellent view of the descent. To gain the ridge will require a steep bootpack.

It's rather short (12 m), but crampons and an ice axe might be required, depending on conditions.

Once on the ridge, you can normally skin right to the summit.

There is plenty of room to transition here. The descent is accessed just north of the summit.

You can opt to cut the cornice and head straight in, or go down a few meters and then traverse onto the face itself.

It's a commitment, but it eases up very quickly.

Once on the face, there is a good safe spot to observe the rest of the skiers right of the wide couloir/face. Beware exiting the route.

There is often buried avalanche debris.

I tore my MCL in good light by hitting a buried chunk of ice that looked like perfect flat snow. From here, retrace your steps.

That means a whole heck of a long traverse once more.