FATMAP difficulty grade
James Peak is the highest point within Powder Mountain resort, but no ski lift goes there.
Cat tours often take skiers to the top of Lightning Ridge, but it’s still a hike out to James Peak.
That means if you can get out to James, you’re sure to find untracked snow and a backcountry vibe that feels far from the resort. Cat skiing requires a reservation and additional charge, but the Lightning Ridge cat track is open for uphill travel by anyone with a lift ticket (as long as the sidecountry terrain is open for the day).
See the resort’s [uphill policy](https://www.powdermountain.com/resort/the-mountain/mountain-safety) for more information. Starting from the main lodge area, you can skin up quickly and efficiently on the groomed track, staying to the side to leave room for vehicles.
At the patrol shack on top of Lightning Ridge, the track turns downhill and then ends at the saddle with James Peak.
The bootpack begins from there, reaching the top in about 500 additional vertical feet. The line called Carpe Diem drops directly from the summit into the broad bowl below, but to reach K2 Ridge you’ll continue along the crest to a minor saddle, then rise slightly to a subpeak.
From there, the ridge falls away in waves of rocks and cornices.
You can choose to stick with the wind-blasted ridgeline or drop onto the south-facing slope below.
If you take the ridgeline all the way down to about 8000 feet, you can enter the long K2 Chute, which is loaded with natural features and may hold deeper, sheltered snow.
This run empties onto the cat track leading to Paradise lift, as does the main bowl with the rest of the routes off James Peak.