Trip Report    

Cement and Lake Basin Ski Tour

Mostly Winter day with hints of Spring, spent touring in the Crystal Mountain backcountry.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The overall West-South zone had a significant warm-up last weekend followed by cold temperatures and incremental new snowfall, with the Crystal area receiving significantly less than the volcanoes or points farther West.

    On our initial skin up toward East Peak on a W aspect, we expected and found a very hard, stable crust buried under a thin layer of poorly adhered but un-reactive fresh snow, and judicious use of edges and management of good snow for skinning was required.


    We had good turns down into Cement Basin on an E aspect and then excellent snow on N aspects in Lake Basin.

    (See NWAC observation.)

Our group of five started out from the Crystal Mountain base lodge at 8:15 and were the second group out in the Bullion/Cement/Lake Basin zone, preceded by a group of two who apparently went to ski E aspects on the back side of Platinum Peak.  The NWAC forecast for the day was orange-orange-yellow with the most consequential risks focused on the volcanoes and points in the western part of the zone (e.g., White Pass), and after some discussions with a skier who had been out in the backcountry the day before we revised our trip plan to focus on N aspects in Lake Basin with mellow aspects in Cement Basin as a fallback.  (This trip was a fallback option for a planned ascent of Mt St Helens on skis that was ruled out by weather and avalanche conditions.)

After skinning up to the ridge between East Peak (Point 6654 on USGS) and the 6750' high point SSE of Scout Pass, we had good skiing on the E aspect down into Cement Basin and then skinned to the 6400' col SSW of Basin Lake.


We skied laps in N-facing chutes ("Scout Chutes" in some guides for the area) down to the lake.  The snow was excellent with surface conditions — manageable slough on descents — that reflected the shoulder between Winter and Spring.  We skied more consequential terrain one-by-one, using radios and maintaining visual contact.


We found some trickier skiing conditions on our way out, with heavy, wet snow for a few hundred vertical feet back down to the approach trail that would produce small wet-loose slides.  The slides only propagated a few feet downhill but we’re enough to take a skier off their feet briefly.


On our return, we skinned back to the ridgeline  above Cement Basin and left our skins on to traverse the ridge until we were fall line below East Peak.  (We were even able to reuse the flatter, traversing portion of our up track for this purpose.)  The fall  line below East Peak allowed us to use a known-good (i.e., minimal bushwhacking) point to access the approach trail to ride the luge track down to the resort.

All in all, it was a great day out that introduced participants to a new area of the backcountry and helped some participants experiment with and sharpen new skills.