1.5 – 2 miles
700’ – 1,000’
7,200’ – 9,000’ (1,800’)
N, S, W
Backcountry skiing in the Tahoe area conveys images of easy access and quality terrain, and Castle Peak represents this label well. Named for the large, rocky buttress atop its summit, Castle is one of the closest backcountry destinations for skiers coming from the Bay Area. Combine this with a flat snowshoe and cross country trail, and the proximity to the Peter Grubb Hut, and you’ve got one of Tahoe’s most popular backcountry destinations. The descents on Castle are short but sweet, and reached by a 1 mile flat approach before starting the ascent. The lower-angle southwestern aspect is by far the most popular to ski, and grows great corn starting from just below the summit cliffs. A distinctive couloir bisects these cliffs facing the highway, but is often not filled in enough to ski through. When powder conditions exist, the open bowls above treeline are often wind hammered on this face, but short yo-yo laps in the lower, protected gullies are fun. But beyond this southern face, Castle holds many secrets. The NE aspect and the Frog Lake cliffs give expert skiers a lot to play with, offering spines, chutes, and cliffs. The NE aspect is also accessible to snowmobiles, but don’t let this stop you from checking it out. There is also a small NW pitch that runs down to Round Valley, where the Peter Grubb hut sits. This treed run may be a better choice when avalanche conditions exist.
To get to Castle Peak, take exit 176 for Boreal / Castle Peak off Interstate 80. Park in the Castle Peak Sno-Park by turning left at the T, instead of parking in the Boreal lot. A California Sno-Park permit is required here, and Boreal has been known to ticket backcountry skiers using their lot. To get to the trailhead, walk back under I-80 and up the obvious snow ramp. A snowed road parallels the interstate for a bit, and then splits into motorized and non-motorized trails. The human-powered trail, to the right, is very obvious and well worn, and allows good views of Castle to plan your ascent. If the NE face or Frog Lake is your destination, cut off this trail within the first quarter mile and begin ascending up to Castle’s broad, SE ridgeline.