1,700’ – 2,600’
6,300’ – 9,700’ (3,400’)
N, E, S
Standing as the grand sentinel of the lake, Mt. Tallac dominates the horizon from nearly everywhere around Tahoe. Although it is not the area’s highest peak, it is by far the most iconic, and holds the greatest terrain variety with a relatively easy approach. If you were lucky enough to ski this peak exclusively for one season, you could easily ski a new line every day. From wide open bowls, tight couloirs, exposed and extreme descents, or gladed trees, Tallac has it all. Aside from the steep, 3,400 ft ascent, the next hardest thing is choosing where to ski. From the top, Tallac holds sweeping views of both the lake, and deep into the Desolation Wilderness; a vast, snow-laden, dreamland of potential.
For being so massive, Tallac is fairly easy to navigate. Oriented as one large, north to south ridgeline, the majority of quality terrain descends off the East side of this ridge, in a series of bowls and valleys that point you back towards the car. Anything you ski off Tallac will likely be memorable, but some classic descents are noteworthy.
The most popular approach winds steeply up Tallac’s prominent east facing ridge, putting you on the ridge just north of the summit snowfield. The bowls on either side of this ridge provide north, east, and south facing aspects, giving skiers a lot of options for finding the best snow. The northern bowl starts as a well spaced forest, giving way to an increasingly obvious slide path. The southern bowl is a little more aesthetic, and offers a variety of small cliffs and chutes, as well as a little valley at 7,500’ that makes for a great spot to refuel before lap 2.
Tallac’s prize line is accessed from the ridgeline just south of the summit. This intimidating chute requires a significant snowpack to properly fill in, and is best reserved for later in the season. An alternative to the Cross is the Cross Lite, a much wider and less imposing chute accessed by traversing skier’s right under the summit snowfield.
Tallac’s most extreme skiing option, Baby Cham is named after the style of skiing found in Chamonix; big, exposed, and committing. A series of chutes drops down from a rocky spire just below and to the north of the summit. One of the two major descents starts on a hanging snowfield with huge exposure, where you then make a committing traverse into the exit chute. The other is more of a continuous chute, but equally consequential. Don’t go unless you know.
Clocking in at 1,700’ vertical feet, Cathedral Bowl is one of Tallac’s shorter runs. However this spacious, Southeast bowl grows great corn and lures fewer skiers due to the longer approach and exit.
Upon gaining Tallac’s main ridge at the top of the standard ascent route, skin north along the flat ridge until above the northern East Bowl. From here, head Northeast and begin a flat ski through small trees. After a few low angle turns, the slope begins its convex roll into 1,700’ of steep glades. From the drainage at the bottom of this run, Maggie’s South is easily accessible. Just be sure to save some energy for the grueling switchbacks to get back to the ridge you started on.
Parking for Tallac is located near Spring Creek Rd, 4.5 miles west on highway 89 from the “Y” in South Lake, or 22.5 miles south on 89 from the “Y” in Tahoe City. Once at Spring Creek Rd, there are small parking lots a few hundred yards away in either direction. A gate on Spring Creek blocks public traffic from entering a US Forest Service cabin development where skiers would otherwise park. Once parked, skin to the end of Spring Creek, and find your way SW through a short, dense swath of forest. After roughly a quarter mile of tight trees, the main ascent ridgeline comes into view. Push through the initial climb, otherwise known as “Sweat Hill,” trending left into a drainage that leads to a small valley. From here, head right to the ridgeline marked by numerous rock outcroppings and begin the switchbacks. For the return, Spring Creek Rd has a continuous, mellow grade that facilitates a quick skate back to the car. Enjoy Tahoe’s finest!