The Skier’s Guide to the Backcountry at Baker

Step One: Check the NWAC forecast

PHOTO: Grant Gunderson

Mount Baker, which is best known for its snowfall totals is best loved by locals for its easy to get to lift access to backcountry terrain. The Baker Ski Patrol has a unique way of managing the terrain, too. They have a really clear-cut boundary policy and they put the onus on the skiers to know their stuff and bring their gear. Make sure to check the NWAC forecast before you think about heading out.

The marquee zone is the Shuksan Arm, which sits just above the top of Chair 8, an easy skin or bootpack away. It’s full of highly aesthetic spiny lines, which funnel back to the chair. If you’ve seen photos of the Baker backcountry it’s probably from somewhere off the Arm.

If you head the other way off the top of Chair 8 you can access the Hemispheres zone, which holds short steeps, rollovers and longer benched-out descents. It loops you back into the middle of the ski area, so the time investment is small.

The overflow upper parking lot in the Heather Meadows base area is affectionately referred to as the “Backcountry Lot,” and it backs up to Mount Baker, the mountain (as opposed to the ski area). From there you can get to Table Mountain, Herman’s Saddle and Swift Creek, which give you long descents after a little bit of hiking.