Lake Basin Chutes

NOVEMBER 21, 2020

Looking back at Rainier and the Crystal Resort area before ducking behind Platinum Peak.

The cascades got a ton...

Of early season snow. Sort of to an uncharacteristic level for the time of year, and my friends, Daniel, Sam, Kyle and I were psyched to get out. We found a stable weekend and decided to head out to explore the Crystal backcountry. Kyle had found a little couloir on caltopo that we later discovered was called the Lake Basin chutes, and we decided to make that our "A" goal for the day. We got to the parking lot at a modest 7:30 am, and took off up towards Bullion Basin. Not too long after, we were ripping skins on top of Platinum peak and were on our way to the "Wall of Pow" which is a very nice, lowkey run across from Platinum that is a forest of burnt, well spaced trees. Perfect type 1 fun skiing to be had there in the right conditions. But for our purposes, the Wall of Pow was our backup plan, as we were headed to check out the staggering chutes on the other side of the wall. We whooped and hollered down the East side of Platinum, transitioned back to skins at the base, and took off up the Wall of Pow.

At the top of the chutes, we found ourselves staring down steep, rocky, unforgiving looking slopes. Dan and I hadn't truly skied many couloirs in the backcountry, so we were excited to get out on a stable day to test our skills. The Lake Basin Chutes are comprised of 3-4 chutes that dart down the NE side of the Wall of Pow. They're around probably 45-50 degrees at their steepest (according to caltopo), but most of them start steep and angle out after a turn or two. NWAC hadn't started up their daily avalanche forecasting, but with our analysis of the weather, we knew we were primarily going to be looking for instability in the form of wind slabs. With all of us having avalanche training and lots of experience in winter conditions, we felt safe analyzing the snowpack as we went and making decisions in the field.

Peering down one of the Basin Lake Chutes

Looking back at the Chute that we skied. A couple of rock constrictions to get around, but nothing too crazy.

We walked across the rim, looking at each couloir to decide which one we wanted to drop in to. With it being very early season to be attempting something like this, we were primarily looking for a couloir where we wouldn't be skiing over rocks constantly. We dialed in on the third couloir up the mountain, and started analyzing the snowpack. Dan and I had been touring in the area the day before, dug a pit, and found very stable conditions. However, we wanted to be even more certain that what we were skiing into wouldn't collapse on us. We found a cornice, cut it with Dan's snow saw, and watched it drop. It hit the snow, broke apart, and the broken pieces slid to a stop not too far from where it landed, taking a bit of slough with it. So far everything was as expected. The next step was to ski cut the slope. Sam volunteered to do it, and made a plan to cut across to a little knoll with a tree. We all geared up with our helmets, snapped in to ski mode, and turned on our radios. "Dropping!" yelled Sam as he descended into the couloir. He cut across the slope, and like we expected, only slough fell down behind him. We decided on a spot to meet up further down the couloir, and Sam squiggled down the couloir towards the spot. Success! Stable as expected, and besides a few turns around some exposed rocks, no further unexpected sharks.

We finally all made it down to the bottom, excited about the high quality of snow, and stoked on achieving a steep-ish couloir ski in November. We decided to traverse from the bottom of the couloir to get to Basin Lake, and then skin up from there to an unnamed peak North of East Peak. From there, we lapped some slopes down to the upper basin, and went from East Peak back to the car. A fantastic day out on the slopes with great people! This ski got us all stoked for the upcoming ski season, and we are all so excited to see what comes of it.

Our little squiggles down the Upper Basin Lake routes, skied from the peak to the north of East Peak.


  • Total mileage of the day - 10.55 miles

  • Total elevation gain - 5,000ft

  • Total time - 7 hours 45 mins

  • Max slope angle of the couloir ~ 50 degrees, but angled out after a couple turns. Had a couple of narrow sections. (Keep in mind, we went at a time with a pretty low snowpack).

  • GPS via Strava -