It sometimes feels like South Lake Tahoe isn’t close to backcountry skiing: it’s easy to get used to driving 20 minutes to Powderhouse, 30 minutes to Carson Pass, or 35+ minutes to the peaks along the West Shore. Yet just behind town looms Trimmer Peak, offering 3000′ of skiable terrain, and a huge variety of aspects.
I’d only skiied Trimmer peak once before, when I aborted an attempt on Freel Peak- the memory was of a confusing, brushy descent, thick trees, and a low-angle skin out. But while doing training laps up High Meadow Road, I had repeatedly noticed that after every storm, tracks would appear coming from Trimmer- there must be something good there.
Indeed there is. I’ve been back to Trimmer Peak four times in the past two weeks, and have been impressed every time. The “Elevens”, two massive gashes cut through the trees, hold 1800′ of relatively open skiing with breathtaking views and great snow. The trees between the Elevens have some of the best turns I’ve experienced this season, and the ridge to access them provides both fantastic lower-angle powder lines with lots of pillows, and some breathtaking above-treeline vistas.
From my experience, here’s the trick to skiing Trimmer Peak:
- Trimmer has a main pyramid-shaped peak, and a smaller sub-peak that protrudes towards South Lake Tahoe. Keeping this geography straight will make life simpler.
- While the 11s are on the face of the main peak, they are accessed by skinning up the sub-peak. To get there, take High Meadows Road to the summer parking lot, then cut right into the trees, across the power line, and uphill. After 2000′ of skinning, you’ll pop out on the ridgeline of the sub-peak, and should have your first real view of the 11s. Wrap right along this ridgeline, cross a small saddle, and then wrap up through the trees to the shoulder of Trimmer proper, near the 11s.
- The most complete run on the 11s is obtained by skinning up to climber’s right of the rock bastions, until a wide gap below the summit crown lets you scoot in to the top of the skier’s left 11.
- After skiing the 11s, there are two options: skin back to the ridge of the sub-peak, and ski the face you came up (like this Strava trace; preferable), or traverse left and wrap around the sub-peak until you can drop down to the power line and High Meadows Road (like this Strava trace; bad skiing through tight trees). If your legs don’t mind the ~600′ climb back to the ridge, this provides far better skiing than the traversing option.
The best part? It’s only a ten-minute drive from the middle of South Lake Tahoe.
Avalanche hazards: The 11s were likely formed by slab avalanches coming off the rocks above, triggering extremely destructive deep slab avalanches in the trees along Trimmer’s face. Avoid skiing this area when avalanche danger is high, and particularly when slabs linger on the rocks above. The top of the 11s can also get wind-loaded, making wind slabs more likely- when in doubt, the trees to Skier’s left of the Elevens offer some phenomenal lines, and are seldom very tracked.