RideGuide - Snowmobile & Backcountry Skiing

Backcountry Snow Activities in Northeastern Oregon

The geography of Northeast Oregon includes an eclectic mix of mountain ranges, each having its own unique character. The I-84 corridor travels right over the Blue Mountains and through the uprights of two rugged mountain ranges, the Wallowas and Elkhorns. These ranges offer some different types of backcountry experiences for skiers and snowboarders, as well as, opportunities for sledders. Just like most of the recreation in the area, it is largely untouched. So, put on your skins and head out into the mountains for a remote and beautiful backcountry experience in Northeastern Oregon. The region has thousands of acres of public land, one of the biggest areas nationally in this regard, with several winter access points. Some of the areas are very remote and you won't see anyone, so use caution and have a good travel and emergency plan. Several people have gotten lost and succumbed to the elements here.

We've got a lot of mountains in NE Oregon! Winter storms roll over the Cascades and then pick up steam as they cross the Columbia Plateau before slamming into our slopes in the form of snow. The intercontinental snowpack is formed from a drier snow that can translate to some big pow days and a different ski experience from other snow destinations in Oregon and Washington. The I-84 freeway travels east/west through the heart of these mountains, making it a relatively easy drive from Portland (4 hrs.), Boise (2.5 hrs.), Tri-Cities (2.5 hrs.), and Seattle (6 hrs.).

Mountain towns like Joseph, Halfway, Enterprise, La Grande, Baker City, Sumpter, and John Day offer unique accommodations a short drive from the winter fun. You probably won't find any sno bros walking around in these towns, but there is a little nightlife. More importantly, you'll need to get your sleep so you have the energy for some intense topography and good snow. The reality is that not many people live in Eastern Oregon, and you'll find many remote places that are unmarked and rugged. That's the part of the beauty of winter recreation in our neck of the woods. When we listen to out-of-town skiers and snowboarders, they rave about what we have.

La Grande Ride offers local expertise in trip planning and other support services. See also the short film Go Home: Backcountry Skiing in NE Oregon.

Most weather forecasts are sketchy in the region, so you'll want to rely on our local team of forecasters in our weather division, LG Weather. Travel and road conditions in the towns can be accessed directly at the La Grande Ride forecast and Joseph Oregon Weather. These and the ODOT Tripcheck cameras are your best sources for weather information. Joseph Oregon Weather also has a very nice webcam page. In addition, the Wallowa Avalanche Center is another valuable source for conditions and safety in the region, where you will also find good weather information including the current SnoTel data.

The Skiing and Riding
The downhill skiing scene includes 3 ski resorts. Anthony Lakes is a winter playground with Nordic, backcountry, and inbound skiing on some nice fluffy snow. This is truly a family friendly set-up. Spout Springs boasts the only night skiing in the region. Ferguson Ridge is small club-like establishment just outside of Joseph. Although not in Eastern Oregon, Bluewood is another ski area not too far away, which is in the Blue Mountains that stretch through Oregon and into Washington.

The biggest opportunity exists in the backcountry, with alpine touring opportunities of huge amplitude. The more popular entry points into the backcountry are places like Joseph, Halfway, and Anthony Lakes. There are also several Nordic trail areas and non-motorized use areas great for sledding, snowshoeing, winter camping, and more.

2013 marked the first year of the Eastern Oregon Backcountry Festival, hosted by the Eastern Oregon University Outdoor Program. It includes clinics, films, contests, and an Randonee Race. The Wallowa Avalanche Center hosts several education clinics during the winter. Also, Anthony Lakes Ski Resort runs events regularly such as a winter triathlons, cross country ski races, and downhill ski races.