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Backcountry Touring at Idaho’s Galena Pass

If you’ve already got a copy of Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: Utah, then you know that the Beehive State has plenty of amazing touring options. But sometimes, you just need a road trip. My wife, Jess, and I wanted to get out of town and sample some new zones, so we pointed the car north to Idaho. We heard that Galena Pass in the Sawtooth Mountains had some of the Gem State’s best lines, and after a couple of days on the skin track, I think it is hard to argue that contention.

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Local Info on Galena Pass

Backcountry Touring Galena Pass

Backcountry skiing at Galena Pass is outstanding. Route 75 is visible in this photo and features turn outs that all lead to great runs. (photo: Ryan Malavolta/UtahOutside.com)

We needed some good beta on where we would be skiing, so our first stop was at Backwoods Mountain Sports in the town of Ketchum. A friendly employee was quick to break down the area for us. Route 75 makes its way north out of Ketchum, and after passing the Galena Lodge, it’s go time. “Park along any turnout, find a skin track, and you’re good to go” was all we needed to hear. Additionally, www.sawtoothavalance.com is the place to stay up to date on all Sawtooth Mountain weather advisories. These two sources, along with a topo map of the area, helped to launch an awesome weekend of backcountry splitboarding and skiing.

Avalanche Bowl Backcountry Tour

Backcountry Touring Galena Pass

Jess samples some Idaho freshness in Avalanche Bowl. We rode this area after a storm dumped a foot of fresh powder. (photo: Ryan Malavolta/UtahOutside.com)

Terrible name, awesome area. Well, maybe not a terrible name. One local that we met on the skin track told us it was the best name ever, because after a storm, no one wants to ski an area named for the worst case scenario of backcountry riding. Turns out, Avalanche Bowl is a zone of low angle, safe skiing. Exactly the kind of place you’d want to ride after a storm dumps 12” of fresh pow…which is when Jess and I got to enjoy it.

We parked roughly 5 miles up from Galena Lodge, and found a good skin track already in place. A moderate climb through the trees then up to a prominent ridge led us to the top of Avalanche Bowl (unnamed point 9,433’). From there, we ripped lines through sun-crusted powder down to a natural drainage in the middle of the bowl. From the bottom, it was evident that this is an area filled with many possibilities: rollers, glades, mini-pillows and a gorgeous open face awaited us. We opted to farm lines in the main, open area of the bowl. Jess broke us a track, and we rode until our legs couldn’t take any more.

We capped off a successful first day of touring in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains with a late lunch at Galena Lodge. The lodge is host to a busy Nordic center, and there were plenty of skiers and snowshoers who had the same idea we did. Rough-hewn timbers and a crackling fireplace set the mood as we scarfed up veggie burgers and reflected on an awesome day.

The Cross Backcountry Tour

Backcountry Touring Galena Pass

The Cross is a popular summit that provides beautiful views and excellent lines for backcountry skiers and boarders. (photo: Ryan Malavolta/UtahOutside.com)

Day two of our Galena Pass backcountry tour took us to one of the most popular spots in the region: The Cross. A day earlier, we had looked at a small peak just west of us that had several riders perched on top. It looked too good to pass up! We found a parking area just east of Galena Summit, and again, a good skin track was already in place. A moderate to strenuous climb with numerous switchbacks led us up the southwest face of The Cross.

Topping out at 9,225’, The Cross provides a 360-degree view of amazing Sawtooth scenery. This is truly a breathtaking area to tour in! To the southeast of our position, we could see the large ridge that leads to Gladiator, Galena and Easley Peaks. There are many potential touring options, but we will have to come back another time to enjoy those. This time, it was all about the open lines right below our feet. A foot of well-preserved powder (thank you, chilly Idaho temperatures!) awaited us. We dropped in and made slashes all the way down to tree line, where our out led us through tight pines and more blower pow. We only got to take one run, but man, it was a great one!

Final Thoughts on Touring the Galena Pass Area

Backcountry Touring Galena Pass

The Galena Pass area in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountain range is an absolute playground for backcountry enthusiasts. Look at those possibilities! (photo: Ryan Malavolta/UtahOutside.com)

Overall, our trip was outstanding. We benefitted from fortunate timing with a big storm on the day we arrived, and conditions that got better and better each day we toured. Rather than getting a room in Ketchum (which is a really cool town, but comes with a Park City price tag), we opted to save a few bucks and stayed just down the road in Hailey. The extra 15 miles of driving was no big deal. There are plenty of great restaurants and breweries in both towns, as well as an assortment of grocery stores and other places to stock up on touring snacks. The Sawtooth Mountains are absolutely gorgeous, and the Galena Pass area could provide an entire winter’s worth of fresh lines and beautiful views. I’d highly recommend spending a long weekend in this area if good ol’ Was Angeles has you feeling claustrophobic.

This article is by Ryan Malavolta from utahoutside.com.

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