Classic Sidecountry Lines: Shuksan Arm, Mt. Baker
by Ian Coble | Photo by Re Wikstrom
One of the most famous sidecountry zones in North America, Shuksan Arm has been photographed and documented in countless magazines, advertisements and video segments in the past 20 years. On sunny days, hordes of onlookers choke the unloading corral at the top of Chair 8 to watch skiers descend the “Arm.”
Originating from the western flank of the dormant volcano Mt. Shuksan, the Arm offers its hikers sweeping vistas in all directions—Mt. Baker to the west, Mt. Shuksan to the east and Baker Lake to the south. It’s not your typical Pacific Northwest zone. Most of it lies above treeline. Huge cliffs, cornices, chutes and spines litter the area, offering skiers an endless choice of lines.
Only a short hike from the top of Chair 8, the line deposits skiers right back at the base of the chair, making lapping this zone incredibly easy. Scout your line while riding up Chair 8 to get your bearings. At the top, you’ll immediately run into the bootpack. A steep hike for the first couple hundred yards, the hike eventually makes a hard turn to the left, where you’ll want to put your skis back on. A short descent deposits you on top of a large cornice and at the start of the next bootpack. At the summit, it’s all fair game. All lines on the Arm will drop off the left (north) side of the ridge, back towards the resort. From the bottom, follow Rumble Gulley downhill until you encounter a traverse trail bearing left. A short bushwack through the woods will lead you to the base of Chair 8.
Mt. Baker Ski Area requires everyone leaving the resort to have an avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe, backpack and partner. They routinely station a patroller at the access gate checking skiers as they begin the hike. The area you’re entering is serious terrain and massive avalanches are not uncommon. Be prepared and know the conditions.
Hike: 4 Ski: 5
- Introduction to Classic Sidecountry Lines, plus Cody Peak, Jackson Hole
- Classic Sidecountry Line — DOA, Whistler Blackcomb
- Classic Sidecountry Line — Munchkins, Alpine Meadows
- Classic Sidecountry Line — Hell Brook, Stowe
*Hike and ski ratings are in terms of difficulty: 1 being relatively easy, 10 being very challenging. This article originally appeared in the 2013 FREESKIER Backcountry Issue. Subscribe to the magazine, or get it on the iTunes Newsstand.
About the author:
Freeskier Magazine—This is skiing.