5 volcanoes to go see and ski right now

5 volcanoes to go see and ski right now

Heliskiing in Valdez? Check. Nailing that trick you spent an entire season mastering? Check. Deep powder turns at your favorite backcountry spot? Check.

Now that you’ve whittled down your skiing bucket list, what adventures do you have left to tackle on two planks? How about skiing into an active volcano or carving up volcanic ash instead of pow?

You don’t have to be Chris Davenport to chart out your own Ring of Fire tour (see video below). There are plenty of backcountry slogs and even lift-accessible opportunities that allow you to ski on, and in some cases into, volcanoes. That thrill can be found from the U.S. to South America to New Zealand and even Europe.

Casablanca, Chile

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The contrasting landscapes at Casblanca are stunning. Photo: Flickr user Geología Valdivia
If the thought of skiing the interior crater of a volcano isn’t too terrifying, it’s time to explore Southern Chile. Start off with some lift-accessed skiing or riding at Antillanca Ski Resort, a small resort in the Puyehue National Park near Osorno. With only five chairlifts and 14 trails, your on-piste options are rather limited, but incredible nonetheless.

The real appeal of Antillanca is all of the accessible sidecountry and backcountry terrain that doesn’t require a whole lot of traversing or bootpacking. Once you’ve thoroughly warmed up at the resort, it’s time to skin up to the Casablanca volcano and ski down. Then, it’s time to check out a bonus volcano: the Puyehue. Just remember: Puyehue erupted back in 2011, so the dangers of skiing this thing are no joke.

Mt. Lassen, California

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Lassen serves as a backcountry haven for Californians. Photo: Flickr user Lassen NPS
Located in California’s southern Cascade Mountains, Mt. Lassen is one of North America’s more remote skiable volcanoes, and the southernmost one in the Cascade Range. While it certainly isn’t dormant, there hasn’t been any major volcanic activity there since an eruption in 1915.

Mt. Lassen receives some of the heaviest snowfalls in California throughout the winter and spring, providing a snowpack that’s often upwards of 25 feet. However, because of the mountain’s southern latitude there are no glaciers; just a few permanent snowfields that last through the hot California summers.

The volcano is a well-known, year-round backcountry spot, but skiing from its 10,457-foot summit is far less grueling during the summer months. Once the snow melts on Lassen Loop Road, you can nearly access the trailhead by car. At that point, it’s about a 2,000-foot bootpack up the south side to access more than 4,000 vertical feet of skiing down the north side. Hit this remote gem all summer long to find high-elevation bowls, natural kickers and more.

Ruapehu, New Zealand

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Ruapehu is humbling for even the most ambitious visitors. Photo: Flickr user Airflore
Mt. Ruapehu is the skiing mecca of New Zealand’s North Island. Featuring three resorts—Whakapapa, Turoa and Tukino—it offers more skiable acreage than anywhere else in New Zealand.

Ruapehu is a large volcanic mountain that last erupted in 2007. Because the crater is filled with water that covers the vent of the volcano, when an eruption does occur, the water gets ejected into the air causing lahars, or volcanic mudflow. Thanks to the expansive resort infrastructure, several safety measures have been put in place to protect skiers if another eruption were to occur.

Due to its location next to Lake Taupo, the lake effect makes Ruapehu an absolute storm magnet. If you have the time, waiting for a bluebird day in between storms is totally worth it. The best time to hit Ruapehu is late in the Southern Hemisphere season (August and September), once the weather breaks.

Mt. Hood, Oregon

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Despite being a common skiing destination, many skiers are unaware that Mt. Hood is an active volcano. Photo: Flickr user PTJoe12000

Mt. Hood, commonly known to host the longest ski season in North America via its Timberline Lodge area, is another volcanic skiing possibility in the U.S. Its latest minor eruptive event was way back in 1907, but keep in mind that seismic activity has been present as recently as 2002.

Just a short drive from Portland, Oregon, most guests find lodging at nearby Government Camp or the Timberline Lodge. Fun fact: Many of the exterior hotel shots from that The Shining were taken at Timberline Lodge. But don’t let that scare you away from the skiing adventure of a lifetime.

While a number of summer ski and snowboard camps and national ski teams train at Timberline Lodge, there’s enough summer terrain to satisfy recreational rippers, too. Make sure to hit the 1,430 acres of corn snow in the morning before it gets sticky later in the day.

Mt. Etna, Italy

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Believe it or not, this ash is skiable. Photo: Flickr user Enzio Armando
Mt. Etna in Sicily, Italy is one of the world’s most well-known volcanoes, thanks to Greek mythology and its unpredictable eruptions. What most people don’t realize is that the volcano is also home to two ski resorts: Piano Provenzana and Nicolosi. Due to Etna’s Southern Mediterranean locale, the snow usually only lasts until April but the lack of snow doesn’t mean Etna isn’t skiable in the summer, too.

Let us explain: Thanks to regular eruptions (on average once every two years) portions of the mountain are often covered in a thick layer of volcanic ash. In 2014, Italian ski instructor Marco Tomasello posted a video of him descending Mt. Etna’s powdered ash on skis. The edit immediately went viral and skiers have been flocking to Sicily every summer since to make turns on the dark ash.

If you do make the summertime pilgrimage to ski Etna’s black ash, don’t be fooled by Sicily’s warm temps. You’ll need full ski gear due to the summit’s high altitude and to keep the black pow off of your skin.


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Related: Volcano erupts behind Chilean ski resort

Some volcanic inspiration from Chris Davenport

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