Summary of Tour


The difficulty ratings are based on four criteria: length, elevation change, steepness, and navigation. A five level scale for rating the overall difficulty of the tours is used. The skills associated with each level are:

1 - Beginner 

  • Little or no previous ski touring experience 
  • Ability to follow simple directions without map or compass 

2 - Beginner-Intermediate 

  • Proficiency in the basic techniques: diagonal stride, side-step, kick turn, step turn, snowplow, and snowplow turn 
  • Ability to control speed on gradual downhills 
  • Ability to negotiate short, moderately steep sections of terrain 
  • Ability to follow simple directions in conjunction with a map 

3 - Intermediate 

  • Excellent proficiency in all the basic techniques plus the traverse and herringbone on moderately steep terrain 
  • Ability to negotiate long, moderately steep, and short, steep sections of terrain 
  • Good stamina 
  • Ability to navigate using a topographic map and compass 
  • Ability to use a compass to determine general orientation 

4 - Intermediate-Advanced 

  • Excellent proficiency in all ski touring techniques 
  • Ability to negotiate long, steep sections of terrain including densely wooded areas 
  • Strong skier 
  • Ability to navigate using a topographic map and compass 

5 - Advanced 

  • Excellent all around skier and mountain person 
  • Ability to negotiate very steep terrain 
  • Exceptional endurance 
  • Ability to navigate using a topographic map and compass 

Two tours may be assigned the same rating but vary greatly in the skills required. For example, both a tour on a road that is long, and a tour that is short but requires navigation by map and compass may be rated 3. For this reason the difficulty ratings should only be used as a general guide for selecting a tour of appropriate difficulty. Check the summary for information regarding length, elevation change, and navigation to determine whether your abilities match the demands of the tour. Also, refer to the tour description for special considerations. 

The tours were rated assuming ideal snow conditions. Deep powder will make travel slower and more difficult. Ice will make all tours much more difficult. If faced with icy conditions in the morning, you might consider waiting until early afternoon to begin, when hopefully the snow has thawed.


The length is an estimate of the actual mileage. Several of the tours are in meadows which are adjacent to plowed roads and in these cases the length is simply stated as “short.” Whether the mileage is one-way or round trip is also noted.

Starting Elevation

The starting elevation is given in feet above sea level. The starting elevation is a major consideration when planning tours early or late in the season.

Cumulative Elevation Change

The cumulative elevation change for the entire tour is given as “+gain, -loss” in feet. “Nil” is used where the change is negligible. Be aware that the starting elevation plus and minus all the elevation changes may not be consistent with the ending elevation. The error, if any, is small and is caused by cumulative round-off of elevation changes between mileage points.

Navigation Requirements

The navigational difficulty of each tour is based on untracked snow and good visibility. The key words and phrases are:

Adjacent to plowed road

Tour is located almost within sight of a plowed road. This might be the case of a tour in a meadow.

Easy to follow directions

Although the tour is not adjacent to a plowed road, the directions are easy to follow.


Tour follows snow-covered roads. Although roads are normally easy to follow, a small road or a road in open terrain may be difficult to locate or follow.

Marked trail

Tour follows marked trail; may require basic map-reading skills. Markers are normally brightly colored pieces of metal or plastic attached to trees, or strips of brightly colored ribbon attached to tree branches. Blazes, which mark summer trails, are not considered markers since they are often obscured by snow. Whenever you are on a marked trail, you must pay careful attention to locating each successive marker, which may not be ideally placed. Even with a marked trail, you will need some knowledge of the route and basic map-reading skills to follow it. Be aware that over time markers can disappear.


Tour requires the ability to read a topographic map since the tour follows well-defined terrain such as creeks, valleys, and ridges. Remember that poor visibility can make route finding impossible without a compass and expert knowledge of its use.


Tour requires the use of a compass in conjunction with a topographic map. In some instances the compass is mainly for safety, but other routes require you to follow compass bearings.


The following keywords and phrases are used to give a general idea of the length of time required to complete a tour:

  • Short
  • Several hours
  • Half day
  • Most of a day
  • Full day
  • Very long day

Some of the factors that will affect your trip time include snow and weather conditions, your skiing ability and physical strength, characteristics of the tour, and your personal habits. The time presented should be used only as a general indicator.

Always keep in mind that the days are short in the mid-winter months. Long tours are best done in early spring when you have more hours of light.


The season is the period in an average snowfall year during which the snow conditions for the tour are acceptable. Conditions may be less than optimum early and late in the season. Exceptionally early or late snowfall as well as heavy snowfall extends the season. On the other hand, during drought years the season may be shortened. Climate change is definitely affecting the season.

Snowmobile Use

The following keywords and phrases are used to give a general idea of the degree to which snowmobilers use the area where the tour is located.

  • Not permitted
  • Low
  • Moderate
  • High

In some cases additional words of explanation are given. The estimates are based on weekend use. Mid-week snowmobile use is much less.


The United States Geological Survey (USGS) 7.5-minute series maps are listed for each tour. Parts of these USGS maps are reproduced in this guide.

In general these maps are no longer available at local mountain shops, but you can obtain them directly from the USGS or download them and print locally. For more information visit this USGS website.

There are also online websites such as CalTopo at which you can view topographic maps and print sections of them. Some of these programs have extensive enhancements.

Start and End Locations

Described are detailed directions for locating the starting and ending points of the tour. The ending point is omitted if the tour route returns to where it began.

Keep in mind that it may not be legal to park at these points. It is your responsibility to determine whether it is legal to do so. Sometimes carrying a snow shovel will allow you to clear a place to park. At other times you may need to pay for parking or walk some distance.

The California “Sno-Park” bill created a system of winter parking areas for winter sports users. It is noted in the text if the starting point or ending point is a Sno-Park.

A permit is required to park at Sno-Park sites. Both one-day and season permits are available at many mountain shops throughout California and other businesses in mountain communities. Permits are also available by mail from:

Sno-Park Program
Department of Parks and Recreation
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, California 94296-0001
(916) 653-8569