At 14,179 feet, Mount Shasta is the second tallest of the Cascade Volcanoes, just behind Mount Rainier. Avalanche Gulch is the simplest and most often skied route on the mountain and one of the crown jewels of the Cascade Volcano ski lines. It’s quite friendly with mostly moderate slope angle, easy route finding and no glacier gear is required. It’s a pretty simple single day outing if the weather is good, but it’s also a fun place to set up camp up high and do more skiing and exploring. The mountain gets some horrendous winds up high and even down low. The lenticular clouds will make it visibly clear! The summit is often heavily coated in rime ice and is very steep, but it can be possible to ski off of it if you really need to make it count and get those “from the summit” turns in. When the timing is right this can be one of the longest most enjoyable corn runs around.
Park at the trailhead, the route is generally well trampled and leads into a gully that then opens up into the gulch. Continue up the gut over some benches towards Helen Lake. Then the climbing steepens, trend right around “The Heart” a large island in the slope at around 12,000 feet. Continue on to the Red Banks and to the summit plateau. The summit is visible off to the right, head towards it.
This mountain gets a lot of wind and it’s very tricky, near impossible to get it in powder conditions. Corn is what to shoot for, May and June can be the best months for this.
In addition to the slide danger implicit in the name, definitely heed the wind warning in this entry’s description. Even when the weather was otherwise perfect, I’ve been skunked many times on summit attempts b/c of high winds, far more so than with my other favorite large snow-covered volcanoes. Fortunately Shasta still has a huge amount of skiable terrain down low, so “shorter” laps can be pretty big, but just temper your expectations for a summit bid. When the timing does work out though, Avalanche Gulch can make for aspect-induced fun hog heaven: start up from Bunny Flat at civil daylight (i.e., about half-an-hour before sunrise) sans headlamp, summit via the still-frozen Avalanche Gulch, ski down Hotlum-Wintun Ridge (which has already been catching the early-morning sun while your ascent route has been in the mountain’s shadow), summit again, now ski the perfectly ripened corn on Avalanche Gulch. Although no need to feel ashamed of skiing only Avalanche Gulch. Here’s a pic from 2017. Note the rock fall -- that route can become a bowling alley in the afternoon!