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Images courtesy of Northstar California

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Northstar Expert Itinerary

Mt. Pluto Frontside, Backside, Lookout Mountain, and Zephyr Trees
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From Village - Mount Pluto - Warm Up on Luggi's - East Ridge Trees/West Ridge Bowl - Backside Starting at Castle Peak and Moving South - Challenger Side/Sawtooth Ridge - Lookout Mountain - Camp Glade to Home Run - Village

1. 8:30am – Warming up from the Top of Mount Pluto

Start by making your way to the top of MT. PLUTO. Jump on the Big Springs Gondola to mid-mountain. (Tip: If the line is long try the Village Express located just behind the gondola building). From mid-mountain, load the Arrow Express and then take the Comstock Express to the summit.


From here, you have two options, both make for a solid warm up. For a long, high speed groomer, head right and down the West Ridge. Keep an eye out for the sign for Luggi's on your right and follow this groomer back to the Comstock Express . For a more sporty warm-up, head left off of the Comstock chair and then down East Ridge. Here, you should find plenty of fresh soft snow to get your heart pumping. Look for the signs for Crosscut or Tonini's on your left. Follow either back to Comstock.

*Pro Tip - If you find yourself here on a serious powder day, we recommend starting with step 6. 

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2. 9:00am – Getting to the Goods on the Backside

It's time for THE BACKSIDE! THE BACKSIDE opens at 8:45am; if you want first tracks you'll need to skip step one and wait for the rope to drop. From the summit, head down West Ridge and look left until you see the top of the Promised Land Express. Turn left at the Castle Peak sign and enjoy! Castle Peak is an extremely wide groomer with a moderate pitch and a very fun gladed area on the skier's left. Stick to the groomer if the snow isn't ideal or if you want to avoid the trees.


Castle Peak finishes at the bottom of THE BACKSIDE. From here, you can take the Backside Express back to the summit, or take the Promised Land Express to the top of Castle Peak. Spend the next few hours exploring a majority of THE BACKSIDE. We say majority because the CHALLENGER SIDE (far skier's left) needs a little extra time to soften up during spring time. Be sure to hit Iron Horse, Polaris, The Rapids and Burnout. If the snow is soft, make sure you are exploring the trees between all of these runs. The best gladed areas are between Polaris and Iron Horse, skier's left of Castle Peak, and the Monument Glade (skier's left of Burnout).

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3. 10:30am – The Backside - Challenger & Sawtooth Ridge

After exploring the northern end of THE BACKSIDE, it's time to give the CHALLENGER SIDE a try. Make your way back to the summit via the Backside Express and head right past the entrance of Burnout. Follow the sign for Challenger and head down the ridge. Stay left past the signs for Railsplitter and Sierra Grande (you'll be back for these later) to reach Challenger. Feel free to put your foot on the gas as Challenger is wide and speed friendly. After a big 90 degree right turn at the SAWTOOTH boundary, you'll merge with Sierra Grande and Railsplitter at an old wooden race shack. Be sure to explore both return trails (especially the gully to the left) as you make your way back to the Backside Express. You can easily spend the next 1.5-2 hours exploring this area.


*About SAWTOOTH RIDGE: SAWTOOTH RIDGE is considered hike-to or side-country terrain. It is known for fresh tracks, steep glades, a few cliff drops, and a lack of crowds. Due to its lower elevation, SAWTOOTH RIDGE typically won't open until the middle of the season when the snow has had time to accumulate. This zone can be accessed from the gate at the big 90 degree right turn on Challenger. Remove your skis/ board and hike along the ridge until you find where you want to drop in. SAWTOOTH has some extremely fun tree skiing and rock features, but ski with caution as most hazards are not marked. Plan some extra time for this mission; as hiking to the furthest point on the ridge usually takes 45-60 minutes. Getting back takes little effort as everything eventually funnels into the Backside Express

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Northstar Expert Itinerary Steps 2&3

4. 12:30pm – Lunch @Summit Smokehose

By now you've probably worked up an immense appetite. You're in luck because the Summit Smokehouse sits at the top of the Backside Express. Here you can enjoy brisket, pulled pork, tri tip mac and cheese and large salads. There's also a large outdoor seating area and full service bar.

5. 1:30pm – The Road to Lookout

It's time for Lookout. From the summit, head down West Ridge and go straight and follow the signs for the Zephyr Lodge and LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN. After a short, flat section through the trees, you'll pass the Patrol Shack and the Zephyr Lodge will come into view. Head towards the lodge but stay right as you pass it and head down Upper Pioneer. A short ways down Upper Pioneer you will see a sign for the Lookout Link on your left.


The Lookout Link is a pommel lift system. This means that you are pulled uphill on your skis/board by a rope and paddle attached to the lift cable. If this is out of your comfort zone you can follow the signs for the Lookout Bypass (just below the bottom of the Lookout Link). The Lookout Bypass is a long traversing cat track that will wrap you around LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, and will eventually bring you to Washoe which connects to the bottom of the Martis Camp Express.  If you have taken the Lookout Link, just follow the signs at the top for Washoe

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6. 2:30pm – Exploring the Steep (and Hopefully Deep) Lookout Mountain

Make your way up the Martis Camp Express and get a picture of what the terrain at LOOKOUT is like. LOOKOUT is the steepest area of Northstar, and if you find yourself here on a powder day, we recommend coming here first! Head right from the top of the lift and make your way to Prosser. Prosser is usually groomed and skis very fast. After reloading the Martis Express, head right and follow the signs for Stampede. Stampede is the steepest run at Northstar, and is a fan favorite among expert skiers. Continue making laps on the Martis Express to ski everything in the Lookout complex. If you are into tree skiing; this is some of the best in Tahoe. Be sure to check out the Lookout Glade (left of Prosser), the Sugar Pine Glade (between Martis and Boca), and the Camp Glade. Spend the rest of your day lapping the steep trees of LOOKOUT.

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7. 4pm – Cruising from the Summit to the Village

If the snow is right and your legs still want more; consider taking the Camp Glade to Home Run to round out your day. The best way to do this is to head left off Martis and head down Schwarzstrasse. At the top of the the Lookout Link, go into the trees that separate the trail to Washoe and the Village Return Trail. Follow the fall line through the trees until you either hit the trail Boondocks on your right, or hit a cat track that takes your right. Follow either until you reach Home Run and continue down to THE VILLAGE.

Congrats! You just conquered some of the best skiing Northstar has to offer! Be sure to check out our Après guide.


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