In the shadow of Idaho’s numerous mountain ranges, the Owyhee Mountains rise from the Snake River Plain just south of the state’s largest population region. Easily visible from Boise, these peaks are often forgotten - ask any local about Idaho mountains, and you likely won’t hear about the Owyhees. In part it’s due to their notoriously difficult access surrounding private property, as well as unwelcoming roads that transform into a gumbo-esque mud with the slightest hint of moisture. A breadth of recreation possibilities exist in this desert playground, most of which include rafting, hot springs, hiking and canyoneering, the final of which would be skiing.
About Quicksilver Mountain
The Owyhees have a history of mining - Quicksilver Mountain is named after the process of using mercury to extract gold.
With a massive winter snowpack going into April and a motorized access opportunity, Ben, Eric and I set out on a Friday afternoon to ski Quicksilver Mountain, the Owyhee’s third tallest (8,082’). While Hayden Peak, the tallest of the range was on our list to ski, we decided on Quicksilver due to conflicting reports on how to legally access the area.
Aiming for a sunrise start, massive wind and thunderstorms assured minimal sleep. This trip would be an atypical ski tour for me: two parts human-powered, and one part motorized. I am used to starting on skins, and ending with a ski descent.
We started the day leaving our camp near Toy Pass with a UTV/dirtbike combo - while snowtracks were an option, wheels were the correct choice with a quickly receding snowline. Racing between junipers and punching through snowpatches, our timing could not be more perfect. Any more snow would have been too difficult on wheels, and snow tracks would have been too slow traveling across mud and dirt.
At the end of the motorized trail, we began our slow uphill hike with skis and boots on our backs. Unfortunately, we reached the summit without even using our skins. Spring thunderstorms quickly rolled in and squashed any hopes of skiing off the top of Quicksilver, however we found some mellower plan-b options that were ok to ski with very limited visibility. After a few slushy runs, we cleaned our muddy ski boots in a creek, and began making our way back to camp.