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.

Evening light above the rolling peaks near Toy Pass. - Skiing the Owyhee
Evening light above the rolling peaks near Toy Pass.
 
Long shadows cast across juniper trees. - Skiing the Owyhee
Long shadows cast across juniper trees.
 
Spring transition along Toy Pass. - Skiing the Owyhee
Spring transition along Toy Pass.
 
Sunset over the next day's objective, Quicksilver Mountain. - Skiing the Owyhee
Sunset over the next day's objective, Quicksilver Mountain.
 

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.

Daybreak at camp. - Skiing the Owyhee
Daybreak at camp.
 
Setting up for a tow start after a brief mechanical issue. - Skiing the Owyhee
Setting up for a tow start after a brief mechanical issue.
 
Eric convincing the TW200 to move. - Skiing the Owyhee
Eric convincing the TW200 to move.
 
Ben busting through one of the final remnants of Winter. - Skiing the Owyhee
Ben busting through one of the final remnants of Winter.
 
Taking in the distance we'd need to cover by foot. - Skiing the Owyhee
Taking in the distance we'd need to cover by foot.
 

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.

Eric and Ben loading up - skis and boots always seem heavier when they're on your back. - Skiing the Owyhee
Eric and Ben loading up - skis and boots always seem heavier when they're on your back.
 
Our first closeup of Quicksilver. - Skiing the Owyhee
Our first closeup of Quicksilver.
 
At 6,700 feet the high desert quickly transitions to fewer trees. - Skiing the Owyhee
At 6,700 feet the high desert quickly transitions to fewer trees.
 
Looking back at our path, clouds beginning to form. - Skiing the Owyhee
Looking back at our path, clouds beginning to form.
 
Beginning the slog along the last bit of official trail. - Skiing the Owyhee
Beginning the slog along the last bit of official trail.
 
Skis on the back are way less efficient, breaks are required. - Skiing the Owyhee
Skis on the back are way less efficient, breaks are required.
 
Finally, the base of Quicksilver. - Skiing the Owyhee
Finally, the base of Quicksilver.
 
Looking north over the Silver City range - still plenty of snow left. - Skiing the Owyhee
Looking north over the Silver City range - still plenty of snow left.
 
Taking lunch in a mining pit on a false summit. - Skiing the Owyhee
Taking lunch in a mining pit on a false summit.
 
Our first look at Quicksilver's main bowl. - Skiing the Owyhee
Our first look at Quicksilver's main bowl.
 
Antsy to ski, we decided to keep our hiking boots on and make it to the summit. - Skiing the Owyhee
Antsy to ski, we decided to keep our hiking boots on and make it to the summit.
 
Ben leading the way to the summit. - Skiing the Owyhee
Ben leading the way to the summit.
 
Clouds were forming increasingly faster by the time we reached the summit. - Skiing the Owyhee
Clouds were forming increasingly faster by the time we reached the summit.
 
Summit ladybugs. - Skiing the Owyhee
Summit ladybugs.
 
Eric and Ben leading the way to our first run. - Skiing the Owyhee
Eric and Ben leading the way to our first run.
 
Despite the fog, spring snow made for smiles on the way down. - Skiing the Owyhee
Despite the fog, spring snow made for smiles on the way down.
 
Ben nearly out of sight on the final run. - Skiing the Owyhee
Ben nearly out of sight on the final run.
 

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