Experts give high rating to Cascade Mountain backcountry skiing opportunities in new book authored by local guides

March 5, 2014

By Sam Kenyon


The mountains of Washington aren’t as well known as the famous peaks of Europe, but according to local backcountry skiing experts, the recreational quality of this state’s mountain ranges is as high as anywhere in the world.

A group of local authors showcase the quality of Washington’s backcountry skiing in their new book, “Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes Washington,” by Martin Volken and The Guides of Pro Guiding Service. The guidebook, published by Mountaineers Books, features 81 backcountry routes for all skill levels.

“The mountains of Washington State are of international caliber,” said Ben Haskell, one of the co-authors of the book. Haskell, like all the authors, is a professional mountain guide with the North Bend based Pro Guiding Service. He is also a fireman captain in Seattle.

“A lot of people travel out of state to go skiing places, and they don’t even know what’s in their backyard,” he said.

The areas highlighted in the book, such as the Cascade range’s west and east side, are a selection of the quality skiing that the state has to offer.

“Snoqualmie Pass arguably offers the most aggressive ski touring in Western Washington,” Volken said. “You won’t get bored ski touring there.”

Volken is the primary author and founder of Pro Guiding Service. He wrote another book, “Backcountry Skiing,” which was published in 2007.

“It’s become the most popular textbook on the techniques behind backcountry skiing,” said Kate Rogers, Editor-in-chief of Mountaineers Books.

For his newest tome, Volken wanted to produce a collaborative effort to offer a wider range of backcountry routes than he could write on his own.

“He just thought it would make for a more exciting project for him but also for the people who read and use the guidebook, to have that whole community of experience behind it,” Rogers said.

Guides like Haskell feel that the book is improved by the variety of perspectives that each author brings. A bigger team means more routes are shown in the book.

Volken founded Pro Guiding Service in North Bend after spending years as a certified mountain guide in Switzerland. His years of experience helped build the backcountry skiing community in the area.

“At some point, I decided that I wanted to spend a large part of my professional life in the mountains,” Volken said of his career. “It started with a few ski touring courses and then evolved into just about every facet of mountain travel.”

Pro Guiding Service offers educational courses and guided trips domestically and internationally.

Mountaineer Books is the publishing division of the Mountaineers, an outdoor educational non-profit organization. After the success of Volken’s first title with the publisher, Rogers was an early force encouraging him to write “Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes Washington.” Rogers thinks his second book will be as well-received as his first.

“[It is] One of the best and most comprehensive guides to backcountry routes in the Cascades and the Olympics,” Rogers said. “What makes it special is that it was put together by what I would call an elite group of skiers.”

The guides who put “Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes Washington” together, including Volken, are offering the chance to see a side of the local wilderness that leaves a lasting impression. The guides and their tours want to share a special experience in nature.

“It nourishes the soul,” Haskell said. “Sharing the love of the mountains to me is important.”


Sam can be reached at or via Twitter @samuel_kenyon.

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