Skiing Powder around Holden Village

Lady Express from Fields Point to Lucerne

Some friends in town asked me a few months ago if I wanted to join on a ski trip to Holden Village over the long Presidents Day weekend and knowing nothing really but that their excitement was legit I decided to join along. Somehow in my near decade of playing in the Cascade Mountains I'd never been to Lake Chelan let alone Holden Village. The previous summer I'd hiked Mt Maude from the Trinity side and it was my first time in that zone so I was excited to explore more of the this zone that lies between Glacier Peak and Lake Chelan.

The map above shows the ferry ride from Fields Point to Lucerne and the 10 mile bus route Holden Village.
Loading on the uplake ferry.

We all met up in Fields Point on Friday morning for the 9:30 am ferry ride on the Lady of the Lake which would take us up to Lucerne. There were a few other groups from Leavenworth this weekend as well so it took some time to load up everyone's gear onto the Lady which was good because a couple members of our crew were running on the later end due to a late night date and a car having to turn back to get a pair of forgotten skins.

Beautiful views along Lake Chelan on the way to Lucerne

The ferry ride was definitely a highlight of the trip. We were lucky to have a sunny beautiful winter day. The mountains along the banks shot out of the water spackled with snow, showing off some beautiful waterfalls as the melt made its way down to the lake.

Arriving and unloading gear in Lucerne

About an hour and a half later we had arrived and docked in Lucerne. For loading and unloading of gear everyone chips in by forming a line and passing the gear up the doc and onto a vehicle which would carry it all to our end destination of Holden Village.

From here a 40 minute bus ride took us up winding roads and up the Railroad Creek valley to Holden where we were warmly greeted by staff and village folks. It was time for lunch then a quick evening ski to check out the area.

Big group rallied to go out for a short evening tour after arriving to town and having lunch.

We headed up in big party style and excitement for the weekend ahead grew as early on (3500ft) we were greeted with 6" of light and fluffy fresh powder. This was unexpected as the cascades had been getting pounded by rain for weeks ahead of this and things had only started to cool off in the week prior. We headed a bit up the Copper Creek drainage and found some perfectly spaced trees.

We enjoyed some great views of the evening light on Buckskin Mountain (L) and Bonanza Peak (R).
Surprisingly good snow got us psyched for the weekend of skiing ahead.

We skiied back down to town, arriving just in time for dinner. Having had no idea what Holden would be like it quickly became apparent that we had packed a lot more food than we needed as the meals provided were plentiful, healthy, and tasty.

Der Town Party in the Copper Basin

Great start to the hike in our crew of 4. Lots of avy debree left over from all the natural slides caused by the warmer temps and rain as seen in this couloir we passed.
Seeing our friends up in the distance from the field below the basin as they started up steeper terrain.
Mt Maude's North Face in the distance above the ridge line of the Copper Creek Basin. Stuart and Stuart team successfully summited and skiied the North side of Maude on the same day. 📸 Logan R
All the Leavenworth crews meeting up in the Morain.
Fresh tracks all the way down! 📸 Kaitlin K
Back in town after an amazing day in the mountains, ready to sauna! 📸 Ilana Z

The Village

Historically the area where Holden Village is was one of the largest copper mines in the United States in the first half of the 1900s. When the mine closed down in 1957 it was attempted to be sold but was donated in the end to the Lutheran Bible Institute who saw potential in it for a spiritual retreat center. Over many years and with the help of many volunteers and donors the village's buildings and infrastructure were restored and people started going there for summer retreats eventually expanding into year round operations through winter as well.

The village today gets most of their power from hydro turbines they run off a pipe that brings water down from Copper Creek. When we were there the sign said the max power available was ~190KWh. From what we heard some years they struggle to have enough power to go towards leisurly uses but when we were there there was plenty to go around and folks were fine using their power hungry ski boot drier things.

We were there for only a few days so I did not spend long enough to get to know the place well but upon arrival it is immediately clear that it's a special place. Being a guest in the Holden felt very much like an adult summer camp. Some of us were bunked in the Hotel which was the top floor of the main dining area, some were in chalets which were separate living houses, and some were in the lodges which I'm not really sure what the difference there was. There were 3 meals a day except Sundays where there was just a brunch and dinner, and 24/7 cereal and toast bar along with tea and coffee which meant that there was always plenty of food and we could prepare PB&J sandwiches to bring with us in the day. There was a sauna, lots of games, ping pong, an art center, a library, apparently a bowling alley, and likely lots more that I did not see during this short trip. Even without the outdoors there, there seemed to be a lot of things to enjoy during rest days.

Some of the buildings in town. 📸 Nova F
Lots of games were enjoyed in the evenings and the dark didn't stop some friends from a late jump session.
Enjoying a morning coffee with friends at the espresso bar that was open on our last day in the library building.

Alder Schwacking and Crossing Railroad Creek in Ski Boots

On my second full day in town I felt a bit under the weather and stayed back with a smaller crew for the late brunch while other friends headed out early to get another big day of skiing in. After a brunch of vegetarian grits pie which was surprisingly delicious we decided to head out and check out the next watershed north of town between Copper and Dumbell Mountain called Big Creek. We started out on the groomed XC trails and then onto a well travelled skin path that was mostly flat and lead us through a large Alder field that required some less desireable schwacking to get through. It had warmed up significantly from the day before and we were not gaining much elevation so the snow was warm and sticky. From the end of the Alder we soon got to the creek and went a mile or two up valley before deciding to turn around and head back to Sauna as we would have had a ways to go to find any good snow.

Jeff coming across one of the many closed mine enterances in the region, there are apparently fifty-something miles of mines under copper mountain, many that connect (L). Into the Alder Schwack! (R)

When we got back to the Alder field we decided to try and head down towards the river hoping we could pass around it and were open to an adventure if need be. We mostly managed to avoid the Alder but definitely was a bit of an adventure requiring lots of narrow skiing between bushes and crossing narrow snow and log bridges over streams. We ended up near the river where soon after two friend that had headed out in an earlier group skiied out of the wood having followed our tracks. They did not find it funny that the track they had followed was put in by us who had no real idea what the best way back was but the general plan was to head back along the river and hope to find a crossing early so we could ski back on the XC trails on the other side instead of schwacking all the way to the bridge.

Dense forrest up Big Creek where we eventually decided to turn back due to goals of Saunaing before dinner. 📸 Lisa F

It was a thick schwack along Railroad Creek so our group ended up crossing it in ski boots as it was only about 5" deep and very reasonable, we had important things to get back to. Though our feet did get wet we got back to town about 30 minutes ahead of the group that followed our tracks then opted not to cross the river giving us time to enjoy a sauna before dinner.

Crossing Railroad Creek to get to the groomed trails that we cruised back to town on.

Heading home

10/10 trip, all around great times with great people in an incredibly beautiful and unique place. We were so lucky with the weather and great snow, it was looking bleak in the weeks up to the trip and turned just in time for us. I've not written a trip report or really shared much in 5 or 6 years now but this was such a beautiful weekend and it gave me the motivation to share some photos. Huge thanks to the Staff and all others in the village for the hospitality, I hope to be back soon!

Most of the Leavenworth People!
All the gear that was on the dock loaded into the truck and us onto the busses.
On the Lady of the Lake heading first to Stehekin for a short stop then back downlake to Fields Point and Chelan.