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One of my favorite things about Hoks is how they disappear when I take them out in the snow. Disappear? Let me explain. The Hoks are easy to ski on, so do not require a lot of attention during a good winter wander. Many types of skiing demand almost constant attention. Ski technique can require precision and focus to get your skis working right and behaving properly. A lot of the more recent gear innovations work well in a narrow set of circumstances but require quite a bit of adjustments and fiddling along the way. Modern backcountry gear completely separates the up from the down, discouraging any spontaneous digressions. Hoks let me click in and go, allowing me to let my attention and focus stray to things unrelated to my skis and skiing.

I ski the Hoks exclusively with a tiak (single pole) as it is much easier for any down skiing and at worst a wash for general travel. The tiak also appeals to my perhaps over developed desire for minimalism, two poles being one more then you really need. With at least some of my attention freed up from skiing (along with one hand) I notice a lot more, and with my ability to be spontaneous – up down and around all being equally accessible – I find I am more observant. I also really enjoy taking pictures, something that aligns well with being able to let my attention wander. Last year and this year I started discovering and seeing more in various tracks, ski tracks, animal tracks, tracks left by wind and sun and shadows. There’s a lot out there.

So here is a collection from this year and a few from last year. I will probably add and edit this over time. A lot are from skiing on Boulder Pass, which had a big and hot fire rip through in 2015, leaving large areas burned to various degrees. Sad to see these big old trees die, but in the winter the light and shadow as well as the contrast between white snow and blackened (now browning) trees is quite magical. Some of these are also from the Sherman Pass area and some are from around my home. They are all from my winter wanders on Hoks.


Saturday, February 15th On Boulder Deer Creek Pass near Curlew, NE WA.

We have recently had to cancel the Sitzmark Ski Festival do to lack of snow. We had been talking to the Forest Service about doing a Backcountry Ski Day/Festival on Boulder Pass prior to this and we now have the date set. 

The 15th is the Saturday of Presidents Day weekend so anyone coming from out of the area should check out the area for other skiing opportunities.

Where is Boulder Pass you say? If you come to Curlew you will be about 15 minutes drive from the pass. The pass is the 2nd highest all season pass in the state (Sherman just to the south is the highest)at 4600 ft. Temperatures stay cool as does the snow. This years warm weather and higher snow levels have not had too much effect on the pass do to its elevation, Currently there is 24-36″ of snow with a good settled base. Close to average for this time of year. There is a SNOTEL at the pass as well – Sentinel Butte

Boulder Pass had a very intense fire come through in 2015, burning especially hot around the pass area. Most all of the trees were killed in the ski trail areas. As sad as this was it has made for incredible skiing, with most of the small wood and slash consumed in the fire. This has created a landscape where one can ski pretty much anywhere, particularly after a snow base has formed. 

– The terrain at the pass offers everything from flat roads and groomed trails to fairly steep and adventurous backcountry lines. The verticals around the pass are not too big – 300-500 vertical feet mostly – ideal for the no transition up and down ability of the Hoks. There is no avalanche hazard in the Boulder Pass area as well. It would be hard to design a more ideal area for all levels of Hok skiing.

  • Altai Skis will offer free demos of Hoks and Koms.
  • Tips on using the various skis and our universal bindings.
  • We will have some boots as well that are compatible with the 3 pin bindings.
  • Tips and clinics on uphill and downhill skiing as well as general backcountry touring.
  • The many uses of the Tiak (single pole).

Boulder Pass is a rustic site with no indoor amenities. There are two outhouses and we will have some pop up tents for boots and equipment. There will be a large campfire as well.

Boulder Pass is a Washington State Snowpark so requires a snowpark permit. For those who do not have one we will have some available to purchase at the pass. 

We encourage folks to bring food as we will have potluck style eating. Some hot drinks will also be available.

Camping on site is permitted, expect winter camping conditions.

We will develop more information on amenities in the area in the next few days and add it to this post.

Places to stay in the region

Travel routes to get here

Other places to check out for skiing (Sherman Pass ). 😉

And More!

Map of the Highlands and Skier points of interest.
Skiing through the burn
Boulder Pass area
Making a fresh trail on Boulder
Down through the burn
Liam picking his way
Sunset form Boulder pass
January 2020 touring on Boulder 
Heading south on the crest trail



Leaving the pass at the start of the climb

This time of year things start to slow down a bit at Altai Skis and I can sneak away for more skiing …. testing, I mean. This last week has seen an abundance of new snow and I got out for some skiing on Tuesday (4/17) and again on Thursday (4/19) to confirm my findings….. I have mixed the days a bit in these pictures, but they were both excellent late season powder.



Snowy Trees !

Snow depth at the lake (click image)! 😯

Sherman Pass is quite high – the highest all season in Washington State at 5600 feet. Near the Canadian border and in the interior it is cool and relatively dry compared to the Cascades. This year has been an above average snow year and as of these excursions the snowpack at 6000 ft was 88 inches – deepest of the season.


Late season powder is not unusual here, but it degrades quick so one must be opportunistic about catching it.  ❄🙂


Trees at the lake


The Tiak track is inside of the ski track


I have been shooting images and video to put together a more detailed look at how to use Tiaks (single poles). A lot of these shots are video stills.








Wind Sculpting near the summit


Rime on burned trees from the ’88 fire










Clouds and Rime


Why we backcountry ski…


Summit of Sherman


Steeply down


Coyote tracks up high


A favorite line 🤐

















In mid January, my daughter and her husband to be came up for the Hoks Festival at Sitzmark, and on a free day after the festival they joined Lisa and I for a day of touring in the Kettle Range. The weather was cool and snowy the whole day, and the snow finally had a supportable base, often lacking in the early to mid winter skiing in the Kettles. We did a lot of bushwhacking and found some powder on the way down…. All in all a great day in our local mountains.


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2018 Altai Ski Festival

January 20th 2018 is the 3rd annual Altai Skis Hoks and ski festival at Sitzmark Ski Area in NE Washington, Okanogan Highlands.


Nils’ Map of the Highlands Area with some skier points of interest


The Okanogan Highlands are a high mountainous area in the far north central  part of Washington State. The Highlands are remote and very rural, and in the winter, cold and snowy. Sitzmark, one of the smallest ski areas in the state, has one chair and one rope tow. Views are expansive, north into Canada (less then 20 miles north), west to the North Cascades, and east to the Kettle Range. Sitzmark rarely gets a big snowpack but with consistent cold temperatures it does not lose much snow either.

Altai Skis has had a festival there for the last two years, featuring free demos, lessons, and tours. Discount lift tickets are available  for those who wish to ride the lifts. Altai Skis will have Hoks and Koms there for people to try, Bring your own Hoks if you have them


2017 images



Lisa and I (Nils) went up yesterday ( January 15th) to check out the conditions and skiing was great – cold snow and a beautiful day up there.


Looking west to the Cascades

North to Canada

Looking north to Canada

Looking East to the Kettle Range


SaveSave is the companion site to our Altai site. We thought it would be good to have a informational site dedicated to using skishoes in the many ways people do.

You will find some posts on field work being done on Hoks, kids using them (the Hokstars!), schools, and some user posts as well.

We also will add instructional information over time, using skishoes in different terrain and conditions, as well as the pros and cons on different bindings, and, of course, using the Tiaks (single poles).

There will be lots of images (see the Gallery page) as well as some great new videos for this year.

We welcome comments, user feedback, requests, and contributions.

Happy Skishoeing!

Nils Larsen


Tiak [tīăk] means stick in the local languages in the Altai Mountains of North Central Asia. Tiak is also the name for the single pole used in all the traditional skiing in that region. Prior to 1900, the single pole was used by pretty much all skiers in the world! Continue reading

SKOE2Andrew Morrisey and his friends really captured the backyard backcountry aspect of skishoes. They are having lots of fun close to home. A big thanks to these guys as this is a lot of time involved in making a video like this. Continue reading