Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes Utah  by Jared Hargrave

Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: Utah Guide Book

by Jared Hargrave (The Mountaineers Books)
Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes Utah  by Jared Hargrave
From classic to near-secret wasatch tours, and from the high peaks of the Uintas to the dry, deep powder of the bear Rivers in the far north, Hargrave offers thorough coverage of the state’s backcountry. The options range across skill levels and interests, with intermediate tours, more adventurous lift-accessed terrain, and ski and snowboard mountaineering routes. Hargrave also explores lesser known and less crowded ranges in the east and south of the state.

© 2015 Jared Hargrave/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: Utah" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 99.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 99.

Abajo Peak is the tallest mountain in the range and has some of the most eye-catching ski and snowboard terrain in southeastern Utah. Huge bowls on her southeast face are perfect for corn tours in the spring when the snowpack calms down, and the evergreen and aspen forests on north aspects hold good powder and glade skiing all winter long. While the approaches from North Creek or the Old Blue Mountain Ski Resort are long, and the gigantic communication towers on the summit ruin the solitary backcountry experience, Abajo Peak’s ample ski terrain is totally worth the effort. From the parking area, skin up snow-covered CR 101 for 0.25 mile to CR 285. Go left, pass an open metal gate with a ROAD CLOSED sign on it, and enter North Canyon. From the turnoff, continue skinning up the road, which will probably be packed down by snowmobile tracks, for 3.4 miles.
Monticello, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 9
Bald Mountain is the most accessible of the major Uinta Mountain peaks. She sits just off Mirror Lake Highway on Bald Mountain Pass and can be skied after the road is plowed, around Memorial Day weekend. The route up is pretty straightforward as you can either follow the summer trail from the pass for south-facing shots, or boot straight up the east side of the mountain from Mirror Lake. But don’t let the ease of access fool you, because the runs on Bald Mountain are steep and rocky, so it’s best to make spring turns after a big snow year, or bring your rock boards so you won’t worry about the inevitable core shot.
Kamas, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 3
Beartrap Fork is one of the best places to ski on a powder day in the Wasatch. This hidden drainage harbors excellent low-angle slopes and an 800-vertical-foot run of perfectly spaced aspen trees that would make Billy Kidd leave Steamboat Springs in a hop turn. With tree-anchored slopes and wind-protected aspects, Beartrap is the place to be when the snow is deep and the avalanche danger is considerable. There is also good touring in the upper canyon among low-angle evergreen trees. This area is easily accessed by the 9990 lift at Park City Mountain Resort (formerly Canyons Resort) as well.
Salt Lake City, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 4
If you want to bag a winter summit in the Northern Wasatch, then Ben Lomond Peak is the one to climb. While it’s not the highest summit around, it is the most prominent and therefore the bigger destination. This obelisk-shaped mountain lords over the city of Ogden, but the small town of Liberty on the peak’s east side is the place where backcountry skiers begin a tour via a 3000-foot, avalanche-safe ramp called Cutler Ridge. Tons of quality untracked ski terrain can be had from this long shoulder that rises from the valley floor all the way to the Wasatch Divide, so it’s among the most popular touring spots for Ogden-area locals. The ridge also provides central access for tours around Cutler Canyon and Willard Peak, where long fall lines in amazing high-alpine terrain equal unparalleled skiing and snowboarding. But avalanche danger can be notoriously high anywhere but atop Cutler, so touring on the ridge’s low-angle slopes is best when the avy report is in the red.
North Ogden, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 9
Big Springs Hollow is a long approach for some short runs above tree line. However, that’s not to say it isn’t worth making the arduous skin to the top. Backcountry skiers and splitboarders who brave the miles and elevation gain are treated to some of the most dramatic mountain views in the entire Wasatch Range. Jagged peaks rise from the valley like thorns, surrounded by massive bowls that cause earth-shaking, tree-snapping avalanches. The terrain here is downright spooky when the snowpack is unstable, so the entire South Fork of the Provo River is best left for spring corn skiing. The whole Cascade Mountain massif is also a favorite playground of the Wasatch Powderbird Guides heli-skiing operation, so if conditions are ripe, you’ll likely have company.
Provo, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 11
Bonkers, a massive ski line in upper Broads Fork, absolutely belongs on the list of classic descents in the Wasatch. A steep 4000-foot climb in four miles gets you to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with a nearly 2000-foot descent on a wide-open, northeast -facing ramp. The run is so long you can feasibly make a hundred turns from top to bottom. Just try to ski this thigh-burner without stopping. The saddle atop Bonkers also allows easy access into the expert-only Stairs Gulch, an enormous, glacier-carved gully that drops 5000 feet to the highway below. Both runs are pretty much snow-covered rock slabs, making for unusual avalanche danger (think glide cracks). Ski here only when the snowpack is highly stable.
Salt Lake City, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 8
The Boundary Creek Yurt is, by far, the best yurt for backcountry skiing out of all five yurts operated and maintained in a cooperative venture between the US Forest Service and the Bear River Outdoor Recreational Alliance, or BRORA. These yurts on the north slope of the Uinta Mountains are for use by backcountry and Nordic skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobilers. The Boundary Creek Yurt is the last in the system, located 6.5 miles from the Mirror Lake Highway winter closure. The best skiable terrain in Boundary Creek is right behind the yurt on the slopes of Point 10959 and Point 10485. Open aspects, burned forests, and glades of evergreens dot the north-and west-facing runs, which hold soft snow long after a storm and spill back down to the yurt deck. Talk about ski-in, ski-out!
Evanston, WY - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 2.5-13 miles
Bountiful Peak is a cool little gnar zone in Farmington Canyon that is unfortunately only accessible in the spring unless you own a snowmobile. It was possible to ski here in the winter when Skyline Drive was plowed year-round. A landslide in 2011 caused major damage to the road and closed it for years. Now that the road has been repaired, the city of Farmington has decided to cease winter maintenance, and the road is now closed from November 1 to sometime in April or May, depending on conditions. But as soon as the winter gate opens, Bountiful Peak becomes an accessible corn-skiing playground that’s close to the city and sees little traffic. It is, however, a major snow-mobile area, so be prepared to share the mountain with two-and four-stroke engines.
Morgan, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 5
Box Elder is a dramatic, beautiful peak that dominates the skyline around the American Fork, Dry Creek, and Deer Creek canyons. Viewed from the metropolitan sprawl of Utah County to the west, the mountain appears as a common, snow-covered triangle. But to see her from the north and east, you get to witness the terrifying aftermath of geologic time. Massive cliffs warped from seismic energy rise up from a gigantic, horseshoe-shaped bowl, which is the showcase skiable line. Avalanche paths called Shotgun Chutes spill down through swaths of north-facing evergreens for thousands of feet, and wide-open headwalls surround the remaining aspects for tons of vertical, no matter how you choose to ski it.
Alpine, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 9
Brighton Hill to Point 10420 is the closest you can backcountry ski near Brighton Ski Resort without having to ride any chairlifts to get there. The ridge and lower slopes can be a good place to take beginner backcountry skiers and splitboarders who are comfortable with riding in the trees. A low-angle ridge from the Guardsman Pass winter closure leads to the base of Point 10420, where more advanced riding can be found on steep, treed slopes. The ridge is also a safe haven from snowmobiles, which are always buzzing on Guardsman Pass Road but aren’t allowed anywhere else in upper Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Brighton, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 3
There’s nothing more memorable in backcountry-ski life than staying a night or two at a yurt. The Bunchgrass Yurt, owned by Powder Ridge Ski Touring in Logan, is one such tidy shelter nestled beneath acres of righteous ski and snowboard terrain. The summits of White Pine Knob and Chicken Hill are a mere half-mile skin from the front door, and each has runs on several aspects so you can generally find good snow, even weeks after a storm. After your yurt adventure is over and every shred of snow has been tracked out, follow your ascent route down Bunchgrass Creek to return to the highway and your vehicle.
Logan, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 1-8 miles
Backcountry skiers derisively call the Central Wasatch “Wasangeles,” and for good reason. The range’s proximity to the Salt Lake metropolis humming in the valley below means skiers and riders are crawling all over the place. Nowhere is this better illustrated than at Cardiff Pass. Located just above the Town of Alta, Cardiff (also known as Pole Line Pass, thanks to the powerline strung above) can feel like an LA traffic jam on the skin track, especially the morning after a storm. While Cardiff Pass is the main ascent route for the expert-only tours on Cardiac Ridge, Mount Superior, and Flagstaff Mountain, this tour describes the beginner-friendly ski and snowboard routes in the area, which is a great place for first-timers to learn the finer aspects of skinning technique.
Alta, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 3
The Castle Peak Yurt, operated by White Pine Touring in Park City; is my favorite winter shelter in all of Utah. On the surface it looks just like any other Utah yurt, but with one exception: it has a wood-fired sauna. While the ability to ease your tired muscles in a sauna is reason enough to book a trip to the yurt, the mountains that surround the place aren’t half bad either. Two peaks with skiable terrain lie a short day tour north of the yurt—Castle Peak and a mountain known only as Duke. Both rise above 10,000 feet and offer short but steep lines on northwest- and southeast-facing aspects. Spring is the best time to visit, as the Uinta Mountains have a fussy snow-pack and anything above tree line is highly avalanche prone here. But if you happen to plan a trip to Castle Peak during high avalanche danger, you can always play it safe and hang out in the sauna.
Kamas, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 5-10 miles
The Catherine Pass area, just outside the Alta ski area boundary, is one of the first places of the season you can tour in Utah, thanks to predictable early-season snowfall in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Autumn is also the best time to visit for first tracks before the Supreme chairlift at Alta starts running, because once it does, the whole place becomes tracked-out sidecountry terrain with easy return runs back to the resort. Even so, it’s a popular route between Alta and Brighton and has touring options from easy glades to steep chutes. Much of the “backcountry” terrain here is best accessed using Alta’s Supreme chairlift when ski patrol opens the gate.
Alta, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 5
Circle All Peak is a small mountain surrounded on all sides by bigger peaks like Mount Raymond, Gobblers Knob, and Kessler Peak. But what Circle All lacks in stature, it more than makes up for with 360-degree views of Big Cottonwood Canyon and fantastic tree skiing in Butler Fork. When avalanche danger is high, it’s a good place to tour as Butler Fork is at a lower elevation and grows large aspen groves that anchor the snowpack. Overall, the whole Butler Fork drainage is an enjoyable tour as you skin up through a quiet forest to ski protected powder that can last for days after a storm. The terrain isn’t very steep, but it’s the perfect place to go for a short tour with little uphill effort.
Salt Lake City, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 4
City Creek Peak is one of the most accessible mountains in the Tushars, even more so from the Puffer Lake Yurt, located below the mountain’s slopes. The yurt, which is run by Tushar Mountain Tours, is ideally situated in an open meadow above low-angle glades that spill down to Puffer Lake, and is only a ten-minute skin from the access ridge for an ascent of City Creek Peak. Of course you don’t have to use the yurt to ski good terrain that isn’t far from the trailhead, but booking the yurt will maximize your turn-to-time ratio. As for the peak, you’ll find everything from slide paths to the east to mellow bowls and glades to the west that you can lap from the yurt.
Beaver, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 2-5 miles
The Corkscrew Glades are a northwest-facing series of runs that dot a thick pine forest nestled below Tuk No and the massive Mount Tukuhnikivatz. From a distance, the glades look like a cluster of steep, open meadows that thread down like commas, resembling a spiraling corkscrew. The riding tends to be a good bet for soft winter snow that’s protected by the trees, and the approach is a moderate skin on flat, view-laden expanses followed by steep switchbacks to Point 10974. The Corkscrew Glades can be easily combined with Noriegas Peak for a double-mountain day.
Moab, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 5
Cornice Ridge is a fleeting place for backcountry skiers. In winter, access to the Tony Grove parking area requires a snowmobile, and the ridge grows an impassable, giant cornice (hence the name). But this playground for snowmobilers is prime for autumn backcountry skiing and snowboarding when the snow is too shallow for heavy machinery, the cornice is still an infant, and Tony Grove Road hasn’t snowed in yet. If you time it right, you can make laps below Cornice Ridge on open, north- and east-facing bowls that consistently have the deepest early-season snow in the Bear River Range.
Logan, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 4
Davenport Hill, one of the high points on Emma Ridge above the Town of Alta, provides many classic ski descents from her summit—most notably in the upper bowls of Silver Fork. The mountain divides the bowls, which makes it like a high-altitude buffet table—you can choose to ski whatever you want from here. Tight chutes, steep, north-facing glades, and open bowls with short approaches are all here for the taking. Backcountry skiing in upper Silver Fork is very similar to tours in neighboring Days and Cardiff forks, where dawn patrollers sneak in powder runs before work. But Silver Fork remains less crowded due to the fact that it’s not along the Cardiff Pass skin track, leaving more untouched powder for those willing to traverse the ridge a bit to garner the goods.
Alta, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding - Trail Length: 3
Delano Peak is the highest mountain in the Tushar Range, yet it’s one of the easiest to get to and ski down as long as you’re staying at the Snorkeling Elk Yurt. In two hours you can reach the summit from the yurt, otherwise you’re looking at a full day in the skin track if starting at State Route 153. You can also reach it from the Eagle Point Resort. Powder tours and spring corn are par for the course on Delano Peak, depending on the season, and you can ride it on either low-angle bowls on her west face, steep chutes to the south, or moderate runs into Poison Creek on a northwest aspect, all of which allow an easy return to the yurt.
Beaver, UT - Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding,Hiking - Trail Length: 4-9 miles