Wasatch Backcountry Ski Tour

Max_Kiel_Trail Member, Moderator Posts: 12
edited February 9 in OUR STORIES

Ever since the completion of our Appalachian Trail thru-hikes in 2021, @danofosho and I had made it a point to keep in touch and to meet up whenever feasible to chase big days in the mountains; much like we had done nearly every day while on the AT.

After Dan moved out West for Salt Lake City (the Northeast hiking trails became too difficult for him), I couldn't pass up the chance to come visit one of the meccas of skiing in the country, if not the world. This year, much like last year's visit, brought tons of the famed Wasatch blower powder, close to 24" in some places.

Dan had been wanting to show me some of the touring spots that he had been frequenting, so I hopped on a flight in Boston armed with my splitboard in addition to my resort board, avalanche safety equipment, and a Crux 40 strapped my back.

Two nonstop days of snowfall made for some unforgettable powder laps at the resorts, but I was looking forward to getting away from the crowds and lift lines.

Grizzly Gulch, which lies within just a couple miles from Alta ski resort, offers a plethora of backcountry lines; ranging from steep faces to mellow tree cruisers.

Bluebird skies and temps just hovering below 20 degrees greeted us on a Sunday morning, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that an additional 9" had fallen overnight in the area. As if today couldn't get any better.

After a nice mile and a half, 1,000' warmup, we found ourselves at the base of several peaks containing a variety of lines of our choosing.

Nearly 900' of tight switchbacks took us to the top of Black Bess Peak, where deep untouched tracks were awaiting our hard work. From the top, we enjoyed 360 degree views of peaks from the Alta inbounds area, in addition to most other major ski resorts in the area.

My sea-level based lungs and legs were lagging behind skiing above 10,000', but on days like today, you try not to even think about it.

After transitioning to our touring setups again, we made our way up Twin Lakes Pass, and traversed the ridgeline towards Patsy Marley Peak.

We were not planning to reach the peak and ski the main face today, but plenty of others enjoyed the skiing from there already earlier this morning.

A second descent filled with bottomless powder and powdery face shots took us to the base area of the gulch once more. It was now around noon at this point.

The direct sun exposure made for warm temps, and there were an abundance of people enjoying the skiing today; a day that had endless sunshine and untracked snow at your disposal.

We opted for one more run, again making our way up the tough skin track towards Black Bess Peak, but this time cut West, traversing the ridge further in search of more fresh lines. We soaked in one last hard earned view with snacks before the long descent back towards the Alta base area.

You don't get many ski days quite nearly as picture perfect as today was, and when you get them, you certainly try not to take them for granted.

Being out in the backcountry adds a whole new element to the sport, and I look forward to gaining further knowledge and experience so I can continue to experience and enjoy everything that backcountry skiing has to offer.

Photo credits: @danofosho and myself