The Central Wasatch is undoubtedly the hub of backcountry skiing in Utah. There is an amazing amount of backcountry ski terrain despite the range's relatively small size, and much of it can be found in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Dozens of quality ski tours spread throughout the drainage and I love them all, but these are 5 of my favorite routes to backcountry ski Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Skinning up Bonkers is a long, arduous ascent. (Photo: Jared Hargrave - UtahOutside.com)
Looking for a massive ski line that blesses you with 2,500 feet of sustained fall-line on an open, high-alpine ramp? Look no further than Bonkers in Broads Fork. Bonkers absolutely belongs on a list of the most classic ski descents in Utah. The run is long, and if you like to milk your line, you can easily score 100 turns from the Broads Fork/Stairs Gulch saddle down to the "Lunch Flat" at the bottom.
On a powder day when avalanche stability is good, there's no better place to be than Bonkers. But be aware, upper Broads Fork is littered with rock slabs that are the bed surface for the snowpack, so stay away when avalanche danger is high, and especially be wary in the spring when glide avalanches are common. To ski Bonkers, park at the Broads Fork/Mill B South Fork trailhead, and skin up Broad's Fork to Bonkers.
Mason Diedrich skis the top of Argenta Slide Path. (Photo: Jared Hargrave - UtahOutside.com)
If you were to pick out the marquee line in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Argenta would have to be on the short list. Argenta is a 3,000 foot slide-path that spills down from near the summit of Kessler Peak all the way down to Big Cottonwood Creek. Argenta is also one of the most visible lines in the canyon as it's easily scoped out from the highway. You can't beat making laps on Argenta on a powder day, but the downside is that you won't be alone, as ease of access means it's one of the most crowded routes in the canyon.
To ski Argenta, park at the pullout 7-miles up BCC and skin straight up the slide path on the canyon's south side.
The north face of Kessler Peak. God's Lawnmower is the giant slide path in the shadow side of the mountain. (Photo: Jared Hargrave - UtahOutside.com)
God’s Lawnmower is an apt name for this excellent backcountry route. That's because it's a gigantic avalanche path on the north side of Kessler Peak that looks like God himself fired up a tractor mower and plowed up the mountain. As we all know, slide paths make for fun (but dangerous) skiing, and God's Lawnmower is one of the best. A steep start on the headwall leads to more playful, mellow terrain down low which hold surprisingly good skiing when the snow is soft and fast.
Access to God's Lawnmower is straightforward. Park at the Cardiff Fork pullout near the sledding hills, and skin up the road into Cardiff. Locate a skin track to your right that ascends into the trees that accesses a ridge, which will get you to the top of the slide path. Only attempt God's Lawnmower when you are confident that the snowpack is stable.
Approaching the top of Short Swing Ridge. (Photo: Jared Hargrave - UtahOutside.com)
For a more mellow tour, I like to ski the aspen trees on Short Swing in Mill D North Fork. Short Swing is the unofficial name of the ridge that divides Mill D North Fork from Bear Trap Fork, and it consists of a couple small peaks like The Cone, and is also home to the famed Powder Park 3 (a go-to spot on high avalanche danger days.) But my favorite line is the 1,000-foot vertical, west-facing, perfectly-spaced aspen trees. These glades are so suited for skiing through, you'd think you're tree skiing with Billy Kidd at Steamboat, Colorado.
Short Swing is quick to get to, so it's ideal for a short, morning tour if you have afternoon plans. To ski it, park at the Spruces Campground, cross the highway, and skin into Mill D North Fork. The Short Swing aspens begin just after you pass the summer cabins.
Backcountry skiing on Silver Fork Canyon's eastern aspects. Photo: Mason Diedrich
The Meadow Chutes, found in lower Silver Fork Canyon, is likely the most popular spot for ski touring in Big Cottonwood Canyon. There's good reason for this as a short approach, high visibility from Solitude Mountain Resort, and wide open powder bowls draw skiers in like a magnet. The Meadow Chutes are a bit deceiving, as the ski lines are actually bowls, but the runs funnel into chutes at the bottom of the drainage. These terrain traps are preceded by steep rollovers, so avalanche fatalities have happened here. It is wise to lap the lower-angle upper bowls, then exit from Green's Basin if avalanche danger is a concern.
To access the Meadow Chutes, you can skin up via Green's Basin by parking at the Spruces Campground. Alternatively, park at the lower lot at Solitude, then skin up Silver Fork Canyon.
For detailed information including driving directions, specific route-finding info, maps, photos and more, purchase my new book, Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: Utah
This article is by Jared Hargrave from utahoutside.com.