One of the best things about living in Park City or the Wasatch front is the easy access to backcountry skiing and boarding. When the resorts are clogged to the gills a backcountry skier can slip up any Wasatch canyon and get some solitude, phenomenal powder turns, and a great cardio workout and leave the crowds behind! So just how do you get up the mountain without a lift?
There are three options for backcountry touring depending on your preferred method of sliding. Alpine touring bindings, telemark bindings, and split boards all allow skiers and boarders to use climbing skins. Basically climbing skins are smooth in one direction and coarse in the other so they grip the snow when going uphill. Backcountry gear and the knowledge to use it opens up a new skiing or boarder universe with the limits being how hard you feel like working on any given touring day!
Although, before you can start checking out that massive new universe you need to get a backcountry education. Unlike skiing within the confines of a controlled resort environment, the back country is a wild snow experience. Avalanches happen regularly. The back country skier/boarder must deal with all kinds of snow conditions ranging from perfect pow to merciless, shin banging, wind crusts. One of the best places to start acquiring knowledge is the Utah Avalanche Center. On a daily basis they evaluate snow conditions then report on the probability of avalanche danger for that day. Even better is the UAC teaches on snow how to evaluate snow conditions and spot avalanche danger in a progressive, reasonably priced series of workshops. The consequences of being in the wrong place in the backcountry are steep and even with some training the backcountry can still be intimidating.
Being cautious of the backcountry is a good thing and luckily here in Utah there are a number of killer guide services that can make your first backcountry experience memorable for all the right reasons! For general winter fun Wasatch Adventures Guides has you covered and they are Park City fun specialists. Utah Mountain Adventures covers the entire Wasatch front and specialize in guided ski and board touring. Guide services can also provide rental gear for added convenience. So whether you are looking for a full day of guided shredding in Little Cottonwood Canyon or a leisurely skin in Summit Park, a Utah based guide service will make it happen!
Once you are armed with skills and knowledge, the backcountry really is a universe with seemingly limitless potential. With their unique mixture of easy access backcountry terrain and plentiful snow there is no better place to put those skills to work than Utah’s Wasatch Mountains! A day of backcountry skiing is also an ideal way to mix up your next ski visit to Park City! See you on the slopes!
Words & photos by Dan O’Connor
Producer: Patrick Howell