Grizzly Gulch to Silver Fork - Backcountry Skiing

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Summary

This backcountry ski tour is a great way to explore both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons - and get in some great turns along the way.

Written by

Beth Lopez

Distance

0.1 miles

Varies.

Destination Distance From Downtown

20.2 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours

Varies.

Seasonality

Winter

Dog Friendly

No

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

This cross-canyon delight offers views of both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons at their best. On the way up Grizzly Gulch, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of Alta, Snowbird, and towering Mt Superior behind your shoulder. And once you reach the top of Davenport Hill (your takeoff point into Silver Fork glory) you’ll meet a jaw-dropping Big Cottonwood panorama stretching from Mt. Raymond to Wolverine Cirque.  

What Makes It Great

Grizzly Gulch is laden with mining history (including, but not limited to, ghost stories of lost miners and gunfight losers). Pioneer-era mine tailing piles are more than snow-covered ski jumps; they’re remnants of rougher times, when skis were wooden, boots were leather, and the tiny town of Alta had 20 saloons. Gnarled ancient trees punctuate the younger forest—these were the trees too twisted by wind and age to be harvested by miners for lumber. 

As you ascend, you’ll pass a classic spot, Patsey Marley—a perfect triangular face of steep, north-facing snow. But if it’s been a few days since the last storm, don’t yield to its temptations. Veer toward Davenport Hill; a skin track fork to the left should lead the way. This will take you to the ridge line dividing Big and Little Cottonwood. Big is where you can bank on a primo untracked line for several days after a storm. 

From the top of Davenport Hill, you can assess the happy options in your future. Skin left to the top of West Bowl for a wide-open run, go down the north face of Davenport (punctuated by a cliff band, so make sure you can see your full line), or skin right to the top of East Bowl to schuss through wide-spaced evergreens. One special benefit of this tour is the vast range of slope aspects ranging from west- to north- to east-facing and everything in between. You can tailor your descent plans around the snowpack quality and safety, knowing chances are high for an amazing ride if you play your cards right. 

Some people skin back up to the top of Davenport to repeat or go back to Alta the way they came. But you also have the option to descend all the way down the gut of Silver Fork canyon, traversing here and there to eke out a few extra turns. This is a fun way to milk a nice long Big Cottonwood run. Be aware, though: this gully is one long terrain trap, so stay apprised of what’s above, and watch for safe “outs” as you go. 

Once you get to a snow-packed road at the bottom of Silver Fork, skate along that road for about ten minutes, and you’ll end up at the bottom of Solitude’s Eagle Express ski lift. The parking lot is a short uphill walk away. You can embark on the 45-minute return bus trip to Alta from here.

Who is Going to Love It

Competent ski tourists, appreciative powder connoisseurs, photo-snappers, and savvy route-finders. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Park at the seasonal end of Little Cottonwood Canyon Road and head up the obvious cat track to the east. This is the same area as the parking area to Alta Ski area.

The trail is open anytime, but remember the Solitude lifts and return buses only operate during the day. 

Location

Grizzly Gulch to Silver Fork

Salt Lake City, UT,
40.588839, -111.63797

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