The backcountry environs just outside Brighton’s gates are tantalizing enough to draw even young kids with no avy gear or know-how. Obviously, this can lead to trouble, and Brighton Ski Patrol is always on the lookout for it. But if you know what you’re doing and belong in the backcountry, you should venture into the gentle glades of Hidden Canyon, the steep bowls off Mt. Millicent, and the wide-open powder hurrah of Lackawaxen. Brighton kindly offers one-ride lift passes for $15. All the areas described here are accessible via short hike or traverse from a lift, so $15 can buy a lot of fun (and leave you beer money for Molly Green’s later on).
As always, check the avy forecast first, and run your itinerary by a ski patroller if you get the chance. They usually have the latest beta on conditions and safety. And ideally, you’ll bring a pal who’s a local and knows the lay of the land.
Hidden Canyon is one of the most easily accessible backcountry zones in the Wasatch, yet it takes a few days to really get skied out. Just head out the gate at the top of the Great Western lift and traverse along the ridgeline extending westward. You can drop in quite soon and ski the steeps of the south-facing headwall, or you can spend a little time traversing and side-stepping out to the west-facing sunny aspen glades.
After you hit the gully of Hidden canyon, continue onward and downward through the wide-spaced trees of the canyon gulch until things open back up. You can continue skiing straight down the fall line and land at the canyon road, just a short walk from Brighton. Or you can angle hard left and, if your aim is good enough, you can end up right back at the bottom of the Great Western ski lift where you started.
Depending on what time of year you hit it, Millicent’s peak can be a very bony bootpack up from the top of the Millicent ski lift. But hang in there and boot up the several hundred feet to Millicent’s peak, where you’ll find yourself perched at 10,452 feet with breathtaking 360-degree views. From here, route-finding is critical.
You can ski off the ridge between Millicent and nearby Wolverine, but make sure you have a clear line of sight from top to bottom—many of the chutes and glades off the summit end in unhuckable cliffs. You can also ski right off the front side of Millicent down the steeps visible from the resort and end up back at the top of the lift from where you came from.
Lackawaxen is a pristine powder line and a delightful bowl of goodness resting on the backside of Hidden Canyon’s saddle. Dart into Hidden Canyon from the top of Great Western and traverse until you arrive at an obvious saddle. You can hike a short ways up the ridgeline to earn a few extra turns, then drop in to the open bowl below you. At the bottom, there’s usually a tidy little bootpack already put in to get you back to where you started. From there, enjoy Hidden Canyon’s delights as you descend back to the resort.
Before you venture into the backcountry, do your research. Printed maps of the Wasatch Backcountry are available through the Utah Avalanche Center’s online shop. And Wasatch Backcountry Skiing’s website offers amazingly detailed satellite maps of the entire range, with every single backcountry run labeled. And to shred safely, always consult the Utah Avalanche Center’s detailed daily forecast.