Insider's Guide to Sidecountry Skiing at Snowbird

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Snowbird is chock-full of serious skiers and boarders who slurp up every scrap of powder they can find after a storm, so it makes sense to be aware of the backcountry riding options beyond the resort gates. Once the resort is skied out, you’ll be poised to take things to another level (conditions permitting, of course).

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.


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White Pine can always be accessed (whether conditions are safe or not) from the White Pine Trailhead along Little Cottonwood Canyon road—but then you have to huff and puff up a few thousand feet to get to its glorious upper bowls. However, when conditions are reasonably stable, Snowbird patrol allows access from upper resort gates for those who are properly equipped with a beacon, probe, shovel, and partner.

There are a few ways to ski White Pine from Snowbird. One is to exit from the Tiger Tail area and make the short hike westward to Temptation Ridge, from which the enticing Temptation Chutes hang. If you can withstand dropping into these lovely chutes, traverse onward and upward along the ridgeline, and peer downward at the Birthday Chutes (or, farther on, the Tri Chutes).

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A second way to get your powder-happy self into White Pine is to hike from the top of Little Cloud to American Fork Twin Peaks and then shimmy over to Red Top. The access gate is not always open, and the hike is often firm and very wind-buffed, but it gets you where you want to be: perched at the perfect pinnacle between White Pine, Snowbird, Silver Creek, and Mary Ellen Gulch. If you know where you’re going and aren’t afraid of a little navigating (and skinning) to get back to the resort, all these descents are more than worth exploring. 


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The goods in Scottie’s Bowl can be snatched up by folks willing to skin for it from the canyon road, but when the access gate from Tiger Tail is open, skiers can duck over to this gem and frolic on its natural terrain features. Of course, its open, treeless areas are obvious slide paths, so stay sharp and don’t tempt fate with a risky line of descent. If you angle things just right, you can try and end up back at the Baby Thunder chairlift. Worst case, you get dumped down at the White Pine Trailhead parking lot and have to hitchhike a mile back up 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.

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