Backcountry Skiing in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons

Cottonwood Canyons | Utah
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to backcountry ski in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons

  • Trip Highlight

    Discover challenging and unforgettable backcountry terrain in one of Utah’s most sought-after areas

  • Trip Highlight

    Part of the Wasatch Range known for the best champagne powder in the world

  • Trip Highlight

    The area encompasses thousands of acres of backcountry terrain

Part of the Wasatch range, the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons are known for some of the best champagne powder in the world! Shaped over centuries, the Cottonwood Canyons are a spectacular setting for backcountry skiing. Encompassing four world-renowned ski destinations and thousands of acres of backcountry terrain, they’re the perfect place to explore with a guide. With wide-open bowls, steep chutes, long-scenic runs, and spectacular views, there’s a lifetime of possibility. Spend your day deep in the remote backcountry or skip most of the skinning and save your energy for the way down with plenty of lift-accessed terrain. Head out for the day and let a guide show you the where to find the best powder in Utah!


December through May


Book as many days as you want

Nearest city

Salt Lake City is 30 minutes away

Skill level

Beginner to advanced


Most Popular Itineraries

Private Intro to Backcountry Skiing


Step out of the resort boundaries and discover limitless virgin powder stretching out over thousands of acres. Learn the basic theory and techniques, experience fabulous descents and enjoy panoramic views from gentle terrain suitable for your skill level. Your guide will take care of your safety and teach you fundamental skills, and in no time, you will be searching for bigger challenges to take on!

Not sure if you should hire a guide? Listen to our ambassador Greg Hill debate the ultimate question: To be guided or not to be guided?

Powder Skiing for Intermediate and Advanced Skiers


Take a day to focus on your needs and wishes. Explore the exciting runs or the popular White Pine Fork and Red Pine Fork canyons or simply enjoy the scenic views. Whether you wish to work on your skills or enjoy a peaceful day of gliding through the fresh powder stashes, your guide will show you the best locations and make sure you make the most out of it.

Depending on your objectives, full days may start earlier and end later, but in general, your day will look like this:

  • 8:00 am: Meet your guide at the guide’s recommended location for introductions and going over the day’s plan
  • 8:30 am: Head to the location of your backcountry ski tour
  • 9:00 am – 4:00 pm: Gear up, go over safety considerations, and spend the day backcountry skiing on routes selected to best suit your group, stopping for lunch and breaks as needed
  • 4:30 pm: Back to the cars for debriefing and high fives

Lift Accessed Backcountry Skiing


One of the best things about having four resorts in proximity is the endless options of lift-accessed backcountry terrain. Use the lift to get a bump up to higher elevation objectives, or utilize the lifts all day for laps or connecting different areas together for a day of less hiking or skinning and more skiing and exploring!

Advanced Ski Tours & Mountaineering Objectives


Get in between 5000 and 8000 feet of climbing and skiing over roughly eight hours with a private guide. For skiers that can handle long days, big objectives and more hazard considerations, test your grit on South Face of Superior, the Pfifferhorn’s NW couloir or Suicide Chute, or any of the other number of steep and towering drainages in the canyons. Let a guide level up your game and be on your way to leading your own ski mountaineering expeditions.


Reviews (2)

Willie is one of the best mountain guides in the world.
Reagan R. about Willie Benegas

He has the highest level of formal guide certification as an IFMGA guide. Willie is an expert in all climbing, skiing and mountaineering disciplines. However, it is Willie’s passion for the environment and for teaching that really separates him from other guides. Willie is a wealth of knowledge and skill, and he can help any adventure seeker have an epic trip in deep powder, on any rock or on any mountain.

There's no one I'd rather go out with
Edwin R. about Todd Passey

Todd was very professional and extremely knowledgeable. We had an amazing time even though the weather did not cooperate. Todd made sure we got to ski and made the experience unforgettable. I’m glad someone like him exists in the skiing community to share his experience and skills. I would highly recommend him as a guide.

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Things to know

Things to know

COVID-19 measures in Cottonwood Canyons

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, guides and the communities they’re travelling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Cottonwood Canyons, please refer to the State of Utah official website.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get in this adventure:

    • An experienced, certified ski guide with extensive knowledge of the area
    • A full day of backcountry ski touring

What’s not included:

    • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
    • Trip insurance
    • Lift tickets (if needed)
    • Food and snacks
    • Transportation

How fit do I need to be?

In order to enjoy this backcountry adventure, you need to have a moderate level of fitness. You will be on your feet for a full day. While there is terrain for all skill levels in Cottonwood Canyons, you will need to manage controlled descents in variable conditions. All participants should feel comfortable on blue level resort runs and be able to carry a loaded daypack while skinning up variable degrees of terrain.

For the enjoyment and safety of everyone involved, participants must be approved to participate in advanced backcountry skiing tours either through a previous trip with the guiding service or through recommendations.

What if I’ve never backcountry skied before?

Backcountry skiing isn’t just for pros looking for the ultimate thrill ride, it’s also beginner friendly, meaning anyone with blue level resort experience can have fun in the backcountry. If you’ve never backcountry skied before, heading out with a guide is your best bet. They’ll take care of the planning, introduce you to the basics, like skinning uphill, and teach you how to manage the terrain. They also have the experience and avalanche training to keep you safe.

What about required equipment and rentals?

All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent: 

  • Avalanche safety pack, including backpack, beacon, shovel and probe may be rented from your guide if needed
  • Alpine touring or telemark skis and poles may be rented from Voile Retail Store 
  • Splitboards can be rented from Voile Retail Store
  • Touring boots and helmets can be rented from REI

Ski rental locations are in Salt Lake City and should be picked up the night prior to your outing. If you need to rent gear, let us know and we can help make arrangements.

For technical backcountry ski touring gear, you will need to bring:

  • Alpine touring skis, telemark skis or splitboard with skins (can be rented)
  • Touring boots and poles (can be rented)
  • Avalanche safety equipment (can be rented from the guide if needed):
    • Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver or beacon
    • Lightweight snow shovel
    • Avalanche probe
    • Harness for glacier travel (for advanced tours)

For personal items, we recommend bringing:

  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses or ski goggles
  • Gloves and hat
  • Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore-tex recommended)
  • Ski pants (Gore-tex recommended)
  • Down jacket or vest
  • Synthetic or wool base layers, underwear and socks
  • One triple-action locking carabiner or two conventional locking carabiners
  • Repair kit and Leatherman for your equipment (can be shared between several people)
  • Water bottle and 1L of water
  • Thermos with a warm beverage — optional
  • Food you can eat on-the-go
  • First-aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Daypack large enough to carry all items listed (around a 30-45L backpack)
  • Camera — optional

Group sizes and age requirements

Groups and pricing:

  • For this adventure, the max client to guide ratio is 4:1. For advanced ski touring, the client to guide ratio is 2:1.
  • The cost per person decreases as the group grows, so it’s the perfect opportunity to backcountry ski with friends and family.
  • Ski touring in Cottonwood Canyons can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

  • Everybody over the age of 18 is welcome to book this backcountry skiing adventure.
  • Minors may be permitted to join private tours on a case-by-case basis. If you plan to ski with anyone under the age of 18, please contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Getting there and meeting location

To get to Cottonwood Canyons, most people fly into Salt Lake City International Airport. From there, you can rent a car or take a shuttle to the Canyons. SLC is less than 30 minutes away from the Big and Little Cottonwood Park and Ride Lots. Utah Transit Authority (UTA) offers Ski Bus with trips going up and down Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon each day.

Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet. The usual meeting points are Big or Little Cottonwood Park and Ride Lot, Alta or Brighton depending on objective. From there, you’ll head to your tour. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ski ability of the group.

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