Cottonwood Canyons | Utah

Backcountry Skiing in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons

Season

December through April

Nearest city

Salt Lake City is 30 minutes away

Duration

1 day

Skill level

Beginner to advanced

Discover challenging and unforgettable backcountry skiing in Utah

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. The choice is yours!

Most Popular Itineraries

Private Intro to Backcountry Skiing

From $450 · Full-day

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!

A Customized Day of Private Guided Backcountry Skiing

From $450 · Full-day

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.

Lift Accessed Backcountry Skiing

From $450 · Full-day

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 Tours & Ski Mountaineering

From $500 · Full-day

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.

Things you need to know

Covid 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!

Why should I book with 57hours?

With us, it’s all play and no work for you! 57hours is an open platform that connects you with trained and certified outdoor adventure professionals all over the world. Using our tech-savvy, we make it super easy to find and book adventures worth tackling, with guides worth booking, all gathered from the first-hand experiences of the locals who adventure in these amazing locations.

Why should I go backcountry skiing?

Nothing beats the rush you’ll get from laying down first tracks on an incredible route with nothing but endless terrain laying before you. Alpine peaks, open bowls, steep and secluded tree shots, cruisy, mellow runs — it’s all out there waiting to be explored in the backcountry. You’ll spend less time waiting in chairlift lines and more time skiing, so leave the crowded resort behind and head off-piste for some of the best powder you’ll ever experience!

What can I expect from skiing with a guide?

A certified ski guide will take all of the guesswork out of your time in the backcountry. From tour planning to route selection, terrain management, avalanche safety, and gear knowledge, your guide’s expertise and backcountry experience will ensure you have an unforgettable ski touring adventure.

It doesn’t matter your skill level, whether you’ve never backcountry skied or you’re seasoned on the slopes, skiing with a guide has its advantages. Your techniques will sharpen, you’ll learn how to navigate terrain safely, make smart decisions, and most of all, you’ll remain safe in unfamiliar terrain.

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’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 advanced ski tours and mountaineering, you need to be in excellent physical condition. You will be skinning for multiple hours and skiing for an entire day in expert-only terrain. You need to have good skinning technique, good stamina and be an experienced backcountry adventurer.

What equipment do I need to bring?

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

Can I rent equipment?

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 Christy Sports

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.

What’s the itinerary?

Your backcountry ski tour will be fully customized to match your skill level and objectives. You and your guide will discuss route selection, skills development, and whatever else you’d like to focus on. From there, your guide will plan the perfect day tailored just for you taking into consideration factors such as weather and snow conditions.

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 – Big or Little Cottonwood Park and Ride Lot, depending on objective
    • 8:30 am: Head to the location of your backcountry ski tour
    • 9:00 am – 3:30 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
    • 4:00 pm: Back to the cars for debriefing and high fives

What is the minimum age requirement?

  • 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.

What about group sizes 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.

What about bad weather?

Mitigating avalanche risk is paramount for any excursion in the backcountry — that’s why it’s best to tour with a guide! Rest assured, your guide will set objectives that are attainable for the weather conditions on that particular day. Of course, inclement weather can always get in the way of backcountry skiing, but your guide will know the best course of action to take if the weather takes a turn.

On the rare occasion of truly bad weather, your guide will present you with suitable, safe alternatives. The most common practice is to move to a nearby location if it exists, or to reschedule your backcountry ski tour to a more favorable day.

If backcountry skiing is not possible on your scheduled day and no options presented are viable, you will be issued a full refund.

Do I need an insurance policy?

We highly recommended that you cover all your bases with both emergency medical and travel insurance. With medical insurance, if you have an accident or medical emergency on or off the mountain, you’ll avoid paying out of pocket for costly expenses. This covers everything from hospital treatments to emergency air transportation and more.

If you need assistance selecting the right insurance for your group, let us know and we will be happy to help!

Cancellation policy

With 57hours, you benefit from both our own cancellation policy as well as that of the individual guiding service that delivers your adventure. All policies regarding cancellation will be clearly laid out by your guide after booking your adventure, but rest assured that our own cancellation policy will work on top of what is provided by your guide.

For this adventure, 57hours offers a Moderate Cancellation Policy, which states:
If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to thirty (30) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is entitled to a full refund. For cancellations fourteen (14) to twenty nine (29) calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of fifty percent (50%) of the total amount paid when Booking. For cancellations zero (0) to thirteen (13) days in advance, the Client is not entitled to any refund.

For more information on terms and conditions, please visit our Terms of Service page.

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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