Backcountry Bliss: A Venture Off the Beaten Trail

By By C.J. Wittaker

By C.J. Wittaker

It may be hard work, but skiing the backcountry is definitely worth it. Weeks after a major storm, and with a dearth of good snow at the resorts, we found light, fluffy powder uncut. A friend’s advice led us to a little-known spot in Big Cottonwood Canyon known as Powder Park.

At the trailhead, we clipped into our skis. We chose telemark gear because the rhythmic turning it produces is like soul music?it takes body and spirit. Telemark gear also makes hiking like cross country skiing because your heels are not attached to the skiis.

As a long line of cars headed past us for the resorts, we stretched climbing skins to the bottom of the skiis, adding friction between the skiis and snow so we could climb the mountain more easily.

However, “easily” might be an understatement. At first the trek wasn’t bad, then we hit switchbacks?about 1500 feet of them. We stopped every once and a while to “take some pictures,” but we were really resting from the uphill climb.

About an hour and a half from the trailhead we reached our destination: the top of a ridge with a couple thousand feet of powder below. The sight was breathtaking?not a person outside our party in sight and a winter vista that seemed endless.

We laugh at all the people stuck in resort traffic below and prepared for the turns ahead.

After taking our skins off and eating a quick granola bar, we started the descent.

Me first! Ha Ha! I greedily started, savoring the first tracks, about six inches of powder over a wind-blown snow crust. A few hundred feet later, snow was flying at my face in almost every turn. Perfect. About a foot of fluffy powder and plenty to go around. Each turn is a crescendo of snow and soul. It’s divine.

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