Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wasatch Tri-Canyon Series: Big Cottonwood

Under the influence of yet another hopelessly long and high high-pressure system I feel compelled to launch another series of posts. October was avy airbag month; November shall be about the structure of our wonderful and irreplaceable central Wasatch. The tri-canyon area (click on picture to the left to enlarge) is of course made up of, from North to South: Mill Creek Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon. This first post in this new series focuses on Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Big Cottonwood Canyon, in the Wasatch Range, includes two ski resorts, Brighton and Solitude, and about 7 – 8 drainages, on each side of the road (see schematic to the left), that were like made for backcountry skiing. The road up from Salt Lake City to Brighton is about 15-mile long and is oriented from west to east. The uppermost drainage to the North is Willow Creek and the uppermost one to the South (out of resort boundary) is Silver Fork. For touring purposes the southern Big Cottonwood drainages can be efficiently accessed from Little Cottonwood Canyon (you start higher and so gain some “free” skiing). To do that the UDOT ski bus is a fantastic resource. You can drop a car at the 6200 South bus stop or the one at the Big Cottonwood base and just take that bus up Little Cottonwood and then just pick the Big Cottonwood bus down at the end of the day. Some classic tours in Big Cottonwood are: Mt. Raymond, Kessler Peak, Reynolds Peak, West Bowl (upper Silver Fork), Cardiac Ridge and Bowl (upper Mill D South Fork) and many more.

Below are some potentially useful resources if you are planning a tour in Big Cottonwood:

Utah Mountain Adventures (tours guided by professionals)
Backcountry Skiing Utah (Falcon Guide, author: Tyson Bradley) 
Wasatch Tours: The Northern Wasatch (Volume 2)
The Official Wasatch Mountain Club Trail Map
Wasatch Touring map 1 by Alpentech
UDOT ski bus

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