Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding

Thousands of people each day enjoy Utah's famous backcountry — the areas outside of ski area boundaries. It is here where you can enjoy pristine powder slopes, fabulous scenery, fresh air and quiet.

Those with the proper equipment and avalanche skills can best enjoy it. With Wasatch Mountain resorts and trailheads less than an hour from Salt Lake City International Airport, you'll be surprised how close Utah's backcountry really is. Beyond the trailheads there are hundreds of thousands of acres of diverse backcountry across multiple national forests and mountain ranges, should you wish to explore deeper into Utah.

For those without equipment or avalanche skills, you can take advantage of local guiding operations who can get you to the top of the long powder runs of your dreams, all with the security of avalanche-expert guides with detailed knowledge of the terrain and where to find the best goods in nearly any kind of condition. Even without avalanche skills, equipment or a guide, you can recreate safely all day in safe terrain generally less steep than 30 degrees and out from underneath steeper slopes.

Snowcat dropping people off for a day of backcountry skiing.

Photo: Adam Clark

Backcountry skiing at Snowbird Resort.

Photo: Scott Markewitz

Backcountry snowboarding at Brighton Resort.

Photo: Marc Piscotty

About the Backcountry

Each day, hard-working ski patrols make the terrain inside of ski area boundaries extremely safe from avalanches. Those leaving the ski area boundaries or entering the backcountry from a trailhead need standard avalanche rescue gear, avalanche training and should regularly consult the Utah Avalanche Center website for critical avalanche safety information before venturing out in search of the goods. Let someone know your itinerary and the time you expect to return. Know the information for search and rescue, and bring a spot device (Read: 4 Tips to Prepare for Utah's Winter Backcountry). Learn more about how you can support Utah’s local search and rescue teams with a Utah Search and Rescue Assistance card.

If you don't own avalanche equipment or skills, no problem. The local guides listed below can set you up with the proper gear, keep you safe and lead you to the good stuff.

Backcountry guides:

  • Utah Mountain Adventures has operated in the mountains of Utah since 1993. They offer all types of guiding including backcountry skiing, boarding, mountaineering, rock climbing and ice climbing.
  • Powder Mountain Guided Tours offers a variety of options to explore backcounty terrain. You have the choice of an unguided snowcat ride to Lightning Ridge and Raintree, complimentary tour with world-famous Pow Mow hosts, in-bound guided tours, or a ski n' skin experience. 
  • Park City Powder Cats guides skiers and snowboarders on over 15,000 skiable acres of private terrain in the Uinta Mountains.
  • Ski Utah Interconnect Tour gives advanced to expert skiers the opportunity to expereince the beauty and backcounty terrain of the Wasatch Mountian Range. Guests have the chance to ski resort terrain and the backcountry terrain through as many as six resorts in one day.

Know Before You Go

  • Get the Equipment: Everyone should have a transceiver, shovel and probe on their person and know how to use them.
  • Get the Training: Take an avalanche course to learn obvious clues to danger and how to read the terrain. More courses can be found here
  • Get the Forecast: Consult the Utah Avalanche Center website before heading out for critical avalanche information and education resources.
  • Get the Picture: Recent avalanches on similar slopes mean dangerous conditions. 
  • Get out from Harm's Way: Travel one at a time on avalanche slopes and get out of the way at the bottom.

Hiring a Backcountry Ski Guide

Written By Megan Michelson

6 minute read

Thinking of exploring backcountry terrain this winter? We can see why. With empty slopes and fresh powder, it’s an alluring idea. But there are things you should know before you venture out of bounds.

Read more

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