Beyond the Boundaries: Utah's Winter Backcountry

Here's a vivid picture of Utah's backcountry experience: long, untracked powder runs, stunning mountain wilderness scenery, fresh air, quiet and solitude. Most importantly, Utah boasts easy access to the goods no matter where you are, from ski resort exit gates, helicopter or snowcat guide operations or backcountry trailheads. And much of it lies within a 20-minute drive from urban areas.

Most of Utah's 14 ski areas sit on or adjacent to public land and, for experienced and prepared skiers and riders, offer access to backcountry areas sometimes called "sidecountry." Public lands like national forests provide always-open access, plus many of Utah's mountains are laced with roads that are open in winter and access countless backcountry trailheads and groomed snowmobile trails. Utah's five national forests cover millions of acres of beautiful, diverse and exciting landscapes. 

About Utah's Backcountry and Sidecountry

Remember that the gift of backcountry also comes with responsibility for avalanche safety. 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 avalanche rescue gear and avalanche training and should regularly consult the Utah Avalanche Center website for critical avalanche safety information before venturing out in search of the goods. If you don't own avalanche equipment or feel that you have the right skills, no problem. You can utilize local guides listed below that can set you up with the proper gear, keep you safe and lead you to the good stuff. 

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.
  • 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. 

Utah Avalanche Center 

No matter where you are in the state, always make sure to check local conditions before entering Utah backcountry. Read more about avalanche safety from expert Craig Gordon and for current avalanche conditions throughout Utah, please visit: www.utahavalanchecenter.org

Backcountry Guides

Utah Mountain Adventures (formerly Utah Exum Guides) 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.
Visit their website at: www.utahmountainadventures.com

Powder Mountain offers Guided Tours involving snowcat skiing and skinning up backcountry slopes.

The Ski Interconnect Tour guides advanced and expert skiers through the premier backcountry that connects six of Utah's ski resorts. Participants hike, traverse and ski on diverse terrain in search of the very best of The Greatest Snow on Earth®.

Wasatch Powderbird Guides calls Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon their home. Why is this important? Take a look at their location on Google Maps and back out several clicks to a broader view. Now you get it: they are smack dab in the middle of Utah's renowned Wasatch Mountain Range. They're between the vibrantly metropolitan Salt Lake Valley (a.k.a. Ski City U.S.A.) and the celebrated Park City area (a.k.a. The Best Town in America). Simply put, it's easy access to eight world-class ski resorts intermingled with a spectacular backcountry.

Granted, there are plenty of opportunities to Find Your Greatest at Utah's finest resorts, but Wasatch Powderbird Guides tout helicopter skiing as "the undisputed champ of on-snow adventure." First tracks, seemingly uncharted terrain, endless powder and skill mastery (safety first!) are all yours with a heli-skiing experience. The professionals of Wasatch Powderbird will guide you to the caches and steeps you crave.

Park City Powder Cats & Heli Ski exclusively accesses the "natural mountain environment" of the privately owned 40,000-acre Thousand Peaks Ranch. The Powder Cats really get you places. You are guaranteed an adventure because the team of passionate guides have a complete fleet — you'll get there either by cat or by bird. State-of-the-art snowcats carry you to breathtaking peaks, where the terrain and trails of a lifetime are piled high with Utah's Goldilocks snow — it's just right.

Even on days that don't permit flying (those hundreds of inches have to fall somehow), the snowcats are always working and will get you or your private group to the goods. By the same token, the chartered heli-skiing or riding promises a catered adventure with greater vertical and unforgettable tales of epic days on Utah's snow. 

Diamond Peaks Heli Ski Adventures launches from the top of Powder Mountain Resort and takes you over Pow-Mow's mountains to nearby peaks that will feel even more untouched and untamed than some of Powder Mountain's incredible slopes. 

Latest Information, Current Conditions and Places to Go

Utah Avalanche Center | Avalanche advisories, avalanche warnings, education, tutorials 

National Weather Service Snow Page | Snow reports, weather stations, weather forecasts, avalanche reports, road conditions, webcams

National Weather Service Cottonwood Canyon forecast

National Weather Service Wasatch forecast

Wasatch Weather Cams | See current conditions at Alta, Snowbird Park City, Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, Logan and other important winter destinations in Northern Utah

Utah Snowmobiling areas with groomed trails

Snowmobiling maps from Utah Snowmobiling Association