Desolation: A Day Off in the Wasatch Backcountry

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As resort employees, Ryan O’rear and I spend our days teaching pizza wedges to new skiers and occasionally coaching the expert down a bump run.  It isn’t the most exciting skiing, but the smiles and first-ever turns absolutely make it a rewarding job.  Our clients find steeps to be intimidating, tree runs frightful, and new snow as a workout.  Every once in a while we find a fresh turn or two, but on those bluebird pow days you can usually find me lapping First Time from first to last chair.  Get some!  After two weeks without a day off, we were blessed with abnormally warm weather and a fairly stable snow pack.  Ryan and I decided we would try the easy to access backcountry gate off 9990 for a day of touring.  With low expectations for powder turns we navigated our way through the crowds at Canyons, a resort we were both unfamiliar with, toward the solitude of the backcountry.

After boot packing up from 9990 and consulting the map, we skied some green-light trees down to Desolation Lake.  As we de-layered and began to skin up from the lake, I realized how fortunate we were to have a day off, away from the resort, just us and momma nature …and lots of untracked snow!  I wasn’t expecting great snow when we exited the gate from Canyons, but was overjoyed to leave the crowded lifts and slushy ski trails behind.


To get to our second run we climbed up a mellow ridge with views for days across the valley.


Big Cottonwood and all her glory, snow capped peaks, and the sun. Wow – the sun was resilient.  We unzipped and stripped as we went up trying not to sweat our asses off.  But through the aspens we saw a gorgeous looking pitch of fresh on West Desolation Ridge.  We took a break and watched two skiers shred a similar aspect.  The wet slough seemed under control so we decided to check out our line and the views from the ridge.


Both of us ate shit at the bottom trying to ski out in the sticky sun effected snow, but the deep fresh turns were better than we thought they would be.  Next time,  when I’m applauding a five year old for jumping off their first ever whoopdie, I will look forward to another day off to explore the goods the Wasatch has to offer




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