Park City’s ski resorts are the trusted go-to for snowy explorations. The comfort of a lift, groomed run, or secret powder stash can make it hard to venture beyond resort boundaries. A lengthy wait in the lift line or a scarcity of parking spaces is evidence that a majority of skiers and riders utilize the ski resort as their primary means of snow play.
As resort popularity grows—in part due to collective season passes and the advent of high-quality skis and boards that make riding more accessible—those seeking solitude and untracked powder often head into the backcountry.
Moving from the avalanche-controlled terrain of a ski resort into unruly natural landscapes is a risk—and one not to be taken lightly. Avalanches are a primary concern, and even individuals who work as backcountry guides need to consistently act and make decisions based on weather and conditions. Riding in the backcountry requires a level of risk acceptance; the terrain is unforgiving, a knowledgeable partner is a must, and each backcountry turn is hard-earned.
Dangers aside, there is something deeply alluring about observing the quiet majesty of the mountains in the backcountry. And the feeling of floating effortlessly on a cloud of Utah’s lightest snow makes the hard work, the risk, and the uncertainty merely quirky attributes of backcountry riding.
The first step for those looking to head into the backcountry is to take an avalanche safety course. Backcountry riders should know how to use rescue gear and backcountry ski or splitboard equipment.
And for those who are new to the sport or are looking to hone specific skills, there’s no better way to get your feet wet (and stay safe) than to book your backcountry trip with a pro. Thankfully, the Park City area is home to a host of backcountry guiding operations.
WHITE PINE TOURING
Rent or buy backcountry skis, splitboards, snowshoes, skate skis, and fat bikes at this iconic Park City retail store. In addition to selling, renting, and tuning gear, White Pine Touring offers fat bike and snowshoe tours and the White Pine Touring Nordic Center is an ideal location for a cross-country ski lesson. White Pine Touring is an AIARE avalanche education provider and offers AIARE Companion Rescue, AIARE 1, AIARE 2, and AIARE Pro Courses.
THE BACKCOUNTRY PROS
This company is serious about getting people into the backcountry and provides custom trips based on client requests like instructional techniques, powder riding, and descending steep terrain. For a unique adventure, you can charter a private helicopter and ski untouched powder in the remote Oquirrh Mountains just west of Salt Lake.
INSPIRED SUMMIT ADVENTURES
This outfit operates in both the Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges. Their offerings include guided human-powered ski touring and lift-access ski touring. In addition, you can try a snowmobile-assisted ski tour in the Uinta Mountains or indulge in their guided and catered yurt trip.
UTAH MOUNTAIN ADVENTURES
Utah Mountain Adventures boasts guided backcountry skiing and splitboarding, ski and splitboarding mountaineering, and overnight tours. Education is one of the organization’s chief focuses; they offer ice climbing and mixed ice climbing clinics and avalanche courses that range from Youth Level 1 to Recreational Level 1 and 2.
RED RIVER ADVENTURES
The name of this guiding company might conjure up images of rock climbing sandstone towers in southern Utah, but the company also operates in northern Utah’s Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Guided ski tours and ice climbing trips include options that are appropriate for introductory, intermediate, or advanced users.
PARK CITY POWDER CATS
This Uinta-based cat skiing operation has access to over 43,000 acres of terrain. Guests at Park City Powder Cats can anticipate deep and steep powder skiing with a snowcat assist. You won’t find groomed terrain here, so guests must be advanced riders, with the ability to ski a black diamond resort run.
POWDERBIRD HELI SKIING
Powderbird has access to 80,000 acres of terrain in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and clients can ski awe-inspiring powder runs with the
assist of a helicopter. The outfit picks up at the Snowbird Ski Resort Heliport and the Westgate Park City Resort & Spa in Canyons Village.