Salt Lake City
Adventures and photos by Brooke Froelich
In Salt Lake City we ski fresh pow in the morning and ride the trails in the valley after work. Our climbing ropes find their way from snow filled couloirs one day to desert towers the next. Because the mountains are so close to downtown, it is not uncommon to run into coworkers on the skin track in the backcountry in the morning before work. Living in Salt Lake makes it easy to work hard - and PLAY hard.
Because Utah is a desert with high elevation mountains, there is a varied span of terrain choices on any given day in the winter. Salt Lake City is nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. The dry climate of the valley floor (4,226 ft) of the city allows for trail running and mountain biking during dry stretches in the winter, while the high elevations of the local ski resorts (8530 ft) frequently receive huge dumps of low density snow (caused by the lake effect weather patterns from the Great Salt Lake). The extreme climate differences in a 30 minute drive allow for optimal winter play. Because this is an El Nino weather pattern year, the snowpack in the Wasatch has had stretches of wonderful stability followed by abrupt changes of extreme instability when large storms have moved through. This past week, the Wasatch Mountains have had several avalanches, including one fatality. It’s been a humbling reminder that even when we study, plan, and prepare, there is still an element of risk. On weekends when the avy danger is high, it’s fun to explore new ski resorts, explore new (avy safe) terrain and sports, and explore new parts of Utah!
I’ve loved playing in the resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons (check out this scenic drive), but have spent very little time exploring the resorts near my hometown, 30 minutes north of Salt Lake City. When my mom offered to babysit my one-year-old son, Huck, I jumped at the chance to spend a storm day at Snowbasin Resort. I loved chasing my brother around Snowbasin. My brothers are my very favorite people to ski with especially on a storm day! It reminds me of when we were little. PLAYING. CHASING. COMPETING. Unsure of which way is up and which way is down in the storm! Skiing with my brothers is also the only time I eat cheese fries. So there’s that bonus. Winter is when I feel the most playful and young.
With all of the new snow and the persistent wind, the avy danger was still high. Instead of seeing the wind as a negative factor, we decided to capitalize on it! Early on Sunday morning, my boyfriend and I drove to Skyline to snowkite with some friends. Huck and I set up a shelter from the wind on the snow, and loved exploring the new mountain range and photographing Patton and our friends as they glided through the air and flew across the snow. The sunshine, the clouds, the new friends (and the puppy!) were all elements of a perfect day. We stayed for sunset, watching snowkiters fly over a grove of trees that the setting sun turned pink and purple, before packing the car and driving a few hours to the desert.
One of the things I love about Salt Lake City is that you are never more than a tank of gas (and a Diet Coke with Lime and two Snickers) away from the desert. Patton and I had never been to Capitol Reef National Park, and wanted to see if we could find any snow nestled between the red rock towers. We lost cell service as we drove through the sleepy small towns on the way to Torrey. Although usually bustling with tourists, southern Utah really is dead during the winter so we had the park to ourselves. We were able ski right down the center of the road. We skied, we explored, and we instagrammed until dinner. We grabbed burgers and ice cream on our way out of town.
From storm skiing laps of deep powder in the resort, to snowkiting in an open field at the top of a mountain, to ski touring in the desert. It’s amazing what you can do with a tank of gas in Utah.
Editor's note: This piece was created as part of a multi-brand campaign celebrating Backyard to Backcountry adventuring (#BY2BC). For more inspiration, check out #BY2BC on Instagram.