The clear front runner in this category is the Wasatch mountain range located in north central Utah, home to some of the country’s best resorts of Snowbird, Alta, and Powder Mountain. Year after year, the Wasatch receives some of the most snow out of any resort in the United States. According to National Geographic, Snowbird, Alta, Solitude, and Brighton resorts are listed among the top 10 ski resorts with the highest average snowfall totals in the United States. But it’s not the depth of their snow that matters. Utah’s fluffy, white goodness stacks up, enticing any fair-weather skier or salty local to get out of bed. After all, the state trademarked the term “The Greatest Snow on Earth” for a reason. And they’re not wrong. Combined with steep and “get as gnarly as you want” terrain, the cold and loaded (lake effect from the nearby Great Salt Lake) storms that hammer the Wasatch provide light, effortless powder throughout the 160-mile-long mountain range. Even “smaller” storms that deliver only six inches of snow feel like more because of the low-density snow, which has less overall water content, and, as a result, is colder, lighter and easier to turn in.Little Cottonwood Canyon, located in the heart of the Wasatch, is iconic in the world of backcountry skiing for its easy access—go from any Salt Lake City driveway to the top of a dreamy, 1,000-foot line in less than two hours (ultralight guys and girls might be able to do them in an hour). Check out Grizzly Gulch, Emma’s Ridge, and Mt. Superior, located directly across the road from Snowbird and Alta resorts. This 2,300-foot line is no more than a two-hour skin from the road and offers some of the most gorgeous sunrises and skiing in the Wasatch.
Often time is of the essence when you’re backcountry skiing. Like when work demands that you be there from 9 to 5, or your kids’ soccer schedule eats up most daylight hours. Or maybe you are working up to the stamina required for a 14-hour adventure and need a shorter approach in your early days of training. You’ll be happy to know that there are indeed world-class backcountry areas that are forgiving on both your body and your time.Note: The Wasatch would fall under this category for proximity to the roads, but we want to provide you with a variety of options, so it’s not listed here.
What can be better than starting your tour from 8,000 feet and having seemingly infinite powder-skiing potential? Teton Pass is the backyard skiing area for Jackson residents, and connects western Wyoming with southeastern Idaho. Situated at 8,432 feet, the pass is extremely accessible and chock-full of short approaches and terrain options. From the top of the pass, you can bootpack (without putting on your skins) your way up Mt. Glory, which sits at 10,033 feet. Unless it’s a storm day and you’re the first one out (which is doubtful in the obsessive Teton skiing community), you can be fairly confident that somebody has already set up the booter—a track with footsteps created by so many people hiking in the same spot—making the approach 45 minutes to one hour, gaining about 1,700 vertical feet from your parked car. Your legs will be burning, sure, but from the top of Glory, your options open up. From the long and epic runs to be had on the north side to the shorter shots on the southeast side, there is skiing on all aspects. You can even access more terrain if you do an up-and-over tour to the southwest. Many people will ski back toward the road, then hitchhike back up the pass to bootpack another lap or hop in their car to make it to work on time.Reminder: Because you are touring above and around the mountain pass, roads, cars, and other people are directly below you. You must assume an increased amount of responsibility, and always consider the proximity to others with your decision-making.