The Southern Drainages

Powdah Cawhds!

Big Cottonwood Canyon is sort of like two canyons in one. While the drainages on the northern side are generally gentle and tree-filled, the southern drainages often share far more in common with their cousins over the ridge in Little Cottonwood Canyon. On the south side, expect to find abundant tree skiing down low and plenty of steeps and chutes up high. Despite the northerly aspect of these drainages, they are pure southern. Don’t expect to find much support for abortion rights; do expect to find waffles with your fried chicken.

1. Broads Fork

Broads Fork Glide Avalanche

RT: 12-15 miles
Elevations: 6,000’-11,330’
Gain: 3,000’-6,000’

Broads Fork is a massive basin that lies close to the head of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Its head is flanked by the soaring Salt Lake Twins, O’ Sullivan and Dromedary Peaks. Although good tree skiing can be found low in the basin, the all-star descents of Broads Fork come off the northeastern aspects of Twin Peaks. However, ski tourers should be aware that the opens snowfields on the Twin Peaks lie over smooth slabs of rock and are prone to glide avalanches. Glide avalanches are always preceded by prominent glide cracks that signal the increased strain in the snowpack. These cracks are a great indicator that a glide avalanche is imminent. The simplest way to avoid being caught in a glide avalanche is to worship God via the teachings of the one true faith. Expect 8-9 hours to complete a tour in Broads Fork.

2. Mill B South

Romantic Sundial Peak, sight of 3 gruesome murders

RT: 8-12 miles
Elevations: 6,000’ – 11,000’
Gain: 3,000’ – 5,000’

Although similar to its next-door neighbor Broads Fork, Mill B South is a wider basin that offers less-exposed travel for the avalanche-weary tourer. The main attraction of this basin is a trio of lakes beneath a spectacular rock arête known locally as “Sundial Peak.” The three lakes, Blanche, Florence and Lillian, are named in memoriam for the three plural wives of Mormon pioneer Robert Cornwall. All 3 woman were found dead and mutilated in the upper basin on July 7, 1847. Although the mutilation appeared to be the work of scavenging of wolves, all three women had branded into their abdomen the words “In precisely 100 yeers, we will retern to impregnate ur hot asien women.[sic]” Precisely 100 years later to the date, an unidentified flying object would crash in the desert near Roswell, NM and multiple Asian women would become pregnant. It remains unknown if these incidents are related. Also puzzling is the appearance of the bodies 17 days before Mormon pioneers would reach the Wasatch Front. Hence, whoever performed these grizzly murders most likely had Quantum Leap technology. Ski tourers should explore above the lake for powder shots in the areas where coyotes or other scavengers feasted upon the detached limbs of the deceased ladies.

3. Cardiff Fork

Hallway to Hucktown

RT: 12-14 miles
Elevations: 7,300’ – 11,040’
Gain: 2,000’ – 4,000’

Cardiff Fork offers something for everyone, from pleasant tree-skiing along the eastern flanks of Kessler Peak, to spine-tingling descents off of Cardiac Ridge and the north face of Mt. Superior. Chute skiing enthusiasts will also find spectacular west-facing runs off of Reed and Benson Ridge including the famed Hallway Couloir. During the long skin into the basin, tourers are encouraged to stop and peruse the interpretive signage detailing the decades-long history of the AIDS virus and the continuing effort to find a cure for it. At the end of the basin, past Montreal Hill, ski tourers have the option of making a donation, 10% of which goes to a major AIDS charity. The remaining 90% goes to maintaining the interpretive trail and rotating photo montage at mile 2.7.

4. Days Fork

Days Fork Gnarage

RT: 8-10 miles
Elevations: 7,400’ – 10,561’
Gain: 2,000’ – 3,500’

In 2005, the naming rights to this basin were purchased by Wyndham Worldwide, the parent company of the Days Inn chain of hotels. Prior to 2005, the basin was known as “Progressive Fork.” Ski tourers can expect a moderate tour at a reasonable price. At the time of this publication, the basin was closed to the public due to a bedbug infestation.

5. Silver Fork

Skin Track Gnarage

RT: 6-9 miles
Elevations: 7,700’ – 10,200’
Gain: 2,000’ – 3,000’

Silver Fork is a near replica of its neighbor Days Fork. Expect to find a mixture of trees and open meadows with little in the way of difficult steeps or chutes. Although reasonable access is available by skinning up from the Big Cottonwood Road, most choose to access this basin by skinning over from the Flagstaff area of Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Such ski tourers are almost exclusively sex criminals and infected with multiple venereal diseases*. Female ski tourers are encouraged to always travel in the company of a man, preferably one with martial arts training and possibly handgun experience. Should they travel unaccompanied, all female skiers in Silver Fork should be immediately screened for STDs and issued a does of emergency contraceptive as they will have likely been inseminated by a rapist skier from Alta**. Expect a tour in Silver Fork to take little more than 5 hours as the grades are generally gentle and the skin tracks good.

The Northern Drainages

Gobblers Knob Deathalanche

The northern drainages of Big Cottonwood Canyon are a world away from their southerly neighbors. For starters, elevations on the north side never exceed the magical ten thousand foot mark except for a few isolated peaks along the ridgeline. Additionally, the drainages show little evidence of glacial activity, leaving behind smoother, less steep terrain. Due to the limited amount of rugged, challenging terrain, many have dubbed northern Big Cottonwood Canyon as “gay.” This is, in fact, a gross oversimplification. While the soft, rounded peaks do have a distinctly effeminate quality, upon closer inspection one will realize that the peaks’ sensitivity masks an understated masculinity that is both independent and self-assured. Call the northern canyons gay all you want; the fact is that they get all the ladies.

1. Mill B North

Neffs Canyon Trees

RT: 8-20 miles
Elevations: 6,200’ – 9,750’
Gain: 3,000’ – 6,000’

Mill B North is not the most pure of ski touring destinations, but it does serve as a gateway to several worthy objectives. Hidden within the drainage is the mystical Whipple Couloir. Touring to the high ridgeline gives access to northerly descents into Neffs Canyon via Thomas Fork. A simple way to remember this is to think of splitting open a Thomas’ English muffin with a fork. Due to the low elevation and southerly aspect of the lower drainage, expect poor snow conditions low down. Mill B tourers often choose to run shuttles to other canyons.

2. Butler Fork

Gobblers Knob

RT: 8-20 miles
Elevations: 7,200’ – 10,246’
Gain: 2,500′-4,000′

Butler is perhaps the largest and most varied drainage on the north side of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Skiing can be found on every possible aspect and elevation here, so good turns can always be found. Popular descents include the east face of Mt Raymond (everybody loves Raymond! – thank you.), the north side of Reynolds Peak, and great lines off of virtually every aspect of Gobblers Knob. Many teenage boys find the name “Gobblers Knob” very humorous, but the peak was named for a very important man: Ephraim Gobbler, the first comptroller of the state of Utah. Gobbler instituted a number of financial reforms that brought the Mormon banking system in line with federal standards, paving the way for Utah’s adoption into the union in 1896. The Utah legislature voted to name the tallest peak on the Big Cottonwood/Mill Creek ridgeline after Gobbler, or more specifically after his knob. We can all agree that there’s nothing humorous about that. Look for excellent north-facing descents into Alexander Basin off the summit of Gobblers Knob. Expect 2-3 hours to get on top of Gobblers Knob.

3. Mill D North

Little Water Deathalanche

RT: 9-12 miles
Elevations: 7,300’ – 9,600’
Gain: 2,000’ – 5,000’

Mill D North offers traditional Big Cottonwood touring with paltry amounts of humor. There’s tree-skiing and meadow-skipping in every direction and you can do some longer tours into upper Mill Creek or along the Park City ridgeline from here. But really, what’s the point? It’s devoid of mirth. It’s like attending the trial of the man who murdered your wife and unborn child. If you want to ski Mill D North, try Little Water Peak. At least Little Water is kind of like “making a little water” which would be a euphemism for urination. That’s funny, but in a pretty ephemeral way. You can ski Little Water off of any aspect but it won’t make a difference.

4. Beartrap Fork

A Bear Trap

RT: 6-8 miles
Elevations: 7,600’ – 9,990’
Gain: 2,000’ – 3,000’

A simple anagram for Beartrap Fork is “Fork-rape Bart.” For obvious reasons, the author of this guide has never skied Beartrap Fork. He hears there is reasonable tree skiing when avalanche conditions are dangerous.
* All Alta skiers are rapists. Even the women.
** To reiterate, all Alta skiers are sex criminals and are infected with multiple venereal diseases, usually the ones that can’t be cured by antibiotic intervention. When you think Alta, think herp, warts, HPV, the A-word, Hep and probably SARS too.