When people think of skiing in Utah, the Wasatch reign supreme. True Utah backcountry skiers, however, know that there are an unlimited amount of lines in our many desert mountain ranges that are equal parts exotic, steep, and beautiful.
The Stansbury Mountains are one of the closest desert mountain ranges to Salt Lake City, yet they feel remote and every bit as barren as the mountain ranges further west. Deseret Peak is the crown Jewel of the Stansburys, topping out at just over 11,000 feet. This puts Deseret on par with the tallest Wasatch Peaks an hour to the east. Deseret Peak, has absolutely incredible couloir skiing. Huge, steep couloirs descend from the summit ridge, while truly massive cliffs run down off of the summit in all directions. Deseret Peak is truly rugged, with over 5,000 feet of vertical prominence above the Tooele Valley below. If you are an avid backcountry skier in northern Utah, Deseret Peak is a must ski.
The Twin Couloirs are the most famous line off of Deseret, for they are visually stunning couloirs separated by a huge rock fin above 10,000 feet. The Twin Couloirs face northeast, so they hold snow well into late spring and early summer. As if the Twin Couloirs weren't enough, Temple Couloir is an even bigger and prettier couloir. The Temple tops out around 10,500 feet and faces due east. This chute is steeper, longer, and tighter than both of the Twin Couloirs, and it has much higher walls. The Temple is a top-five descent line in the state of Utah.
To ski the Couloirs of Deseret Peak, drive to the Loop Campground, which is the summer trailhead for the mountain. It is important to call the Salt Lake County Forest Service to inquire about the conditions of the road, for it is gated and closed in the winter. In a low snow yearyou may be able to drive to the top as early as late April. This is earlier than an average snow year, however, so beware. There is ample camping available at the trailhead, which is almost certainly necessary because an early start for hiking is required.
Begin hiking on the summer trail, which will most likely start out as dirt. Follow the trail for about a mile until it splits and take the right fork which takes you to the base of Deseret. Soon after taking the fork, you should be able to start skinning and will quickly see Deseret in its rugged beauty. Once the mountain is visible, the Temple Couloir can be seen in full, and it might blow you away. This couloir is perfect. The vast majority of people skip over this couloir to ski the twins, mostly because there is little to no online data about the Temple, so they go in unaware of its presence. Skiing the Temple is straightforward: Simply approach it from the bottom and boot up to the top. The couloir is steep, yet perfectly attainable. It is 3,100 vertical feet from the trailhead to the top of the Temple.
Once you ski the Temple, it will funnel you down toward the base of the Twin Couloirs. While the Temple is almost definitely the preferable line, a trip to Deseret Peak is not complete until you ski the Twins. Skin over to the twins until you reach the base of the rock fin separating the two. There will almost certainly be a skintrack to this point. From this point, bootpack up to the summit.
Once on top of the Twins, if you want to make a summit bid for Deseret, this would be the spot. Deseret Peak is only 400 vertical feet above the twins. When you’ve had your fill of massive West Desert views, ski the Twins down and retrace your steps back to the car the way you came up. When skiing in the West Desert, early starts are a must! It can heat up quickly in the desert, and the sun is intense. If you pack ample water and protect yourself from the sun, skiing the couloirs of Deseret Peak will be a day to remember.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.