Located in the heart of Big Cottonwood Canyon, it seems as though Kessler Peak were designed with the serious backcountry skier in mind. With just over 3,000 feet of steep vertical and skiable runs on almost every aspect, Kessler Peak is a dream come true for backcountry skiers. With runs like Argenta, the East Couloir, and God’s Lawnmower, Kessler should be a must-do for any serious backcountry skier in the area.
The most common route to ascend Kessler is up Argenta, which is essentially a 2,500-foot slide path that has carved out a relatively open and straightforward approach up the mountain. Kessler is relentlessly steep, with almost no break in pitch the entire way up. This is what makes Kessler an excellent mountain to ski, and also a mountain that should only be tackled by those fit enough to embrace the challenge. Those who appreciate challenging ascents will like the climb as much as the descent.
There will almost always be a skin track up Argenta, as this is a popular mountain, especially for dawn patrols. Follow the skin track up through Argenta. Be careful to avoid the middle of the slide path; Kessler is notorious for avalanches. Toward the top, you will enter a steep forest and ascend a few hundred feet to the summit ridge. From there, it is steep skinning along the west side of the ridge until you reach the summit of Kessler Peak at 10,400 feet. This is where the hard part begins. What to ski?!
No matter what route you choose, the descent will be a memorable one. Argenta, which is the most common route up the mountain, can be a fun run to ski. The top has steep gladed chutes that funnel you into the slide path. From there, pick your way around small trees to the bottom. Argenta typically takes a long time to fill in because it is littered with small trees, so perhaps this run is best done in March or April. The East Couloir, which starts almost directly below the summit, is one of the most stunning chutes in the Wasatch. This couloir is steep and tight, and turns through this chute will be the highlight of most people’s ski season regardless of the conditions. God’s Lawnmower is a wide, steep slide path that looks so enticing from the road that it might just pull you in. This run has sustained steeps that are hard to find in any mountain range.
Take note that Kessler Peak is notorious for avalanches. Argenta and God’s Lawnmower are good ski runs because avalanches consistently wipe the runs free of trees. These descents should be treated with the utmost respect and should only be skied under the right circumstances.
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.