While just shy of being the tallest mountain in the Wasatch, Mount Timpanogos is certainly one of the most dramatic mountains in the range. Timpanogos towers over Provo and the Heber Valley, and it is arguably the most iconic mountain in the state of Utah. During the summer, thousands of people venture up to the high alpine meadows, lakes, and ridges of Timpanogos. While the mountain is covered in snow, it is a vast wilderness of high alpine terrain with big cirques and steep ski descents in every direction.
Skiing Mount Timpanogos is a serious adventure that requires excellent physical stamina as well as patience, route finding, and features a large degree of unpredictability. This mountain is seldom visited in winter, and solid information on conditions can be scarce. It is important to have a flexible schedule and to allow time for unknown obstacles. Unique to Timpanogos is the shelter that sits on the shores of Emerald Lake, just above 10,000 feet. This shelter is an place ideal to hike up and spend the night, making a summit attempt much easier, and it allows visitors to ski the lines nearby. Spending a weekend up in the basin based out of the shelter is highly recommended.
While there are two main routes up to the Timpanogos Basin, it is widely accepted that Aspen Grove is the best trailhead for skiers. The steep ascent makes skiing down much more enjoyable and easier overall. Park at the trailhead and prepare for a rough four to six hours. Timpanogos is best skied during late spring, so it will be very likely the first mile won't have snow. The route up Aspen Grove is obvious – go up. Ascend until you reach the obvious bench at the top of the trail. Once the bench is reached, the shelter is close! Skin past the majestic Roberts Horn until the shelter is in sight. Depending on the time of year and snow conditions, the shelter could be buried. Be prepared to do some digging, both inside and out of the shelter.
From the shelter, the options are endless. There is a steep line on the looker's left while looking directly out of the shelter. The Timpanogos Glacier is right out the front door, providing perhaps the deepest late season snowpack in Utah. To summit Timpanogos, it is best to ascend the glacier and then walk the ridge to the summit. The options from the shelter are simply infinite.
Be aware that the shelter can be in any kind of condition, and it is hard to know exactly what to expect. If you'll be staying in the shelter, give yourself ample time to dig and prepare the shelter for adequate sleeping conditions.
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.