Reids Peak, in the Uinta Mountains of northern Utah, is a peak that mountain enthusiasts will obsess over. The almost-perfect cone shape can be seen for miles in all directions, and it is exceptionally beautiful and rugged. The cone that makes up Reids Peak is almost entirely talus or cliff, which makes climbing and skiing this peak a serious challenge and a very rewarding accomplishment.
The Uinta Mountains are rugged, wild, and big. Containing the second-most terrain above tree line of any mountain range in the lower 48 states, these peaks are tall and windswept. The road to access the western Uintas, where Reids Peak is located, is not plowed of snow until late May or early June. Because of this, there is usually about a one- to two-week period when you can ski these peaks without the assistance of a snowmobile. Despite the warm temperatures and sometimes slushy snow, this is perhaps the best time of the year to get big, technical summits in the tallest mountain range in Utah.
To ski Reids Peak, you first have to understand that Reids Peak is extremely rocky and may never fill in completely due to its prominence and exposure to wind. Climbing this peak is a technical challenge that will require scooting around rocks and cliffs and climbing small sections of rock. Nothing on the climb is above a Class 3 scramble, but with ski boots and skis on your back, this type of climbing gets a lot more challenging. To descend Reids safely, it is best to have a picture of your desired line, because the mountain is too steep to see what obstacles lie ahead. There is a large cliff band at the bottom that you will most likely have to hike down, but if done correctly, this is a small downclimb that is not technical. Reaching the cliff in the wrong place could be very dangerous or might cause you to hike back up. Be aware of the terrain.
To ski Reids Peak, park near Pass Lake and ascend to the obvious saddle between Reids Peak and Bald Mountain. Most people who skin this way will then follow the ridge up to Bald Mountain, which means that Reids Peak is seldom skied. Parties ascending Reids Peak are not likely to encounter another person.
From the saddle, the route up to Reids is obvious. Ascend the ridge all the way to the summit. Note that "ridge" is a rough term here. There will be cliff bands and rocks that push you toward the middle of the mountain. Simply assess the terrain and decide on a route that feels best. There are many ways to get up this mountain and many ways to get in to trouble as well. Go slow and work as a team to climb to the summit.
Once on the summit, the unique views of the Uintas make it all worthwhile. From the summit you can see the stunning mountains of the western High Uintas Wilderness, including Hayden Peak, Mount Aggassiz, Kletting Peak, Ostler Peak, and Mount Watson. To the far west, you can see Mount Timpanogos and the Central Wasatch, and to the north, the snowcapped peaks of the Wind River Range. This view alone is worth the hike.
You have to know exactly where you are going to ski down. There are two trees that are higher than any others on the skier's right side of the run. Ski to those trees and regroup. From there, you will enter a steep chute, immediately traversing skier's left once done with the chute. From there, you will most likely have to down climb a small section of rock and then ski the apron into a beautiful meadow. Whew! Simply skiing Reids is a serious backcountry skiing accomplishment. To get back to the car, hike up back to the pass and ski down.
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.