Standing at 11,101 feet tall, Box Elder Peak is one of the most beautiful peaks in all of Utah. But a price will have to be paid to find yourself standing on top of this mountain. You're looking at 6 miles of hiking and roughly 5,500 feet of elevation gain to the summit... all for about 1 minute and 30 seconds of skiing. But if you're reading this, you know how worth it it always is!
(Red Dots= My line and "Super Couloir" is everything lookers left of it)
Me and my backcountry partner, Mitch, were on the tail end of a big week in the backcountry and had hiked/skied about 16,000 vertical feet throughout the last 4 days. We were feeling beat, but knew that the snow would stay dry and soft for probably only one more day on North facing aspects. So we decided to suck it up and push for Box Elder to end the awesome week of ski touring. The weather was partly cloudy and we couldn't have felt better about the avalanche conditions. Some high-elevation wind slabs to watch for but nothing serious.
We woke up at 7:00 am (not an early start by any means but we felt we needed the extra sleep) and met at the Dry Creek trailhead in Alpine, UT at about 7:45. Since the TH is at such low elevation (Pretty much a neighborhood), we had to put our skis on our backpack and walk on the dirt trail for about the first mile. This was actually a nice warm up for our legs and I enjoyed to mix it up a little bit. Once we hit consistent snow, I strapped the skins on and clicked into my Daymakers Alpine Touring Adapters. The skinning was fairly mellow and straightforward as we were just on the summer trail, so we tried to move quick and make good time.
We reached the base of the couloir at about 3 miles in and the snow was starting to get really good. It was crazy to start in the dirt and a few hours later be surrounded by pow! We stopped for lunch and had a glorious 20 minute break in the clouds which let us bask in the sun and warm up for the rest of our hike. We were only hoping that we could get a window of light like that when it was time for us to drop... I told myself to not worry about it though and to keep moving. From here, we had only a couple miles left, but over 3,000 feet of elevation to gain! It is best to not think about that and to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We were feeling a lot better than expected and once we popped out of the trees and started ascending the main summit ridge, we were cookin'. It was so cool to have a great visual of the line we were about to ski the whole way up the ridge. We saw a few parties making their descents and yelling their "yeeewwhhooos" which filled us with stoke!
(Where we ate lunch, looking up at the beautiful headwall that wraps around Box Elder.)
We finally reached the summit right at 2:30; about 5 and a half hours or so including our lunch. We were psyched to be there but bummed to see that the clouds were big, dark, and looked like they wanted to stay. We thought we would wait it out, as we were confident to at least get a small window... Plus, the winds were absolutely insane at the top, gusting at 70 mph, and not a lot of shelter up there.. Our optimism lasted for 2 long hours trying to wait it out. It seemed like everywhere around us was getting windows of light, while our mountain had different plans for the day as it seemed to be creating clouds on its own and not wanting to let any pass by. I started to become cold, tired, and the nerves were getting higher and higher thinking about skiing my line. My hip injury would pop into my mind here and there and it got to the point where I felt I should just drop on the next opportunity we had.
About 10 minutes later, the clouds broke just enough where I had decent visibility to the bottom of the line. Knowing it could go away in seconds, I hurried as quick as I could to tighten my boots and turn my GoPro on. "DROP!" I yelled over the wind to Mitch, who was on the ridge taking a couple photos. I soared off the top and the minute I landed in the fresh powder, it was all worth it. I made creamy turns for 1,500 feet with some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever skied in front of. I was so stoked! I turned around to watch Mitch drop into his line and it was awesome watching him navigate such exposed terrain after only scoping it once from the ridge. We exchanged the obligatory high-fives, raced all the way down the trail and walked our last mile to the car! Another amazing day in the mountains was finished and couldn't have felt more psyched! Time for a cold beer, burger and some sleep!
Thanks to Flylow Gear, Tyrolia Bindings, Giro and Fatypus Skis for the support and for keeping me safe and comfortable while in the backcountry. Also, shout out to Uinta Brewing for providing the coldest and tastiest brews in the state. Nothing is better after a long day like this one!
Vertical Feet: ~5,500’
Box Elder Peak Elevation: 11,101 ft
- Daymakers Alpine Touring Adapters (or other touring setup)
- Beacon, Shovel, Probe
- Lots of snacks & water