Getting out in the backcountry this year has been a slow process. With over a month of sketchy snow conditions and four avalanche fatalities in Utah alone, I’ve been taking things easy and staying inbounds thus far. This whole time, however, I’ve still been dying to get out into familiar terrain in American Fork Canyon where I could examine the snowpack. So, I split out for a little solo walk in the hills to see how things were stacking up.

The first tour of the season always ends up more like a junkshow, so I had very low expectations going out with only the desire to get into some terrain and dig a few snow pits. The bonus was that I added on top of that a healthy helping of scatterbrain by forgetting my poles halfway up the canyon (good thing I live right at the mouth) and also forgetting my SPOT Messenger in the car.

Box Elder Peak from the road to Granite Flats

I slipped up the trail amongst a 2-stroke symphony and exhaust plumes, which, in my eagerness to escape caused me to ascend up the wrong drainage. In my haste to leave the sleds behind, I ascended the drainage for about 10 minutes before realizing it all seemed odd. I chalked it up to early-season snowpack, but I ended up realizing I wasn’t exactly where I thought I was.  Oh well… par for the course, right?

So, I ascended into the scrub oak and picked my way through a clearing that seemed like a summer trail. After digging a pit and isolating some columns, I quickly determined that the snowpack was very consolidated at this elevation (7100 ft.) and aspect (mostly south and southwest-facing).  With about 4 inches of powder on top of hardpack, so I didn’t worry too much being out by myself. My main concern was the friendly scrub oak branches that wanted to take my head off.

Dust on Crust

A few hundred feet of dust-on-crust turns were my reward for a couple of snow pits and new drainage exploration–I even got a lungful of 2-stroke exhaust just for good measure. Here are a few more pictures. Hopefully I can get in deeper and higher to see how the snowpack may differ.

Box Elder from the Silver Lake Road

White Baldy in Winter

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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