I live literally at the mouth of American Fork Canyon in Utah. AF Canyon (as the locals call it), is home to some of the sweetest summer singletrack in the state. Miles and miles of singletrack trails meander throughout the entire canyon. It’s a mountain biker’s paradise.

But, come winter, the place is pretty much owned by the snowmobile and local XC and tubing crowd. But, is there enough terrain and enough snow to make it a worthy backcountry skiing destination? I had lived nearby for years and had always passed it by in favor of Big or Little Cottonwood for my backcountry skiing trips. But, after a quick exploratory session, I can definitely say YES, American Fork Canyon is a great place to backcountry ski!

Box Elder Peak - Winter

Tibble Fork Reservoir – The Launching Pad

I had looked at tons of maps and looked at the terrain with Google Earth from every vantage point. The northern slopes seemed steep enough and are close enough to the great snowmaker that is Little Cottonwood Canyon that I knew there would be plenty of snow. Arriving at the parking lot in the early morning hours, the only people awake were Boy Scouts just rolling out of their snowcaves to enjoy a Pop Tart breakfast.

The goal was to head to the slopes on the backside of Little Cottonwood Canyon and up the gulley between Box Elder Peak and the southern slopes of Little Cottonwood. I can’t tell for certain the name of the peak on which we were skiing, but it’s a triangular face directly to the south of the Pfieferhorn and Silver Lake. There’s a good 3000 vertical feet of pure love on that no-named slope. If anyone knows the name of the peak, chime in.

Because we were in exploratory mode, we ran out of time before we had a chance to skin up too high. We did get high enough to capture an awesome view of the NE face of Box Elder Peak as well as scope out some future lines, like this one on the west-facing ridge of the bowl around Silver Lake Flats.

West Ridge of Silver Lake Flats Utah

The SW-facing glades west of Silver Lake Flat offer good, short turns.

More to come in the next few weeks as I head back up American Fork Canyon for more backcountry touring and exploration of this little-skied canyon. Here’s a rough sketch of where we skied and the surrounding terrain, looking NW:

American Fork Canyon Backcountry Skiing - January 2008

2/02/08 Update: The West-facing Ridge of Silver Lake Flat

We hit AF Canyon again this morning. From Tibble Fork, we skinned up the road, then took Trail 045 cutoff to Silver Lake Flat. From there, we skinned up to the top of the West ridge of Silver Lake Flat (that ridge is shown above). We then spun three laps on the West-facing slopes (again, shown above). Here’s a few pics from the exploits.

Jason Mitchell - Backcountry Skiing in American Fork Canyon

Jason Mitchell - Backcountry Skiing in American Fork Canyon

Jason Mitchell - Backcountry Skiing in American Fork Canyon

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.


  1. Well I wish I knew that you lived at the base of AF. I live in Alpine and ski AF quite regularly. We have a cabin up at Silver Lake Res and use it as base camp. The area you were on was White Canyon and the top of that is kindof a subpeak of White Baldy and White Pass which makes up the saddle between that peak and Box elder with Phelps Canyon in Alpine on the other side.

    If you did this a few weeks ago and were on AT gear we heard about you and your partner going up that way, we were interested to know who it was. Sounds like I may have my answer.

    If you would like me to show you around more up AF you’ve got till the 27th of Feb. I am moving to Montreal after that. But I am really short on partners and we are planning a tour up and over White Canyon into Phelps back into alpine here in the next few weeks.

  2. Depending on when you go, I’d love to hit it with you guys. I just dropped you a line, so lets connect.

    Nice to know that there are people in the area who actually backcountry ski. I get so tired of explaining to people what Alpine Touring is…

  3. What a beautiful sunny day in the pictures! I don’t think I’ve seen the sun in 2 months… We’ve been getting snow up in Jackson pretty much every night. Check out a new video from some folks on Teton Pass this weekend- http://www.skiingthebackcountry.com. It would be nice to have a bluebird powder day, but I’m not complaining…

  4. Kydan,

    Any interest in selling your cabin at Silver Lake?! I have been looking for property up that way for years so if you have any interest or know of other cabin owners who may be looking to sell please let me know.

    Also, I ride AF canyon about 4 times a week. Mostly up Silver Lake, Mary Ellens, Major Evens, and Bloddy Gultch. By ride I mean snowmobile(my apologies) But with that said, I am an avid AT skier. Anytime any of you are looking for more vertical just let me know. I have an M1000 with a ski rack that never gets used. Love to shuttle you up. Great site!


  5. This is some great information! I spent all summer biking in AF canyon and thought it would make for great AT adventures as well. I am a super newbie to AT skiing (i.e. never done it but ordered my skis for this winter!!!!) and would love any information or people to tag along with.

  6. Elias

    Welcome to the party. AF Canyon is an awesome and mostly-untapped AT skiing location. Honestly, the skiing is better in Big/Little Cottonwood, but for the proximity, AF Canyon is awesome.

    Ping me when you get your setup dialed and maybe we can show you a place or two up the canyon.

  7. I enjoy skiing in AF as I am a Lehite. I’ve skied up to Silver Lake Flat a few times, Dry Creek Canyon, up to the mine dumps at Deer Creek Canyon, descended from near the top of Newton Canyon, and down the roads from Timpooneke and Pole Line Pass. This winter I would like to summit the barren slopes on the north side of Deer Creek, American Fork Twin Peaks, and ski from Tibble Fork Res. up over the pass and down into Alpine. If any wishes to join me on my days off: Tuesday or Wednesday for skiing, as I need a ski partner, you may email me at [email protected]

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