Wasatch Mountains, UT, Backcountry Report: Birthday Headwall

Martin Kuprianowicz | BackcountryBackcountry | Conditions ReportConditions Report

Report from Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Pinch me, I must be dreaming—is it really May 9th? 

The current snowpack in Little Cottonwood Canyon is making it hard to tell.

However, it’s the spring sunshine, songbirds birds, and trees turning bright green that give it away. 

Good morning, Wasatch. | Photo: SnowBrains

We started at the trailhead at 7:30 and the snow was bulletproof, informing us that there was a hard freeze overnight. 

Good. Freezes are crucial this late in the season where the lack thereof can make the snow wet, sticky, and even dangerous. 

The thawing of a frozen snowpack is what makes good corn skiing, which is exactly what we had in mind today. 

Wolf loving the sidehill. | Photo: SnowBrains

Winds were light and the sun was out with a little bit of cloud cover to go with it, keeping the snow from warming too quickly. 

The conditions were fantastic for a spring tour.

With the sun shining, the mountains around us looked far snowier than they should for this time of year. 

At the base of the Birthday Chutes (Birthday Headwall?).  | Photo: SnowBrains

After a little back and forth on what to ski once we got eyes on the buffet of options in front of us, we decided to go for a north-facing zone dubbed the Birthday Chutes. 

I had skied the Birthday Chutes in May several years ago, but they looked much different that year.

They were steep and fairly narrow in spots, with tight chokes and winding gulleys at their bottoms.

They were actually chutes that year.

Views. | Photo: SnowBrains

This year, the Birthday Chutes were just a headwall; it was so filled in that there were no chokes, the gulleys at the bottom were buried under a uniform snowpack, and there was hardly even a distinction between the ‘chutes’. 

This zone in particular must have seen over 800+” of snow this season. 

So, we continued skinning up the ‘headwall’. 

At the top of the former chutes, the view of the surrounding Wasatch was incredible; so much snow was still plastered across this range. 

Scanning the area in admiration, I smiled knowing that I was going to have plenty to keep me busy this spring. 

Then we dropped into our lines. 

Wolf booting up to the Birthday Chutes. | Photo: SnowBrains

I went first, opening up a chute that held smooth, chalky snow at the top, allowing me to surf down the fall line with grace and ease.

Wolf went next, flowing like a pro surfer on ice. 

We converged at the base of the headwall before riding a fat gully filled with almost-corn snow out for another 700 feet or so. 

The ski out was relaxing and easy, the thawing snow skiing like a dream. 

The author making big turns in the Birthday Chutes. | Photo: SnowBrains

We skirted back down through a forest teeming with life to the parking lot, crossing a sketchy snowed-over bridge of thawing snow as a final crux for the day. 

By the time we got back to the car, it was t-shirt and beer drinking weather.

It feels like corn season is just barely getting started in the Wasatch. 

So much snow… | Photo: SnowBrains


NOAA 5/10/23


Photo: SnowBrains
Photo: SnowBrains
Photo: SnowBrains
Photo: SnowBrains
Smooth turns. | Photo: SnowBrains

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One thought on “Wasatch Mountains, UT, Backcountry Report: Birthday Headwall

  1. You were “incredulous.” The snow was “incredible.” Get a dictionary.
    The snow really does look incredible though. Memories for a lifetime.

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