Last weekend, after two days at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in
Salt Lake City, I snuck off into the mountains to try out some new ski
gear on a big descent. Indeed, at more than 5,000 vertical feet, the
Banana Chute off the west side of Mt. Ogden is among the largest
sustained ski descents in the region.
I went with a group of locals, including blogger Kendall Card; J.T.
Robinson, a semipro Telemark skier; the photographer Steven Lloyd; and
Kevin Brown, a part-time ski patroller at Snowbasin Resort.
Our day started with a car swap at 27th Street in Ogden, where we left
Robinson’s stationwagon. It would serve as the shuttle at the day’s
end. We drove the 17 miles to Snowbasin, jumped on the lifts, then
skied off the back side of the resort into U.S. Forest Service land.
Mt. Ogden, a 9,570-foot peak, drops precipitously to all points of the
compass. The Great Salt Lake and the city of Ogden sit more than a
vertical mile straight down looking west. Our route of descent, the
Banana Chute, is a squiggle of snow through rocks, a 45-degree
avalanche path that pinches down to just 15 feet wide between rock
bands at points during the ski.
Needless to say, avalanche savvy is necessary for a trip like this. We
had transceivers, shovels, probes, and Avalung breathing apparatuses.
Card, Brown, and Robinson spent a half-hour assessing snow conditions
before making the leap into the top of the chute.
Once my edges were on the snow—which was mostly solid wind slab with
occasional powder—the descent went quick. I rode the Black Diamond
Kilowatt skis, mid-fat boards that handled the terrain with aplomb.
After making it past the maw of the chute, we weaved through trees and
experimented with runs off side ridges. At one point we skied a
blissful 50 turns through knee-deep Utah fluff. The ski ended with a
long and flat trail along a creekbed, branches whipping in our faces
for a half-hour or so as we pushed along.
Then the cars came into sight. I skied right to the pavement’s edge on
27th St., and clicked out. It’d been a couple hours and more than 5,000
vertical feet of skiing. Not a bad way at all to spend a Saturday