Skiing Box Elder

This morning Ashton and I pulled into the Dry Creek parking lot in Alpine at around 8:30 and began an awesome tour.

I grew up in Highland Utah where I have a perfect view of the South face of Box Elder, so naturally I’ve always wanted to ski it. There’s something about being able to see something from home, it makes you want to ski it.

There’s a gully on this south face that holds snow longer than the rest of the face, and farmers used to use it to determine if they would have enough water for the year. They say that if there is snow there on the 4th of July there will be enough water that year. I’m pretty sure we’ll have enough water this year.

To start the tour, we skinned up the Dry Creek hiking trail up towards horse-tail falls. This is a popular trail all times of the year, so we saw several hikers and sledders while we were out.

After passing the meadow a little over a mile up, we turned right through the trees and skinned up one of the shoulders that is fairly low angle. From there it’s pretty much a straight shot towards the west face of Box Elder. From there we wrapped around the South end, and then booted up the South ridge. The views from this area are incredible. You’re surrounded by some of the coolest looking mountains in the world: Mount Timpanogos and Lone Peak, as well as the valley below which is half filled with water, something I don’t think we appreciate enough. It makes it so much more beautiful in my opinion. And then you could also look East into Heber and American Fork Canyon. It didn’t matter which direction you looked, it was spectacular.

It was also while we were up here that I learned why the gully holds snow so much longer than the rest of the south face.

The ridge we were hiking up had no snow. NO SNOW! Considering this area has a base depth of around 200 inches it seems impossible that there could be straight rocks along an entire ridge. But because the wind blows so consistently from the east to the west over this ridge, the gully probably has 400 inches while the ridge has 0. Wild.

When we summited there was a group of three that had gotten to the top a few minutes before us. They approached by following the normal hiking trail all the way to the summit by following the North ridge, which is the more common approach. We talked to them for a few minutes before dropping into the South face.

The south face is all right around 30 degrees, and the views while coming down are amazing. Thankfully the snow had started softening up by the time we were coming down so although not great, the turns were reasonable as we descended the roughly 1000 significant feet.

From there we cut across the bottom before transitioning to go summit the Box Elder South Summit. It’s super low angle, and we popped over there just to check it out and check another one off the list. The views of North Timpanogos and American Fork Canyon from the South Summit were breathtaking! We mused over the idea of skiing all the way down to the American Fork Canyon road from here, through what we believe is called Tank Canyon. We might have to plan a day to attempt something like that. Might be super cool!

After getting our head out of the clouds we skied down and then back over to the base of Box Elder to summit again. This time we opted to skin up the face rather than boot the shoulder. It was maybe a little bit better, but neither option was excellent due to variable snow.

Once we were at the top again we transitioned and skied the North face. It was amazing. The snow had supririsngly stayed soft and consistent, despite the high temperatures and strong sun! That’s why North facing stuff is so great.

It was definitely one of the coolest lines I’ve skied this winter, and I’m really happy we nailed it on such a good day!

After the initial 2,000 feet or so, there was around 1500 feet that was tough! The snow was super mushy and hard to make turns in, but we eventually made it to the hiking trail where the final 2000 feet were pretty reasonable.

Check out our route here:

There is so much potential in this area, and we’ll definitely be back to ski more lines, and summit more peaks.

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