Little Cottonwood Canyon Intro
By Andrew McLean

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Originally published in The Chuting Gallery

Little Cottonwood Canyon - Southfacing 

Official known as Highway U-120, more commonly known as Little Cottonwood Canyon and unofficially acknowledged as the epi-center of the Greatest Snow on Earth. There are 36 named avalanche paths that loom over this section of road. Most of them are skiable. Legendary and justly so. These are the chutes that line the road to your left (north) as you drive up Little Cottonwood canyon. Your car door hits the run as you open it. Zero approach, 3,000’ or more, straight, steep, sunny, spectacular and very fun. Some of the more notorious avalanche slide paths in the US- they hit and bury the road with great frequency - at times up to 20’ deep. Always an adventure. Just to be in these is a thrill. Greatly foreshortened from the road - to ski them is to believe them - they’re huge. They won’t show up in any self respecting ski touring guide book, which makes you think they are being carefully guarded - they should be!

Approach is generally straight up them. An avalanche of any magnitude would be fatal. Conveniently marked at their starting points with signs like “Tanners Slide Path - No Parking”. You can park immediately to either side of the side paths signs, but be conscious of snowplows and flatlanders in rental cars without snowtires. These also get shot with the 105 Howitzers as well as being bombed from helicopters.

You get to ski very last drop of these chutes - Starting from the very summit (in most cases) and finishing with your hand on the car door handle - making fall line turns all the way in-between.

Copyright - Andrew McLean Back to Writings Index