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 almost 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 pro Telemark skier; and the photographer Steven Lloyd.
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 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 morning.