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4/27/2021 Skiing the Wasatch in May

It’s May and you know what that means, time to keep skiing! Here in the Wasatch, most folks don’t think May is a great time to backcountry ski. We disagree. If anything, the skiing is even more interesting nowadays! Here’s why:

Mid-May powder day. It's not over until the snow is gone.

1. Variety is the spice of life

This time of year, you never know what you’re going to get. Just because it snowed two days ago, that doesn’t actually mean much when conditions change so quickly. Could be soft turns or it could be frozen solid. Throw in the chance for suncups, snirt, pine needles, runnels, ice, and it’ll feel like a game of Russian Roulette. On top of that, both the Utah Avalanche Center and Cottonwood Canyons Forecast have stopped issuing forecasts so you’re on your own. For extra ambiguity, try skiing a south face. Without looking or asking for beta, is the line a. Full of debris b. Bullet proof c. Edgeable d. Gone?

2. (Most) resorts are closed but still filled in.

Otherwise bumped out or off limits, closed resorts equal open terrain. In the Chuting Gallery, Andrew McLean affectionately calls these tasty resort lines “forbidden fruit chutes.” Come May, those descents, and a lot of other fun skiing, are ripe for the picking. Most importantly though, JBo can finally get back to lapping Main Chute at Alta.

You'd rather be mountain biking?!

3. Look tough in the parking lot

Now that you’re sharing the trailhead with warm weather day hikers, it’s time to show off all those ropes and pointy bits. You’re not just any skier, you’re a ski mountaineer. This scene is basically the Wasatch equivalent of European mountaineers rappelling off the side of Aiguille de Midi in front of tourists.

4. Plenty of daylight left after you’re done skiing

Granted, this is because you had to wake up at an ungodly hour to get the line before it turned to mashed potatoes. But still, go for that elusive Wasatch hat trick - ski, run, and bbq.

Caroline harvesting some May corn.

5. Justify the sporty look

Having to dodge rockfall missiles isn’t actually a good thing, but now that May’s warm temps are loosening up the walls of every couloir, you finally have a good reason for wearing a mountaineering helmet while skiing. Now who looks silly in their ski-impact-only helmet?

6. You can confidently use the #notoverit hashtag

Nothing impresses your Instagram followers like stubbornly skiing terrible snow in shorts and a t-shirt. Not really - most probably think you’re insane - but we appreciate you.

7. Melting snow makes creek crossings extra exciting

This also applies to the runout of Lake Chute. I don’t like telling people what to do, but I strongly recommend skipping the runout on that line. Do airbags work in lieu of a life jacket?

8. Quicker binding mount turnarounds because everyone is off getting their bikes tuned or whatever

Seriously, Tim is getting bored.

9. New boots!

A lot of lines require a dry approach - aka walking. Do it in your current boots and by the end of the month, your tread will be gone and you can justify new boots come fall. This trick also applies to skins when there are rocks instead of snow. For the rational ones among us, we recommend distance shoes. They’re extra cushy, which is helpful when you’ve got the whole kit on your back.

10. Kickstart that base tan

There’s nothing quite like letting your wintertime skin finally see the light of day during a sunny spring day on snow, aka nature’s tanning bed. Just don’t forget to put on sunscreen if you plan to be out for more than 20 minutes. Anyone who’s had the inside of their nostrils burned only needs to learn that lesson once.

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