Baldy Chute – August 10th. ??!!

| August 10, 2011 | 11 Comments

Alta’s Main Baldy Chute is one of my favorite little couloirs – little as in about 750 vertical feet and fairly easy to get to.  When I first moved back to Utah long ago, it was at the top of my wishlist as far as lines I was dying to ski and I thought that I’d have to wait around and ski it when the resort opened it.  I made the mistake of telling Alex Lowe about this desire and in typical Alex fashion, we ended up skiing it the next morning right at first light in about 3′ of fresh October powder.  I think that was also my first, uhmmm, chance encounter with the Alta Ski Patrol, and although the area wasn’t open yet, unbeknownst to us, they were sighting in the avalanche guns and were watching our every move.  Since then, I think I’ve skied Main Baldy about 25 times, although I have yet to do it  officially during Alta operating hours when they are open for the season.

Main Baldy from the Rustler Lodge (?) parking lot. It is the righthand line line and is continuous, although in this photo an arete blocks part of it.

Main Baldy is a natural snow trap and is one of the first places to get snow, as well as one of the last to lose it.  It is high, north facing and gets lots of up-canyon windloading, and the deep sidewalls help hold and protect the snow.  Plus, it has a very skiable angle to it and is wide enough to hold lots of tracks.  The adjoining Little Chute and Dogleg Chute are technically harder, but not quite as classic as Main.

Main Baldy has a ton of history to it, including some gruesome rumor about a skier who supposedly fell down it and beheaded herself, which may be urban legend. But, I do know for sure about a group of  friends who were skiing it in the summer and had a horrific accident.  From what I remember, one skier was stopped, when another skied down on top of him, blew his last turn and took both of them out.  Seeing this from the top, a third skier went to help them, blew a turn and ended up going down as well.  The chute itself is plenty steep, but to make matters worse, all three of them tracked down and ended up getting pinballed in the moat/gully where the snow had pulled away from the side of the chute. I think there were punctured lungs, maybe some broken bones and lots and lots of stitches.

The Main Baldy summer moat. Uggggh - this would be a grim place to end up after a cartwheeling fall down 500+ feet of steep couloir.

This year Main Baldy is amazingly full and still has about 6-8′ of snow in it!  I skied it today on a gear testing mission and it is still in excellent shape with very few rocks.  Not only that, but it has been skied enough that is is kind of pre-groomed.

Main Baldy - from the top, with feeling on Aug 10th.

I’m guessing there is enough snow that it is easily going to make it all the way through the summer.
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Help support StraightChuter.com and lay into Main Baldy with a pair of K2 Wayback Skis from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…

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Category: Trip Reports

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (11)

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  1. AJ says:

    skiing on a gear testing mission August 10th?

    it must be either the 2011 K2 Waylate or the 2012 Wayearly :-)

  2. Derek says:

    With a bonus of a beautiful wildflower exit!

  3. d3 says:

    did you dig a pit? :)

  4. Phil says:

    Did you boot right up it, or hike up from the ridge to get at it during this time of year?

  5. Phil says:

    Also, any idea what Gunsight looks like as well? Thanks for the updates, glad to see that some ski-web-bloggers are still skiing *cough steve cough*

  6. Wasatch surf says:

    Gun sight has 400-500ft or less of snow. Devils castle area has more or at least it did last week.

  7. Andrew says:

    Phil – I walked up the main road from the Gold Miner’s parking lot carrying my boots and stayed in hiking shoes all the way to the base of the actual chute. From there, I put on my boots, left all my other gear, and booted straight up the chute. At 12:00 it had softened enough to get a good toe-hold, but crampons and ice axe (Whippets) would be a good idea. Then I just skied back down, collected my gear and walked back out.

  8. Andrew says:

    I didn’t look at Gunsight, but in general, Main Chute gets way more snow (up canyon windloading) and the steep walls help hold it in place.

  9. Andrew says:

    d3 – of course, and not only that, I sent my obs into the UAFC. ;) No instabilities were noted.

  10. Chuck says:

    Sweet! I have yet to ski Main Chute in September.

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