How To Know Where To Go

| January 7, 2010

A huge part of backcountry skiing is knowing where to go on any given day to find the best skiing.  It might be corn, powder, chutes, long tours or quick hits, but once you have been doing it for a while, you can almost always find The Goods (well, except for last week – sorry Doug & Courtney).  Another factor in this equation is escaping backcountry crowds by avoiding the default areas as much as possible.

How do you keep finding new places, or at least places that are ahead of the crowd curve? My main tool for this task are a couple of wall photos of my local mountains.  Whenever I’m on the phone arranging a day of skiing with a friend, I’ll usually be looking at them, discussing options, and most likely being reminded of little projects that I’ve been meaning to ski.  Some people prefer to use topo maps, but I’m a visual guy, so I like photos.  Google Earth is okay for getting a rough idea on distant places, but there’s nothing like an aerial photo to spark the imagination.


For the Wasatch Mountains, AlpenTech photos are available in stores like REI, Black Diamond and Wasatch Touring.   For more ambitious terrain, you might need an entire hallway, like this photo of Joe Stock’s Alaskan Strategic Command Center.

Help support and point out da goods in a Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man Fleece Jacket from Click on the photo below…


Category: 10 Navigation

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 (9)

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  1. Smokey says:

    Me and a buddy threw down $50 each and got a hour tour over our playground in a Cessna. We snapped about 200 photos and now always have a digital libary to fall back on when the inevitable, “I don’t know, what do you want to do” comes up…well worth the cash.

  2. dug says:

    does it make me a sheep in the pen that i just use the readily available wasatch touring maps number 1 and 2, which are comprised primarily of aerial photograhs of the central wasatch?

  3. KatieC says:

    Hmmm….but how do you know if someone’s put a skintrack in?

    (not really kidding at all)

  4. SnowriderPDX says:

    Nice post. “Staying ahead of the crowd curve…” Heh. You should ™ that phrase.

  5. Trenching C says:

    I lay skin tracks for reasonable rates: $40/mile with a 3-mile minimum, or $.03/vertical-foot with a 5000ft minimum. Rates double for any terrain between Argenta and Mineral Fork.

  6. Derek says:

    I secretly installed a SPOT GPS tracker on Bob Athey’s truck. So I just wake up, drink some coffee, and follow his progress. Then I just go where he goes.

    I’m setting up a web page right now to sell the data to the public.

    There might be one on a white mini van too.

  7. gwest says:

    I dunno, ..seems like his truck is parked at the bottom of the canyons a lot. Maybe if you could somehow bury one in his beard without him noticing

  8. rocknsnow says:

    If you can get a hold of the first version of Wasatch Tours its really useful – they put little ‘A’ symbols on the pictures where the best runs are!

  9. Andrew says:

    Hi rocknsnow – so true! That was one of my first introductions to the Wasatch.

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