Top 10 in 10 – Stairs Gulch

| January 16, 2009 | 2 Comments

#3 – Stairs Gulch

Although Stairs Gulch in Big Cottonwood Canyon is a major classic, I’ve only skied it a few times in the last fifteen years as it is so big, dark and scary.  Stairs has a long history of fatalities and I’d suspect that far more accidents have happened there than any other couloir in the Wasatch Mountains.  Like a human fly trap, Stairs Gulch lures people in with a parking lot right at the bottom and a nice little hiking trail which leads right into it.  But, what you can’t see from below is that the line goes up for 4,800′ to a 152 acre starting zone of slick rock slabs with 270 degrees of exposure.  The chute faces north, but also has east and west facing starting zones as well.  All of this funnels down through a narrow gully, which at times is only 20 feet wide.  Hard or soft slab, creep or climax, winter, spring and fall, sluffs, or major rippers, if it is an avalanche, Stairs will get it.

It also has some excellent skiing.  :) 

Matt Turley summiting Stairs Gulch from Broads Fork.

Matt Turley summiting Stairs Gulch from Broads Fork. Much to Matt's dismay, the only time he's sworn, it was caught in full High Def audio for the movie "Steep" as he was almost swept down a chute by an avalanche. Hehhee.

AM and Doug "Doc Brock" Brockmeyer on top of Stairs Gulch with the shadow of Twin Peaks stretching out into the Salt Lake Valley behind us. Doug is a Pedatric Neurosurgeon who enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic candlelight dinners, and removing children's faces to pluck tumors from the front of their brain.  I wish I was as good a surgeon as he is a skier - damn him.

AM and Doug "Doc Brock" Brockmeyer on top of Stairs Gulch. Doug is a Pediatric Neurosurgeon who enjoys long walks on the beach, candle light dinners and plucking tumors from infants brains. I wish I could do surgery as well as he can ski... damn him. The shadow of Twin Peak can be seen stretching out over Salt Lake City behind us.

The climbing party is over - time to get down to skiing business.  Stairs Gulch, from the top, with feeling.

The climbing party is over - time to get down to skiing business. Stairs Gulch, from the top, with feeling.

TT

152 acres of slick, high angle rock makes upper Stairs the ideal avalanche breeding ground.

Brad Barlage picking his way down the lower third of Stairs Gulch.

Bad things happen when you try to share this slot with millions of tons of snow.

The bottom section of Stairs Gulch. Bad things happen when you try to share this slot with millions of tons of churning snow.

This morning’s descent was probably the best conditions I’ve ever skied Stairs in – stable, old powder with a few rocks, old avalanche debris and a bit of early morning flat-light thrown in just to keep it interesting.

Tomorrow: Phee Fi Figgly Oh
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Category: current conditions

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.

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  1. Stairs Gulch « Jared Campbell's Blog | August 12, 2012
  1. nohow says:

    Man, you’ve got me stumped on this one. Pfieferhorn?

    Great 10 day odyssey, fun following the chuting spree. I’m guessing Coalpit is on the list. Skied it today,the booter is in. Still plenty of room for turns as well. Looks like you’re having no trouble finding folks to join you (I think that’s a record number for the ‘Y’ couloir), but let me know if you need a telewhacker to tag along and poke fun at.

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