Executive Summary: A nice excuse for locals to wander around in the mountains, but hardly worth traveling out-of-state for.
Yes, there have been quite a few photos of people bustin’ pow in the Wasatch, but that has more to do with the lens craft of good photographers than reality. It is still very rocky, shallow and challenging in the backcountry. I’d say the conditions were a mix of sugar, stiff meringue, rocks, trees and dirt. The best skiing is probably at the resorts, which appeared to be packed. Some of the high, classic chutes are filled in (Suicide, Wolverine, Cardiac, etc.) , but with deep, rotten snow, I’d avoid them for quite awhile.
My general rule of thumb is that skiing by Halloween means the Wasatch is off to a great start, skiing my Thanksgiving is about average and skiing by Christmas is poor. So far, we are off to an average start, but with a handicapped snowpack. This is subject to change within 24 hours, but if we get a classic year of lots of little (6-12″) refresh storms, it will be yet another dangerous season. Gushing rain or a huge 100 inches in 100 hours would help to blow the instabilities out, but so far it has been windy and cold, just like Utah’s nemesis, Color… well, you know where. The place where pot is legal.
The crux of the Wasatch is the elevation, or lack of it, as the skiable zone is from about 6,000′ to 11,000′. For reference, most of the respectable resorts start at around 8,000′ and go up. In a low snow year, like the two we’ve just had, this means the skiing is from from 8k to 11k, which means the same old, same old – Days, Cardiac, White Pine, Grizzly, Silver Fork, etc.. This is all great skiing, but when it fills in down low, like to 6,000′, there is exponentially more skiing and substantially less crowding.
A good (?) acronym for happy powder hunting in the Wasatch is SNIFF ME – Sheltered, North Facing, Mid Elevation. As of 11/23/2013, the missing element is mid elevation as it just hasn’t filled in yet and the tops are blown out. Please try again later.