Backcountry skiing Greens Basin
When it comes to backcountry ski terrain, it’s good to have those go-to places for any eventuality. On a powder day with a stable snowpack, you can ski pretty much anywhere. But sometimes the avalanche danger is too high for open slopes, or it hasn’t snowed in so long that the mountains are covered in sun and wind crust. Those are the times to seek out shady, north-facing treed slopes, and Greens Basin in Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the best of the bunch.
Greens Basin is a huge swath of evergreens that rises up from the canyon floor between Days and Silver Fork. Driving up Big Cottonwood, you can easily see the well-spaced, powder filled trees above the Spruces Campground. It is among this blanket of shade-providing pines where you can find good powder long after a storm, thanks to a lack of sunlight and protection from the wind.
A ski tour in Greens Basin makes for a fairly mellow day. The basin rises 2,300 vertical feet in just under three miles from the Spruces parking lot. This sounds like a big ascent, but the trail to the top is mostly low-grade aside from one steep section at the bottom of Days Fork.
Once geared up, find the trail in the southeast corner of the parking lot and skin through the campground and enter Days Fork. The trail hugs the east side of the canyon and makes its way up via narrow switchbacks. After 300 feet of climbing, the path traverses east through the pines until it reaches a lovely meadow. This place will make you dream of buiding a little ski cabin where you can do laps in Greens Basin all day.
From the meadow, the track climbs again, this time on the ridge overlooking Silver Fork Canyon. It winds through pines and aspen trees to the top of Greens Basin, which is a very popular spot for skiers making turns in the Meadow Chutes. You can take some runs in Silver Fork if conditions are good, but if avy danger is high, it’s best to enjoy some classic tree skiing through the pines of Greens Basin.
The descent through the trees will take you back to that idyllic meadow, where you can take another lap, or traverse on the skintrack back to Days Fork and your car in the Spruces Campground.
Altogether, Greens Basin is best saved as a backup plan for those questionable snowpack/snowquality days. But when open slopes have you thinking about staying at home, Greens Basin may be hiding the goods in her pine-laden flanks.
As always, bring a beacon, probe, shovel and a buddy when venturing into the backcountry and go with a knowledge of avalanche safety. Check the Utah Avalanche Center’s daily report before heading out. Check out the GPS track below for an good look at a standard ski tour in Greens Basin.