Backcountry Ski Tour and Summit of Days Draw
Thanks for stopping by and reading my adventure blog. The goal of the blog is to inspire you to get out and explore the outdoors where you live. You will find that many great adventures can happen just outside your door step.
This week I write about a backcountry ski tour I did yesterday, February 23, 2019, to the summit of Days Draw located along the Reed and Benson Ridge (the ridge between Days Fork and Cardiff Fork). The view from the summit of Days Draw is amazing. You see Superior in the distance and the beautiful wide open bowls of the Cardiac ridge.
One of Utah’s Best Backcountry Ski Tours
In Utah, we are blessed to be surrounded by amazing backcountry ski tour options. Each year I discover new backcountry ski tours, but the Days Draw ski tour has a special place in my heart. It was my first backcountry ski tour eight years ago. On April 30, 2011, Utah received 24 inches of its world famous powder and my friend Doug Anderson invited my to go on my first-ever backcountry ski tour. After my first turns down Days Draw, I was hooked.
You can watch my first ski tour of Days Draw here.
How to Approach Days Draw Backcountry Ski Tour
Thanks to the online version of the Wasatch Backcountry Ski Guide Book, you can learn how to access Days Draw and hundreds of other backcountry ski tours. Thanks to Steve Achelis who has created one of the greatest resources for the Utah backcountry skiing community—thank you Steve!
Days Draw is located in Days Fork. You can access Days Fork from Little or Big Cottonwood Canyons. It is easiest to access Days Draw from the Spruces Trailhead.
Backcountry Avalanche Safety for Our Ski Tour
Safety is our first focus as we enter the backcountry. We follow the “Know Before You Go” backcountry safety process. Never enter the backcountry without having the gear, the training, the forecast, terrain assessment as you go, and always being out of harms way. We try to be very vocal as we tour so that we are always assessing the situation ahead of us and below us. The forecast for our tour was mostly green with a few areas of yellow. The Utah Avalanche Center forecast warned to be watchful for wind drifts. So we headed out with a plan and excitement to summit on a beautiful blue sky day.
Touring to Days Draw Summit
It was -4 degrees Fahrenheit at the Spruces Trailhead when we started our tour. The nice thing about ski touring is that even when it’s really cold outside, you tend to warm up quickly as you move up the mountain because you are using your entire body. It’s important to layer properly to enjoy a backcountry ski tour. Then you can quickly adjust as temperatures get warmer or colder.
From the Spruces Trailhead, you’ll follow the main trail for a mile or two. It is relatively flat, so you can move at a fast pace. When you reach a big open meadow, you will know that you have arrived the base of Days Draw. You will see the Days Draw and Peggy Days drainages. You will also most likely see the regrowth of trees at the bottom of the Days Draw from periodic avalanches. We crossed the meadow and headed up Chicken Sh** Ridge, which is the ridge just south of Days Draw. This is the approach most people take to summit and ski Days Draw.
Blue Skies and Untouched Powder
Our group size was seven people, which might be a little big. We made sure that we had a buddy system in place and we always had visual of everyone in the group. It was a beautiful day. It had been really cold for days so the snow was light and soft. It had snowed 12 inches over the previous three days. Below you can see the untouched powder and blue skies.
You will spend a ton more time climbing (skinning) up the mountain on a backcountry ski tour than actually skiing downwards. You really build a sense of comradery as you climb a mountain. It’s one of the things I enjoy most. There is time to chat about life, the conditions, and just really get to know those who are with you on the journey to the top of a summit.
Views Along the Way
There are so many amazing views along the way. It’s nice to stop every once and a while and take in the views as you approach the summit. It’s also important to drink water during those stops. You will start to see so many different angles of the mountain as you summit.
The Drop Off
The ridge you will be climbing will drop off into Days Draw. This is north facing and steep. Make sure you don’t get to close to the steep sections of the ridge. It does make for beautiful photographs as the ridge drops off behind. See some of the photos below.
Approaching the Summit
As you approach the Days Draw summit from the ridge, you will start to see the Days Draw Bowl. In the photo below you can see a few turns off in the distance.
The Days Draw Summit
You will turn right as you get close to the summit and you will know you have arrived as the view opens into a spectacular 360 view of the surrounding peaks. You see Superior in the distance and the beautiful wide open bowls of the Cardiac ridge. When we arrived, there was no wind and the sun was warming our faces. The summit is one of my favorite parts of the backcountry ski tour.
After we took in the Days Draw summit, we decided to ski Crystal Palace instead of Days Draw. We made this decision because of the untouched powder. We made a few ski cuts, skied one by one, and always had visual of each person. The snow conditions were light and soft. It was incredible.
Meeting New Friends
I love all the friends I have made through backcountry skiing. Yesterday, my friend Matt Roberston brought with him his talented photographer friend, Braydon Ball. Braydon and I collaborated on the pictures you see on this blog. It was fun to chat photographer with him and even set up a few shots on the down.
You can check out Braydon’s Instagram here.
Yesterday was an amazing day. The weather and snow conditions were perfect. The effect of backcountry skiing will leave you stoked for days! The most important success of yesterday was that everyone made it home safe. This is always the goal. I want to thank Utah Avalanche Center for their continue avalanche awareness, training, and daily reports. Thank you for all you do to make our days safe in the backcountry.
Be safe and have fun!