Some Salt Lake backcountry skiers escape south from the central Wasatch a few times each season to the less crowded slopes and terrain of the Wasatch Plateau in an area known as the Manti Skyline. Skiing in the Central Wasatch is world class, but mixing it up by leaving the crowds to enjoy the newness, beauty and ease of the Manti Skyline has become a habit for a few Salt Lakers.
The Manti Skyline is better known for its snowmobiling and kite-skiing than for its touring, but for the skier it is easy to leave the sounds behind and explore the easily accessed terrain away from the kites and engines.
Don Vincent of Salt Lake enjoys skiing the trees of the Skyline and when you go into the trees the snowmobilers stay away. His wife Angie loves it too. The runs tend to be under 500 vertical which make doing laps manageable. While there is plenty of steep terrain in the Plateau the amount of slopes less than 30 degrees abound making it a moderate place to ski.
Currently the Utah Avalanche Center updates a forecast for the Manti Skyline every Friday. With this large forecast window it’s a good idea to have your snow and terrain evaluation skills up to date. Check with the Center for available avalanche classes.
The Wasatch Plateau is part of the Manti La Sal National Forest. While the range elevates from 5,000 feet to above 10,000 feet, access from the highway is closer to 8,500 feet. During the winter months the Huntington/Fairview Canyon road is kept open and provides sledders, skiers and kiters access. When parking, make sure you are well off the fog line or use designated areas. Bringing along a grain shovel is a good idea to ensure safe parking and returning to the road. The forest service grooms miles of the skyline road, an improved summer road that runs north and south along the spine of the range, for the snow mobiles. There are larger parking areas near the Skyline Road and may provide a launching point for tours.
Exploring the range is elementary. There are no guidebooks, only maps. Skiing line-of-sight is the normal procedure. You study the maps, get into the car and go have a look. Once you are off the road you can continue poking into new terrain. The few people who frequent the area have simply explored each visit and found more and more untracked snow. From gentle open bowls, perfect glades and steep chutes, there is a lifetime of discoveries to be had.
Asking Chris Magerl, a long time skier of the Wasatch Plateau, the names of certain runs and areas, he responded, “Tell No One Slope or Tell No One Run,” half jokingly. Is the Plateau in danger of becoming as crowded as the mountains of Salt Lake? Over the years in the area he has never seen another backcountry skier.
Getting to the Manti Skyline is a two hour drive from Salt Lake City, depending on weather. Head south on Interstate 15, exit 258 in Spanish Fork, take Highway 6 toward Price, just past the Thistle Landslide take Highway 89 south and drive to Fairview and then Fairview Canyon highway 31.
While making a daytrip is possible from Salt Lake staying in San Pete county for the weekend can help you explore more of the area. Lodging can be found in a few towns near Fairview Canyon. Also, try breakfast at the Home Plate Café in Fairview for classic diner fare. 215 N. State Street, Fairview, Utah.
The Manti Skyline is not a secret to winter enthusiasts as you may discover on weekend days while snowmobilers throttle up their machines and kite-skiers/boarders sail through the open fields of snow or parents shuttle their kids near the land of the Wasatch Academy, but for a few adventuresome backcountry skiers it is a great place to explore the mountains and take a few runs and leave the crowds of Salt Lake behind.