By Evan Thacker
Aggie BluePrint writer
Want to ski some fresh powder but don’t know where to go now that Beaver Mountain’s closed for the season? Still crave winter even when the snow has melted on Old Main Hill? Have you wondered about cross-country skiing places near Cache Valley? Because of my own adventures and experiences, I have been skiing and rating the best backcountry places to ski in Logan. This month, my ski team and I checked out Green Canyon for downhill and cross-country skiing.
All of the places we ski are reviewed by specific qualifications. The qualifications for each destination include distance from campus, hiking distance, average snow conditions and terrain features.
Green Canyon is about a five to 10-minute drive from Utah State University’s Logan campus. The drive up to the canyon is an easy drive; the roads lie within the Logan city limits and are usually maintained by the city. However, the drive in the canyon and the parking lot is not maintained. Driving to the canyon in a two-wheel drive vehicle is possible. However, I would suggest a four-wheel drive. Parking is easy to find and is easily accessible.
Hiking up Green Canyon to ski is quite a different story than the drive up. There is a road that becomes a cross-country ski trail during the winter, and the hike is an easy but long one. During low snow times the hike can be walked only in ski boots, and snowshoes or cross-country skis are suggested in higher snow conditions. The hike to skiable terrain is a fair distance, from a 60 to 90-minute hike. There are a few trails along the side of the mountains which would make the hike up this year bearable only in ski boots. We walked up one of the trails that led to the wind caves. The trail is about an hour-long hike and is along the right side walking up the canyon. A wooden fence and a sign that tells about the wind caves guard the trail. The accent up the mountain is as far as you want to hike up. Decent skiable terrain can be reached within a 20 minute hike. The clearing, which we skied, ends after about 25 minutes and enters into an evergreen forest area. Finally, there are a few spaces to drop in and ski, way up the trail.
Average snow conditions in the canyon, as well as everywhere else, have not been great this year. However, snow conditions up in the canyon are decent considering the weather fluctuations this season. Snow depths range from no snow to just below waist deep, higher up in the canyon. The snow in the basin is packed down to make a nice cross-country course, but the snow on ridgelines is completely untracked. The powder is refrozen, crunchy, and has little to no fluffiness to its substance. There are thin spots around trees and the entire ridgeline facing south is not covered by any significant amount of snow. To sum it up, even with a bad winter for skiing Green Canyon has a decent amount of snow, and you can often make first tracks.
The terrain features in Green Canyon differ depending on what type of skiing you decide to do. Cross-country skiing is very popular in the canyon. Most people walk their dogs as they cross-country ski along the trail at the bottom of the canyon. Cross-country snowboarding is much more rare, and as far as I know, is non-existent sport anywhere. Our local snowboarder would say differently, as he managed to go cross-country quite well. The terrain on the eastern facing ridgeline is the best terrain in the canyon for the amount of snowfall this year. The mountains have trees, cliffs and fairly steep terrain. To get to the ridgeline will require a 60 to 90 minute hike up the cross-country ski trail, in the basin. Some of the terrain is accessible by summer hiking and mountain biking trails. On the lower slopes,a huge amount of brush exist, but it is still quite skiable. Bowls and huge evergreen trees dominate the upper slopes of the canyon. All and all, Green Canyon has a variety of terrain from almost flat to some nice vertical incline. However, there is not much terrain in-between.
Green Canyon is a great place to ski even with the bad ski weather we’ve had. The driving distance is only five to 10 minutes and an easy drive from campus. The hiking distance is fairly long, but an easy hike. The snow conditions are bad, but get a lot better as you hike up into the canyon. The terrain conditions vary, but cross-country skiing is excellent and alpine is decent for this year. Green Canyon gets a solid three stars out of five. Despite being only seven minutes away from campus,it may as well be a world away.