Skiing Mt. Aire from the Summit
Base Elevation: 6,150
Summit Elevation: 8,602
Elevation Gain: 2,452
Round Trip Distance: 4.7 miles
Total Time: 2:44
Date: Jan 20, 2023
I always feel as if Mt. Aire punches above its weight. It exudes this confidence of being a big mountain although it only stands at 8,621. Perhaps the reason is that when you driving west on highway 80 from Park City and you come over Parley Summit and the face of Mt. Aire stares right at you. Every time I cross over this pass, I fix my sights on Mt. Aire- I say to myself, “I need to ski that peak from the summit”. The problem with accomplishing that goal is that Aire’s elevation is on the lower side and it is on the outskirts of the Wasatch so it doesn’t get as much snow as Big or Little Cottonwood and the scrub oak trees at the bottom can turn a fun day into a bushwacking fest. As such, a good snow year is critical plus you need a stable snowpack as the angle is above 30 degrees. I made my first attempt to summit this peak in 2019 and we went the wrong way and I have skied various shoulders of the east side of Aire since but I had never skied it from the proper peak until now.
The 2022/2023 season has been one of the best snowpack years in 20 years. Alta has received over 430” by Jan 17. We had an early season persistent weak layer but that is now buried below 10” feet of snow and with the consistent snowfall throughout January, no other weak layers have developed. So the time was right to finally ski Mt. Aire from the summit.
To access the trailhead, park at the Lambs Canyon exit off Highway 80. Do not take the Lambs Canyon road but head west along the fence line adjacent to the highway. You will see an obvious skin track which is persistent during the winter.
After about 200-300 yards, you will come to a skin junction and I have made the mistake of going left but you want to go straight (further west).
The first left takes you up an eastern ridge to the eastern shoulder of Mt. Aire’s summit (this is also good skiing but it is not the direction to the official summit). The skin track will take you further west than you think you need to go but be patient as it will come back around, and it will take you up the north facing ridge of Mt. Aire. These two pics below indicate that you are fairly far west and the pics show the northern ridge line that you will ascend to the summit.
The lower section is relatively flat and goes by quickly.
Once you reach 8,000, there are some tricky switchbacks.
As you get close to the top, there are several ski options across the face that are quiet good as indicated by this picture taken a few years ago from Mt. Aire's eastern shoulder.
My partner was advocating to drop in one of the lower eastern shots but I was determined to ski from the summit. As usual, there is a false summit before the official peak but once you hit the false summit, you are very close and the extra 5 minutes is worth the effort.
We elected to ski from the far skier's right off the summit and there is a nice open bowl that we hit. The first section is only about 400-500 vertical feet but it is a nice sustained pitch of about 32-36 degrees. From there, my advice is to head left to avoid the drainage. If you keep getting left, you will be treated to several other powder fields. In the last few years, the forest service has done some fire prevention pruning so the shrub oak isn’t as bad. However, all lines ultimately run into the drainage and there is a mandatory luge run that takes you back to the skin track and to your car. You hit the drainage at about 7,000 feet which therefore provides a respectable 1,600 of vert from the summit. IMO, Aire is well worth the effort and it always provides a solid workout plus the views of Gobblers and Mt. Raymond, seen below respectively, from the top are awesome.
In fact, after scouting out Gobblers from the top of Aire, I was inspired to summit and ski Gobblers the following day. Read that article here.