Skiing the Parleys Canyon Burn
Base Elevation: 6,100
Peak Elevation: 8,281
Elevation Gain: 2,181
Round Trip Distance: 5.25 miles
Total Time: 2:13
Date: March 7, 2023
On August 14, 2021, a fire was ignited from a faulty catalytic converter alongside highway 80 between Lambs Canyon and Parleys Summit. The fire burned for over a week and nearby neighborhoods of Summit Park, Pinebrook, Timberline and Lambs Canyon had to be evacuated. Luckily nobody was injured and no homes were damaged but 550 acres between mile marker 137 and 138 were burnt. It never crossed my mind to ski this area pre-fire but with the fire burning a lot of brush, branches and tree - this area became an objective.
However, 2022 was a weak snow year with less than 200 inches falling at Park City Mountain Resort but the winter of 2023 was a whole different story. We skied this area for the first time on March 7th, 2023 and PCMR was reporting 445 inches for the season at this point. With Lambs Canyon trailhead sitting at just above 6,100, a good snow year is required for this area.
From the Lambs Canyon parking lot just off Highway 80, head east along the fence that parallels the highway. After about 300 yards, the fence turns right and so will you for about 50 yards and the fence then continues east. You will follow the fence for about .7 of a mile before you start heading south towards the mountain. You will want to stay on the east side of the ridge because the western side is denser with scrub oak. Unless you are breaking trail after a big storm, you will find an obvious skin track as this trail gets a fair amount of traffic. At about 7,500 feet, you will come to a plateau and if you are feeling less ambitious, you could ski this low angle but fun bowl.
For those looking to summit the ridge and experience the true burn, it will take about 30-45 more minutes from this point and an additional 800 feet of climbing. At the plateau, you are still west of the main burn area and you don’t start to encounter the burnt trees until the last 200 feet from the summit. Once you start to approach the burn area, it feels rather eerie. The trees are totally charred and the area is void of life.
Once you summit the ridge line at 8,200, you have many ski options and most lines point due north so the snow quality remains intact despite the lower elevation.
Skiing the burnt section has a novel feeling but you have to be careful of dead tree limbs protruding through the snow and it can be tight in certain areas. The bowl from the summit pushes you over one ridge from your exit so there is a little bit of bushwhacking at the bottom to get you back to the fence line but the good news is that no transition is required.