Skiers riding the McConkey’s chairlift at Park City are graced with an impressive view of the hulking East Face of Jupiter Peak. With an elevation of 9,998 ft, this is the tallest and most prominent skiable aspect in the area—that includes Park City, Canyons, and Deer Valley. A cliff band with 100 foot sections of bare rock marks a prominent diagonal slash across the slope. Small ribbons of snow weave through the rocks inviting unfamiliar skiers to ponder, “Can you ski that?”
The Pioneer and Bonanza chairs also offer great views of this local landmark, but it was from McConkey’s that I first considered skiing some of the lines on Jupiter. I was probably 14 and still learning my way around the terrain at Park City. I remember one ride up McConkey’s when two guys were talking about the East Face and pointing at the possible lines. An older man on the chair leaned forward and turned to tell the others in a chilling tone, “The last guy I know who skied that broke both his legs.”
Needless to say, that oldtimer’s warning had the opposite effect on me. Later that week, I had studied the face long enough to have a good guess on the easiest way down, and I mustered the courage to boot up to the summit. This hike gains over 300 feet in just over a third of a mile. You can drop in at any point along the ridge to access steep glades and open bowls. But for those who make it to the top, they have their choice of the technical lines down the face known as The Chutes.
A: First Chute
Locate the cluster of trees below the summit. Left of these trees is a rock outcropping marking the top of Toilet Bowl (E)—ski left of this cliff section. Once around the rocks, stay skier’s left of the arete that leads to the large cliff known as Denise’s Rock. Follow the gully down to the corner of Denise’s and then out into the apron.
In low-snow years, First Chute appears more like an actual chute in the lower section with rocks lining the sides of the gully. The top section of the approach around Toilet Bowl can be windswept, and there may be exposed rocks early season or with low snow. During periods of high snow, this hardly looks like a chute at all—though still a fun and steep line that offers the thrill of skiing close to large cliffs.
This is the widest gap in the cliff band and can be approached by several variations. The easiest way through is to ski off the summit and follow the approach to First Chute (A). Once below the Toilet Bowl (E), veer right to pass above Denise’s Rock. The wide Twilight chute comes into view here.
A more technical option is to approach Twilight from the access to Hour Glass (C). At the large pine tree above Hour Glass, you can ski left to the easier terrain of Twilight. Be cautious early season or in low-snow years as there are many sharks in this zone between Hour Glass and Twilight. Finally, an even more technical option is to approach Twilight via Toilet Bowl.
C: Hour Glass
This one is a bit trickier because you can’t see it from the top. It looks like the tracks heading this direction may just roll off one of those cliffs. And in truth, a fall on the approach to this line could send a skier over a large, dangerous cliff. Locate the cluster of trees below the summit. Stay to the right of these trees and to the left of the arete that forms the skier’s left boundary of Machete (D).
The option remains to ski into Machete until the line curves left. It steepens here as the entrance to the chute comes into view. Stay in the gully to send the direct line. Or if you want to look at the coverage first, then aim for the large pine tree skier’s left just above the chute. From here, you have a great vantage point to scope out the line. The chute steepens, narrows, and then has an abrupt dogleg right before opening up into the apron.
This is the prominent line on the skier’s right side of the face. It’s the only chute that’s fully visible from the top. Most of the line is less than 45 degrees, and only a small section in the lower chute is steeper than that. The risk of falling over a cliff is low since a tumbling skier would likely stay within the chute.
E: Toilet Bowl
It’s short and sweet but the terrain is high consequence with just a slim line through the rocks. This line often isn’t skiable in low-snow conditions and skis much differently in a high-snow year. In low snow, a small cornice drop goes into a narrow and short couloir with a sharp turn left. Rocks line this tight path and under the drop into the chute. When completely filled in during a high-snow year, it’s possible to enter the chute from higher on the cornice to make the line significantly longer. The rocks lining the lower chute that mandate the hard left turn in low snow are completely buried, which allows skiers to dump speed cross slope to the right instead of pointing it left down the fall line.
Once through Toilet Bowl, you can take your speed straight and left into Twilight (B) or veer right and look for the big pine tree above Hour Glass (C). Linking Toilet Bowl and Hour Glass makes for a fantastic technical line.
The top of this chute is accessed from near the patrol shack just under the summit. Locate the cornice across from the shack. Rocks mark the middle of this bowl that funnels into Machete (D). Enter the chute by going over the steep cornice or find a lower-angle entrance to the left. Stay on the steeper slope skier’s left of the middle rocks and go straight down the fall line.
G: Hippie Chute
Yikes!!! Don’t blow it on the approach to this chute! A tight, exposed line points it skier’s left of the Diving Board, just along the cliff edge, into Machete (D). From the start of 50/51, ski down the ridge along the cornice. Stay skier’s right of the rocks at the top of the arete. The Diving Board comes into view here, and you can also see the rocks guarding the top of Hippie Chute. Even with high snow, these rocks may still be visible; and they may require a small air to enter the chute. Use extreme caution here because many sharp rocks lurk under thin snow. As you’re navigating into the chute, stay high and skier’s left, close to the rocks, to keep away from the cliff edge.
The Chutes on the East Face of Jupiter cover a wide area—much too large to just be one run. This area offers fun, technical terrain and great conditions that make the hike worthwhile. The names used in this post were verified with Park City ski patrollers. If you know these lines or features by any other names, please email comments or revisions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note, this technical terrain is steep and has dangerous cliffs. Skiers have been injured in this area. Make sure to always ski within your ability, and evaluate the snow conditions and coverage when choosing your line. You alone are responsible for deciding what you ski. The East Face is an avalanche control zone, so make sure to stay out of areas closed by ski patrol.
If you think you’re up for skiing some of these lines but not quite sure if your gear can handle it, then check out our online ski shop to find the new equipment you need to ski your best. And if you’re in the Park City area, then stop by our Park Ave or Snow Park locations and ask about our demo program. We offer ski testing on new models from some of our favorite brands.
By Chris Norwood, Editor, jans.com