Accessing the best snow and scenery in the Utah backcountry requires patience, knowledge, and a genuine love for the outdoors. And getting there is better if you go with friends. This is how Wasatch Touring has been doing business in Salt Lake City since Dwight and Charlie Butler launched the company in 1972.
Dwight says he and brother Charlie fell in love with the Utah outdoors during a ski trip while the two were in high school. A severe winter storm stranded them in Alta’s Peruvian Lodge overnight. In the morning, the skies cleared, but the road up Little Cottonwood Canyon remained closed, leaving the mountain (and piles of fresh powder) to the marooned brothers.
Around the same time the Butlers experienced the Greatest Snow on Earth, the Norwegian sport of cross-country skiing was gaining popularity in their home state of Minnesota. That’s when the brothers saw a chance to continue playing in the un-tracked powder of the Wasatch Range. “We’d had this life-changing experience in Utah and we started thinking we should come back here and open a Nordic skiing shop,” says Dwight.
Armed with Norwegian touring skis and boots (the only ones available at the time), Dwight and Charlie set up shop near the University of Utah and began leading weekend cross-country tours into the canyons of the Wasatch Front. “It was the kind of thing where you’d take a group of people up and set out a nice picnic, then you got to ski back down,” said Dwight. “Eventually we were going higher and further into the backcountry, learning to make turns in the powder on these little skis.”
The store grew along with the popularity of the sport and improvements in equipment. Soon, the brothers’ experience with canoeing the Minnesota lakes led them to add kayaks and rafts to the store’s inventory. And as mountain bikes emerged on the outdoor scene in the early 80’s, Wasatch Touring become the first store in the state to stock and service them. Progression into camping and climbing equipment soon followed.
“Things have come a long way since we started,” Dwight says. “The equipment today makes it easier to go farther and go longer with less wear and tear on your body.”
Other retailers have entered and left the market, and there is pressure from online retailers. “But where we excel is in the service and repair and knowledge of our staff,” Dwight said. “We hire people who live and breathe these sports, and can support people with information by sharing our experiences.”
Wasatch Touring doesn’t stop with great gear and knowledgeable staff. They’ve supported local organizations like Save Our Canyons, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and the Utah Avalanche Center. They have also reduced their energy footprint by installing eighty solar panels and updating the lighting and insulation of their shop. Another example of how the brothers are taking the road less traveled. With friends, of course.
Wasatch Touring is located at 702 E 100 S, 801 359-9361