The Chuting Legacy: Andrew McLean’s cult-classic guidebook turns 20

Eric Balken slides deep into Mt. Superior’s Heart of Darkness, one of 11 S5-rated lines in The Chuting Gallery. [Photo] Steve Lloyd

It’s widely touted that Utah’s Wasatch Mountains are home to the best snow on the planet. And the terrain itself ranks highly, too. From Salt Lake City, peaks, faces and bowls beckon. The runs are steep, and the options abound for such a small range. But if you’re going to start somewhere, acclaimed ski mountaineer Andrew McLean has a mean list.

His timeless Wasatch tick-list falls in the form of a long-respected and revered 90-page resource first published in 1998. The Chuting Gallery: A Guide to Steep Skiing in the Wasatch Mountains begins with an opener penned by the late Alex Lowe before McLean covers the Wasatch’s best lines, ranking them from most accessible—like Mt. Wolverine’s S2-rated “Granny Chute”—to gripping, 60-plus-degree ice luges—like Cardiac Ridge’s Lightening Bolt Chute, described on p. 23 as “hopefully avoided all together.” Alongside ratings, the book’s 90 lines are accompanied by black-and-white photos and brief descriptions sprinkled with sly humor drier than Alta’s blower. 

While McLean’s own career has progressed from designing carabiners and ice tools for Black Diamond to ticking off first descents from Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias Range to Antarctica (where he penned the following essay), The Chuting Gallery has grown its own acclaim. McLean says he’s sold a “buttload” of copies over two decades, reprinting the book three times. And despite being offered for $16.95 on McLean’s, copies of the now-classic are priced on Amazon for as high as $3,000.

To be considered a cult classic, however, a cult must exist. And for The Chuting Gallery, that may be its most enduring legacy. From Noah Howell to Caroline Gleich, the sarcastic paperback has launched numerous projects to ski every line enclosed. In the following pages, Andrew McLean and the generation of Gallery skiers reflect on the Chuting legacy. —The Editors

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