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Best Snow: Alta/Snowbird, Utah

The heavens really open up in Utah. These neighboring resorts at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon typically get more than 600 inches a year.
posted: 09/14/2009

Powder Tips From the Pros

“As you progress through a turn, exaggerate the weighting and unweighting of your skis so you feel like you’re bouncing. Don’t work too hard steering your skis with your upper body—instead, focus on loading and unloading them.”  —Jessica Sobolowski, Alaskan heli-guide

During winter, Utah State Highway 210 winds up Little Cottonwood Canyon, passes Snowbird, and dead-ends near Alta and the canyon’s head, at 8,600 feet. Storms follow the same path. Moisture-laden air moves up the canyon, gets Heismanned by a wall of 11,000-foot peaks, and, in a meteorological miracle known as orographic uplift, often barfs more than 600 inches of light, dry powder in a single winter. In the 2007–08 season it snowed an astounding 701.5 inches.

The dead-end road illustrates a crucial concept: When you visit, stay in the canyon proper, at the base of Snowbird or Alta, and buy an AltaSnowbird pass. Say 15 inches fall overnight. The road will be closed to flatlanders in the morning while plowmen and avy techs do what they do. So you’ll be one of about 500 folks to schralp the two resorts’ combined 4,700 skiable acres and 5,260 vertical feet. Crowds will amount to 0.106 people per acre and 0.095 people per foot until valley traffic rolls in. And note that we say, “When you visit,” not “If.” A pilgrimage to Little Cottonwood Canyon is the skier’s hajj, required for every two-footed slider. Science and religion working hand in hand. Only in Utah.

When You Go…

Scarf a bowl of Dave’s Power Spuds (with optional eggs) at Snowbird’s Forklift Restaurant. You’ll burn the onion-dill hash browns filled with sautéed mushrooms and melted cheddar all day long.

Don’t walk up the herringbone tracks that access Alta’s Catherine’s Area (from Supreme chair) and Backside (from Collins quad). Use them to skate uphill and you’ll blow by the bootpacking gapers.

Look for late-day powder on Mach Schnell at Snowbird. This 1,890-foot run harbors hidden deepness well after more accessible runs are tracked out.

Best of the Rest

2. Steamboat, CO

3. Vail, CO

4. Jackson Hole, WY

5. Whistler Blackcomb, BC

6. Grand Targhee, WY

7. Snowbasin, UT

8. The Canyons, UT

9. Powder Mountain, UT

10. Deer Valley, UT

 

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