Reviewed by Sam Moulton
Nov 06, 2008
Some of Utah’s tightest chutes and driest powder, no on-slope lodging, and few crowds.
Tucked in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon on the road to Alta, Snowbird is known for hanging bowls, 50-foot cliffs, and over-the-head powder.
Even on the biggest dump days the place is peaceful: Lift lines barely push four minutes, and locals take leisurely dips into untracked shots all day.
Yes, Park City attracts swarms of corkscrewing jiblets. But that’s just one part of the equation. Its remaining 3,000-plus acres include everything from pitch-perfect high-speed cruisers to several days’ worth of above-treeline, hike-to steeps and bowls. And don’t forget the nightlife: Main Street—with its rowdy bars and laissez-faire enforcement of local liquor laws—is the state’s epicenter for misbehaving heathens. If you’re into a mountain that keeps most of its meat huckers in the park (and stays fresher longer because of it) then get to PCMR, ASAP.
Must Hit: Hike left 10 to 15 minutes from the top of Jupiter Lift to Jupiter Peak and slice Machete Chute, a 42-degree, 400-foot gash that drops into the East Face with an apron so wide it’d make Roseanne look like Kate Moss on diuretics.
The Stash: From the top of McConkey’s lift, traverse skier’s right on Tycoon to the wooded Black Forest. The north-facing trees are tight, shaded, and hidden, so they’re often home to the mountain’s most overlooked pow.
Quick Tip: Main Street’s dozens of bars, restaurants, and hotels are all within a five-minute walk of the town chairlift. Each January, the refreshingly subversive owners of the Treasure Mountain Inn host Slamdance, the studded-belt-wearing cousin of the indie-glam Sundance.
Local’s Line: Had your fill of glades? Drop in right before Two Goons for a sportier line: Locals call the 10- to 15-footers lurking here the Cone Cliffs.
Groomer Fix: Love corduroy? You’ve picked the right mountain. Check the grooming report to find out which runs off the Ski Team Lift were combed last night. Then hit ’em first thing: The sun creeps round these parts at about 9 a.m.
Powder Day: While patrol tames the snowpack, ski the 35-degree gladed shots in Blueslip Bowl off the Thaynes lift or the mellower trees on either side of Jupiter Peak, off the Pioneer. Later, rocket 10 to 15 minutes off the Jupiter chair in either direction to a cluster of ridge shots that are 400 to 800 vertical feet and 40 degrees up top.
Three Days Later: Traverse skier’s left off the Jupiter chair past Scott’s Bowl to Pinecone Ridge, 500 acres of avalanche-controlled pseudo-backcountry. The 30-degree glades of Moonlight—in between Quarter Moon and Sam’s Knob—often get nailed last.
Park and Pipe: Of the four terrain parks, Jonesy’s has a gradual pitch and mellow hits. PayDay’s features are a bit bigger. And Pick ’N Shovel, directly under the Three Kings lift, draws all the new-school kingpins.
Backcountry Access: Park City is surrounded by private land, which means no backcountry skiing. The closest OB terrain is one canyon over, across the street from Brighton and Solitude. (See avalanche.org for conditions.)
Weather: Park City wrings the leftovers out of Pacific-born storms after they the hit neighboring Cottonwood canyons. January sees an average of 59 inches of powder. March gets 57 inches—and it’s sunnier.
Après: With a massive slopeside deck and cheap pitchers of Bud, Pig Pen is where locals get their mellow, 3.2 buzz on. On Main Street, at O’Shucks, drink PBR out of fishbowl-size schooners.
Fuel: The Morning Ray Café, in the same building as the Treasure Mountain Inn (see Digs, below), dishes up all-organic bagel sandwiches to go.
Up All Night: Be seen at the recently renovated Harry O’s, where the reserved tables and Paul Bunyan–size bouncers appeal to entertainment-industry types straight outta Sundance.
Digs: On Main Street, the Treasure Mountain Inn (from $125; treasuremountaininn.com) has free Wi-Fi and a collection of handpicked DVDs in the lobby.