Reviewed by Adam Howard
Dec 04, 2008
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.
Some of Utah’s tightest chutes and driest powder, no on-slope lodging, and few crowds.
With access by lift, snowcat, heli, and converted school bus, sleepy Powder Mountain offers one-stop schralping just 55 miles from Salt Lake City. Powder’s built upside down, so you park near the top of its modest 2,005 vertical feet and ski down to the lifts. Though many of the resort’s lift-served runs may not be as steep as Alta’s, they’re nearly as deep—400 inches annually. With last year’s high-speed upgrade of Hidden Lake, you can now access the same acreage as Vail (5,500) for only $53. The best part? The mountain offers zero shopping.
Powder Day: For the biggest bang off the Paradise quad, ski beneath the lift to short but steep Saddle Chute and Eureka, skier’s left of the spine. Then move farther down to the right, dropping through several steep rock-slot options to wide-open Silver Bowl and Powder Horn.
Three Days Later: Unlike Utah’s more famous resorts an hour away, Powder Mountain stays fresh days after a storm. To guarantee untracked snow, spend $150 for a single guided heli drop and a full-day lift ticket, and grab 2,800 vertical feet of untouched powder off nearby James Peak before hitching a lift.
Park and Pipe: With a 400-foot-long, eight-foot-deep halfpipe and dozens of other features, the Hidden Lake Terrain Park is your best bet.
Backcountry Access: Hire a Powder Guide (powdermountain.com) and tour southwest into Wolf Creek Canyon, an 800-acre, lightly treed, 30-plus-degree drainage with a shuttle bus waiting at the bottom. Or if you really want to cheat, $10 gets you a snowcat ride to Lightning Ridge for countless 2,200-plus-vertical-foot runs.
Weather: Located at the northern tip of the Wasatch range in a north-facing valley, Powder gets hammered by microsystems that can skip Alta.
Après: Open till five on weekdays and six on weekends, the Powder Keg, downstairs in the Timberline Lodge, serves baseline suds and grub. Specialties include the flame-broiled Powder Burger and PBR on tap—yes, we just called PBR a specialty beer.
Fuel: Nobody hurries anywhere at Powder, even on powder days. So take a few minutes to chow on a sourdough scone in the cafeteria (which doesn’t open till 9 a.m.) before you head out for laps on Timberline.
Up all Night: They roll up the streets in nearby Eden every night. So unless you’re willing to travel to Salt Lake City, plan on getting 12 hours of sleep.
Digs: Few slopeside hotels here. If you book early and come with seven friends, you can stay for less than $55 a night (three-night minimum) at condos or private homes on the mountain. We liked Pow Mow Ski-Inn Condos