Reviewed by Rachel Odell Walker
Nov 06, 2008
With 3,700 acres spread across eight distinct peaks, The Canyons is Utah’s largest individual resort. (Only Snowbird/Alta is bigger.)
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.
When you’re done attacking the steeps, head out one of six gates into another 2,000 acres of snow so light they made a license plate about it.
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. Pros like Jenn Berg, Jeremy Nobis, and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa schralp the high-alpine cirques along with equally talented nobodies—humble locals on K2 Pontoons. With more than 3,200 vertical feet of steeps, tree-lined chutes, and roughly 500 inches of snow a year, this isn’t a place you want to drive by.
Start Here: For a fast warmup from the top of the tram, traverse Road to Provo to Last Choice. Then take Black Forest to Bassackwards.
Quick Tip: Loiter by the tram while the hordes jostle for position, then jump in at the last second. Eight minutes and 2,900 vertical feet later, you’re the first one off.
Must Hit: Shoot under the tram and traverse along the ridge to the Cirque. Hit Mach Schnell, a 700-foot sustained 35-degree drop to the base.
The Stash: Ski the 38-degree Great Scott chute before cutting right into the trees for 700 feet of northeast-facing powder.
Powder Day: Be in line when patrol opens the Bookends, a series of steep, rocky shots that slide off the precipitous flanks of Mineral Basin’s American Fork Twin Peaks. Storm the traverse till you come to a 30-foot sidestep around a rock outcropping. Point it from there for 1,000 vertical feet of face shots.
Three Days Later: Take the High Baldy Traverse skier’s right from the tram to 11,068-foot Mount Baldy. Hike 15 minutes to the main chute or the narrower dogleg skier’s right. Both collect soft snow all season.
Park and Pipe: Last year, Snowbird bought a massive machine called the Pipe Monster that cuts a world-class pipe three nights a week. The rest of the Superpipe Terrain Park features 36-foot-long boxes, 20-foot-long rails, and a variety of big and little hits.
Backcountry access: Limitless. That’s how ’Bird locals describe the backcountry out of the resort. Reach the goods through the gates at the western edge of the Gad Valley’s Baby Thunder lift and the base of the back side’s Mineral Basin Express. Before you go, check conditions at avalanche.org/~uac.
Weather: Temps usually hover between 10 and 20 degrees in January and February, and slightly higher in March. Powder hounds can still get 10 inches of fresh in freak April storms.
Après: “I ski at Snowbird; I drink at Alta.” You hear that a lot. You can either head up the road to the Sitzmark Bar in the attic of the Alta Lodge, drink sake at the Cliff Lodge’s sushi bar, or pick up some tallboys from Snowbird’s general store and chill on the tram deck.
Fuel: Fill up between tram runs with a turkey, Gouda, and roasted red pepper panini at The Forklift, across the patio from the tram dock.
Up All Night: Little Cottonwood Canyon shuts down early, but night crawlers can shoot pool at the basement-level Tram Club, with fluorescent lights and retro ’70s furniture.
Digs: The 11-story concrete-and-steel Cliff Lodge has mountain-view rooms, four outdoor hot tubs, and a decent breakfast spread starting at $150 (snowbird.com/lodging).
Elevation: 11,000 feet Vertical: 3,240 feetSnowfall: 460 inches Acres: 2,500 Info: snowbird.com