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.
With 3,700 acres spread across eight distinct peaks, The Canyons is Utah’s largest individual resort. (Only Snowbird/Alta is bigger.) So why do you know nada about it? Blame name changes (two in 11 years), or the competition—six other resorts surround it. But if you want short, steep powder stashes, lonely tree shots, and fellow skiers who’d rather spa than snorkel on a powder day, head to The Resort Formerly Known as Wolf Mountain and then on to Park City for après.
Powder Day: If the Gondola’s a cluster or Ninety-Nine 90 is holding for avy control, head to the Golden Eagle, an old fixed-grip double. Let the skis plane out on Silverado Bowl, a wide-open, often ignored, 30-degree bowl.
Three Days Later: Hike up from the Super Condor to Murdock Bowl, and lay 11s down High Peak and Five Trees. They’re short (600 feet), steep (40-plus degrees) and they end back at the boot-pack.
Park and Pipe: Copy Tanner Hall’s moves on Sun Peak Park’s quarter hip jumps, 40-foot C-rails, and big-air hits. If you don’t know who Hall is, stick to Painted Horse’s easy-hit fun boxes and short rails.
Backcountry Access: The Canyons has two backcountry gates: one at the top of Ninety-Nine 90, and the other atop Peak 5. Hike from Ninety-Nine 90 to the east aspect of Dutch Draw, a pair of enticing—and notoriously slide-prone—35- to 40-degree bowls that drop you backinbounds. Check avalanche.org for current conditions.
Weather: The Canyons benefits from storms tracking out of the north and west. If Tahoe is getting pasted, snow is usually 48 hours away. Come in late January or early February for your best chances for powder.
Après: Happy-hour-only drink specials are illegal in Utah, but Lookout Cabin, at the top of the Golden Eagle lift, has a full bar and daylong deals on full-strength beer and wine. Sip some; then tuck into a Kobe beef burger in front of 270-degree views of the Wasatch.
Fuel: Grab a fresh ham, egg, and cheese breakfast burrito at the top of the gondola at Red Pine Lodge; then try the Jamaican wings and curry rice bowl for lunch at the low-key Island Spice Cafe in the Village.
Up All Night: The Canyons party usually wraps by 10 p.m., so head to Park City and see who’s onstage at Suede (suede.com). Neko Case and Blues Traveler both played last year.
Digs: The Grand Summit Lodge is 20 yards from the gondola—and has a killer outdoor pool. Ski/stay packages start around $150 per person (thecanyons.com).