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Inside Line: Powder Mountain, Utah

Travel Rockies
posted: 03/31/2004

Elevation: 8,900 feet Vertical Drop: 2,005 feet
Acres: 2,800
Snowfall: 500 inches
Getting There: Powder Mountain is 55 miles north of the Salt Lake airport. Take I-15 north to the 12th Street exit in Ogden. Turn east and follow the signs through Ogden Canyon.
Info: 801-745-3772, powdermountain.com

Beta: Despite exceeding Alta in size, Powder Mountain's five peaks suffer just one-sixth the traffic, most of which is made up of groomer-happy Ogden locals and their night-skiing kids. The resort is just far enough away to be ignored by Salt Lake's skiing masses, so its off-piste snow-nine percent water content and 500 inches deep, or enough to bury a four-story building-remains largely untracked. If that weren't reason enough to make the one-hour drive, the owners recently opened access to 800 acres of quasi-backcountry bowls. Granted, hotels outside Salt Lake City are rustic, only the nightlife of the Muslim Middle East rivals that of 3.2 Ogden, and Alta is way steeper. But there's powder here. Acres of it.

Powder Day
The parking lot sits on the summit ridge, near the top of the Paradise lift, so first tracks are car-serviced. Ski down to the bottom of the quad before it opens at 9:30 a.m. Then float down 1,600-foot Straight Shot directly under the chair, picking your way through the scattered rock ledges. Do laps on the north-facing ribs under Paradise, first hitting gladed Sweet Claim, then Medicine Man, a narrow shot through true old-growth pines. Both would be skied out in an hour at Snowbird, but here they hardly show a scuff after three days. Next, head skier's right and make GS turns down the wide-open bowls of Tomahawk and Geronimo just for variety.

3 Days Later
Follow the locals on what they call the Super Loop. Start with a $7-per-person, on-demand snowcat ride from the parking lot to Big Kash. It's a mile-long intermediate gully that dumps you at the bottom of the Paradise lift. From the top of Paradise, scream down wide-open Quick Shot to reach the Hidden Lake double. From there, migrate off the backside into Powder Country, a spacious bowl that ends at the resort access road. A free shuttle running every 15 minutes brings you back to the parking lot.

Proving Grounds
Marquee route: Lumber Yard is a 45-degree pitch that sends you slaloming through knee-high tree stumps. Off-Broadway: Hook Chute turns right 90 degrees, launching the unaware across a rock farm.

Backcountry Access
Book a tour of Wolf Creek Canyon-800 acres of steep tree skiing behind the Sundown lift. Resort regulations require you to hire a ski patrol guide ($25-$50 per person, per run; 801-745-3772).

Locals Take
"What other resort has fresh tracks a week after a storm?" -Rodger Arvee, Powder Mountain ski patroller.

Weather
Like Cottonwood Canyon resorts, Powder Mountain gets 30 percent of its snowfall in February. But unlike most Utah areas, it faces north, keeping powder as cold and fresh as Ted Williams' corpse.

Don't Miss
Check out the carnage on April 7, when spectators become contestants in the annual half-pipe contest under the Hidden Lake lift.

Underground
Everyone drinks at dinner-when it's possible to get real beer.

Après
Start with Texas-style chili and a pint of Chocolate Stout at the base area's bar, the Powder Keg.

Fuel
For lunch, the Hidden Lake Lodge, a glass-walled building at the top of the Hidden Lake lift, will floor you with its 360-degree views of the Wasatch. Timbermine, in Ogden, offers upscale dinning, including a two-pound porter steak dubbed the "Gambler."

Up All Night
Join local ranchers at the Shooting Star Saloon, in Huntsville, to wash down a cardiac-arresting Star Burger (it comes topped with grilled knockwurst) with a locally brewed Moose Juice ale.

Digs
Book one of seven rooms at the Snowberry Inn Bed & Brreakfast ($75-$115; snowberryinn.com) in Eden. Every B&B needs phenomenal French toast, and here the cream cheese and strawberry toppings don't disappoint. For lodging at the resort, book a suite with kitchenette at the Columbine Inn ($200-$255; powdermountain.com).

Essential Gear
Don't plunge your pole through the snowpack, pick up a pair of powder baskets at your local ski shop, or order from Black Diamond ($3.50; 801-278-5533, bdel.com).

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