by: Richard - 11th January 2007

  • 5
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • 5All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 5Family Friendly
  • 3Nightlife
  • 4Terrain Park
  • Value
Amazing snow, tons of terrain, and great apres ski
Kind of spendy

Full review

It seems as if Utah doesn’t have any resorts that aren’t world-reknowned. Snowbird is another terrific resort, nestled in the beautiful canyons of the Wasatch Range, mere minutes from the hustle and bustle of Salt Lake City. True to its reputation, Snowbird boasts some of the greatest skiing you’ll ever take part in. Snowbird contrasts differently from its neighboring (and linked) resort, Alta, because Snowbird has something for everyone: terrific grooming, a terrain park, and steep and expert terrain. Snowbird has an inviting atmosphere—relaxed and friendly, as well. It’s the big, warm fuzzy in Little Cottonwood Canyon. If you need a family ski resort, this is the place. During the week, Snowbird is your own place. Although the parking lot may appear to be crammed, you’ll barely spend too much time in the lift or tram lines. If the tram line is busy, however, you can jump on the much-needed Peruvian Express chair (which replaces an old, antiquated, always-busy two-seater) and get into some great all-around terrain. Treat yourself to a trip through the revolutionary Peruvian Tunnel, even if you don’t want access to the other side (Mineral Basin is a lot of expert terrain, but there is a cat track to get beginners or the intimidated down safely), just to say you’ve been through the only ski tunnel in North America. Last year, I was treated to a pounding snow storm that filled up Snowbird with 10” of fresh snow while I was there. This year contrasted quite differently: a lot of hazards were exposed due to the low snow fall, and what snow did cover areas with many rocks and stumps (mineral basin, Baldy), had hard, icy snow. Groomers were iced over as well, while only the runs that were exposed to the sun immediately in the morning were soft. We spent most of our time in Mineral Basin, skiing corned snow that was soft and ran through some technical runs that got your legs and heart working. Later, we chased the sun into the Peruvian Gulch area and just under the Baldy traverse for some more great snow (comparatively) and technical runs. One problem with Snowbird is the price…spendy! Granted, you get tons of terrain for your price, but the tickets some of the highest priced in the Cottonwood canyons. Additionally, bring a sack lunch when you go, because food is expensive (especially mid-mountain, where a slice of pizza runs you $9). Snowbird is also a very cautious resort, which someone of my skill really appreciates. While I can handle most of what is thrown at me terrain-wise, I can’t anticipate terrain as well as most people, so I usually have a friend who skis ahead of me and scouts a line first. Compared to many other resorts, Snowbird recognizes how easily someone can access terrain that may be beyond their skill, and marks them appropriately (ropes and hazards of the tram and in the receding area help you navigate anything sketchy). However, once you get closer to the base area, the runs become muddled and trail markings get poorer (Chip’s Run, Chip’s Bypass Run, Lower Chip’s Run…enough with the Chip’s!). Myself and two other friends scouted a path down on the trail map to just go as fast as we could (we were timing ourselves), and we all ended up in a hardened mogul field because we missed the trail markings. To get the very best bang for your buck, jump immediately on the tram. No matter what your skiing ability is, there’s a way for you to get down safely, but you have to experience the thrill of the tram going up, and relish the view from the top of Snowbird. On a clear day (like yesterday), you can see all the way down into Salt Lake City. It’s really quite incredible. Advanced and Expert skiers will highly enjoy Snowbird. Snowbird doesn’t have as much expert terrain as neighboring Alta, but that’s not to say that the expert terrain that they do have isn’t challenging. A hike up Baldy will ensure that non-believers in the challenge of the terrain are silenced. And if you want fast and steep, check the Cirque—a breath-taking snowfield visible from the terrain. Skiers look like dots among the massive face. Go scary fast here without fear of any hazards. Snowbird is truly a great resort, and I’m glad to have skied it both on gnarly days with no snow, and days where it was pounding snow. On a good snow day, Snowbird literally doubles in size, making everything within the ropes ski-able. No matter what your needs, Snowbird has it: if you want a terrific, expansive family resort, or if you want challenging, easy-to-access terrain. Just don’t get any pizza…
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