by: Richard - 16th April 2008

  • 5
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • 5All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 5Family Friendly
  • 4Aprés Ski
  • Terrain Park
  • Overall Value
Varied terrain, unbelievable snow, decent apres ski
Expansive terrain, expensive

Full review

Snowbird is one of those resorts that people keep coming back to for many reasons, each of them their own. For some, it’s the snow (over 540” this season). For others, it’s the terrain (it’s the 2nd largest resort in Utah). And even yet for others, it’s the atmosphere. On this particular sunny April 12th day, I got to experience all three of those reasons—and understand why each one is so dead-on to describe Snowbird. We had missed the early April snow, but that was OK. Two days previous to our arrival at the ‘Bird, they had received 13”, followed by another 5” the day after. We knew that this snow was going to make for great off-piste skiing, so upon our arrival we aimed to get on the Baldy traverse. We took the Gadzoom chair up and a soft, corduroy groomer down to the tram that deposited us at the top of Hidden peak. We made our way to the Baldy traverse, and after a 15 minute boot pack (we opted for the lower traverse instead of the higher, as the trek higher up didn’t appear to reap any additional benefit besides a few more vertical feet), we clicked in and traversed out to find nearly-untouched glades that held knee-deep snow. It was just before 10am when we got to the glades on Baldy, and the snow was still soft and fluffy from the colder temps that brought it earlier that week. Our first big April turns in Utah were no different than our February powder turns just a few months back. Newbie-like screeches of joy could be heard probably all the way over to Gad valley as we enjoyed turns that are in the pictures of ski magazines. It was an excellent way to start the day. To see what else was around the resort, we took the Peruvian Chair up to the tunnel and made our way through the mountain back into Mineral Basin. The sun had reached the area and amazingly turned the snow quickly into mashed potatoes. After some soft, buttery turns down we rode the Mineral Basin Express up to the top and took the Bookends traverse to check out the conditions in one of my personal favorite areas in Snowbird. The Bookends contain small cliffs, short chutes, or wide glades: an area of Snowbird that—with a little effort—really brings home the saying “beggars can’t be choosers.” After taking in the amazing view of Mineral Basin, we split briefly, with one person in our party opting for some of the short chutes, and the other person and myself traversing a little farther to skier’s right to find more shin- and knee-deep snow. Soft, creamy snow took a lot out of my out-of-shape, Midwest-trained legs, but the conditions were too good to let it get the best of us. Determined not to give up after only 4 runs (but almost 7,000 vertical feet), we shot down Chip’s Run to the Mid-Gad lodge for lunch. Mid-Gad is an imposing facility with a glass façade that faces out at most of Gad valley and the valley below Snowbird. It boasts an espresso bar, made-to-order café, and even a small beer selection. It’s the perfect place to beat the larger crowds that gather during the day at the tram deck or other base facility. The food is good, and the beer is cold. It’s all you really need to let your calves and quads cool down for a bit. After lunch, we decided to try out an area that, despite all of our trips here, had only recently been “discovered” by our group. After taking the Gad 2 chair, we screamed down a short way on a groomer (that I fell on, coincidentally,) to skier’s right at the top of the chair. There, we went through a gate and traversed for about 5-7 minutes until the woods opened up around us, revealing wide, powdery pine glades with the imposing backdrop of Mount Superior and the rest of the Wasatch staring down at us. This amazing view—the towering mountains literally shooting above me, almost disorientating me—literally took my breath away. After a few pictures, it was time to give the legs one last burn test, and we picked our way around the pine tree glades. The snow was shin deep and soft, forcing you to really drive your tips and keep speed in your turns, as the wetness of the surface gobbled up your speed. We made our way down to just above the Baby Thunder chair with only two real stops—one to rest, and the other to pick myself up off a pine tree I juiced while attempting an ill-planned sharp left turn—we stopped to watch some people hit a large embankment of snow, throwing back flips and 360s. Deciding it was time to call it a day to save our legs for another day of skiing, we tore down the softly pitched, untouched corduroy around Baby Thunder and back to the Gadzoom chair to head to the car. We packed up and made our way to the tram deck to enjoy some cold beers. We found the place alive with activity: live music, people socializing and talking about the day’s conquests. It was exactly the type of environment a skier yearns for as après. With the sunny Wasatch Mountains and Mount Superior hovering above for the background to the end of a perfect day, we bid farewell to Snowbird for the 2007-2008 season with a hoist of a cold Coors Light (sorry, Wasatch, I know we’re actually “tapping the Rockies,”) as people laughed and reveled in the waning hours a gorgeous bluebird day. No matter what aspect you love in skiing—or all of them at once, as I do—Snowbird can fill those blanks for you. If you desire snow, you can find it in the right spots—such as Baldy and above Baby Thunder, even in April. If it’s terrain, there’s no end to it. With a little traversing or a little hiking, you can pick your lines through the Bookends. And if it’s the atmosphere, you can find it anywhere people gather at Snowbird; such as the tram deck after the last chair passes through the fly wheel. Snowbird offers it all, wrapped neatly with amazing scenery and packaged as stories that you’ll tell your friends for years to come.
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