Saturday, March 15, 2008

Snowbird and Alta Utah - Mid Winter Powder & Sunrise Skiing

This was one of the trips one has to make sure is in the winter travel schedule. Not only are Snowbird and Alta known world wide for the incredible powder and steeps, but the agenda had attendees on the mountain of each at least an hour before the general public. I had this trip on the books early last year when we had seen the schedule. It had been a few years since I had skied either Alta, or Snowbird so I was excited to get back.

Sitting at the end of Little Cottonwood canyon they are blessed with some of the deepest and driest snow and powder known to man. This year the snow was piling deep and storms had been frequent visitors making for certain great conditions. We stayed at the Cliff Lodge and Spa, truly a monument to comfort and convenience with a full spa in the facility upstairs. For those of us combing work there was also a full set of business services available and a great wireless connection throughout the building. With this convenient of a location it was grab your skis from the lockers, walk out and ski down and over to the lift. At day’s end one skied right to the base of the lodge. The Cliff Lodge and Spa is the best location for comfort and convenience at Snowbird. The snow would prove to be fantastic. We arrived right after a storm that had dropped several feet of powder.

On Wednesday the day started with a breakfast hosted in the Peruvian tunnel which one would normally take a conveyor lift through to the backside which was Mineral Basin. This recent addition I had never skied as it was either not open, or there was zero visibility the last several times I had been at Snowbird. Today would be different. Blue clear skies awaited us as the moon slowly descended over the horizon while the sun crept up from the east. After listening to the intro and welcome from our gracious hosts we were then provided access to the mountain as sunrise appeared. Soft buttery powder was everywhere. Mineral Basin offers less steep terrain than the front side even with some of the cliff areas. The lines were many and varied. It was a quick traverse either right or left at the top and pick your line of fresh untracked powder. The snow ranged from boot deep to about knee deep in spots. Quickly the powder was cut up but there still plenty of soft snow anywhere. It was fast crowd of ski area operators and suppliers just ripping the snow. We had about 3 hours before heading back for the afternoon of sessions and trade show.

Snowbird continues to be one of my favorite mountains in North America. The combination of steep terrain, wide open bowls and incredible snowfall make it a must ski or ride destination for any serious skier and snowboarder. It easy access in and out of Salt Lake City draws powder hound enthusiasts the world over. If the mountain does not offer enough terrain there is always the helicopter ski operation as another option for even more Wasatch Powder.

Day 2 was a bit different of a day, but truly unique. We were provided loading on the Snowbird Tram at 7:30 am and had guides take us over to the entrance to Alta. Here we were greeted by Alta staff and and taken for a guided tour of Alta and hour before the public. It was a different day on that it was snowing and blowing. No blue sky and sunshine today. The snow was variable but there was plenty of powder shots to be found off piste. Initially we stuck to the fresh corduroy and got our bearings. After several runs and lifts we settled into skiing the lower part of the mountain off the wildcat chair. The trees here were protected and offered plenty of deeper untracked snow. Less wind and great skiing. Alta still is one of the last resorts that does not allow snowboarders. The collection of lodges at the base has not changed in decades and offers a very unique and relaxing ski vacation alternative. Both Alta and Snowbird offer a great ski vacation and opportunity to really wind down. If you are looking for night life and a load apr├Ęs ski scene you need to look elsewhere. If it is steeps, powder and no nonsense skiing you crave put both Alta and Snowbird at the tops of your list of must visit resorts.

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