Snowbird Ski Area The top two powder playgrounds in America, Snowbird and Alta, were connected a few years ago to make the 2nd largest ski area in the U.S.
Snowbird has 2,500 acres (1,000 ha) of skiable terrain that suits all levels of skier and snowboarder. Its particular appeal lies in the unparalleled powder snow that is the joy of upper ability skiers and boarders. Having said that, beginners are also well catered for, as are children, and families.
In total there are 85 trails, ranging from green beginner trails through to a smattering of double black diamonds for those with a sense of adventure. Expansion into Mineral Basin in 2000 added 20 percent to the skiable area and opened up a huge back bowl skiing area. The second lift in Mineral Basin, opened in 2001, linked Snowbird to Alta via Sugarloaf Pass at 10,600 feet (3,230 m), thus creating the second largest skiable terrain in the U.S.-4,700 acres (1,902 ha).
The Creekside Lodge, in Gad valley, is due to open this season (2005-2006). It is a two storey lodge housing a tikcet office, ski school office, a cafeteria, a retail space and a locker room. A new Avalanche Training Centre opened in December 2004, it is open and free to the public during the winter.
Snowbird Ski Lifts Snowbird's high-capacity Aerial Tram gets you up the mountain in 7 minutes. The Alta Snowbird Pass is great value.
Snowbird's aerial tram carries 125 passengers at a time from the village up 2,900 feet (883 m) to Hidden Peak (11,000 ft/3,352 m) in seven minutes. Three high-speed quads and seven double chairs give access to additional terrain.
Lifts open at 9.00 am (except for the "Early Tracks" program, which allows guests to ski with a guide for an hour before the lifts open) and close at 4:30 pm. Chickadee is open until 8:30 pm for night skiing on Wednesdays and Fridays. The only line is for the aerial tram on Saturdays, holidays and powder days, but you can avoid this by using the chairlifts instead.
Pass prices are split into chairlifts only, or aerial tram and chairlifts. An adult full-day pass costs US$49 for chairlifts only, or US$59 for tram and chairlifts. Up to two children aged 12 and under ski free on the chairlifts with any adult with a full-day pass. Half-day passes (9:00 am-1:00 pm or 12.30 pm-4.30 pm) cost US$43 for chairlifts only, or US$51 for tram and chairlifts. Seniors 65 years and over pay US$38 for chairlifts only, or US$47 for tram and chairlifts.
A weekly pass (five or more days) for tram and chairs costs US$46 per day. The Chickadee (beginner lift) only pass costs US$15. Photo ID is required for season passes only. You can buy passes at the resort and at most hotels and ski stores in Salt Lake City.
The Alta Snowbird Pass is great value. An adult pass costs US$66 per day, and US$54 per day for five-plus days and provides unlimited access to the top two powder playgrounds in the U.S.
Snowbird Beginner Skiing Snowbird's beginner skiing is surprisingly good. Mid-Gad and Baby Thunder lifts have the most green terrain, but the Baldy Express on the backside has the best green runs. Over a quarter of Snowbird's mountain is suitable for beginners.
Beginners have around 27 percent of Snowbird's mountain to test their nerves. You can enjoy much of the lower mountain and some upper trails if you use the aerial tram to return to base afterward. The most obvious place to start is the Chickadee area, very conveniently accessed from Cliff Lodge.
Once you've found your ski legs you can venture over to Baby Thunder Lift and the green trails around it, and the Mid-Gad Lift, from where you can take the relatively long Big Emma green trails to the bottom of the lift. There are four beginner trails in the backside Mineral Basin area, the longest joining from the front of the mountain into Lupine Loop to the base of the Mineral Basin Express lift.
Beginners should be aware that there is no green route down from the top of the tram. If skiing the Baldy Express runs in Mineral Basin, downloading on the tram will be necessary.
Snowbird Intermediate Skiing Intermediate skiers will find plenty to please them at Snowbird, and Alta is within easy reach too.
Thirty-eight percent of Snowbird is intermediate trails. The longest trail, Chip's Run (2.5 miles/4 km), is a blue trail providing a great workout with varying pitch from Hidden Peak summit to the base, via scenic Peruvian Gulch.
A classic day's skiing for intermediates would be to take the aerial tram to Hidden Peak, follow Chip's Run, then ski over the back of the mountain to sample any of the four blue trails at Mineral Basin, then on to Alta via Mineral Basin and Alta's Sugarloaf area. There are also some excellent groomed blue trails from Gadzoom high-speed quad and Gad 2 lift, accessed from Gad Valley.
Snowbird Expert Skiing Snowbird's consistent, long steep pitches and tons of powder make it a favorite among expert skiers. There's fabulous backcountry opportunities too.
Snowbird is particularly famous for its expert skiing terrain, so it's no surprise that many professional skiers make their turns here. There are black diamond and double black diamond trails on both sides of the mountain, as well as access to Alta, of course.
From the aerial tram, experts can access the steep faces of Baldy and the Cirque, including Great Scott and Regulator Johnson, two of the steepest trails in the U.S. (Regulator Johnson is groomed). Great couloir skiing can be found in Gad Chutes, and there are steep moguls in Mineral Basin. For powder, Snowbird is one of the few places where 2-3 feet (60cm-1m) of light, unpacked snow is a common occurrence. Basically the whole mountain is good for powder, but the Cirque, Little Cloud Bowl, and Mineral Basin are outstanding.
Advanced or expert skiers have plenty of choice of trails all over the mountain. A good schedule would include starting at Hidden Peak to ski the Cirque Traverse and Gad Chutes on the front of the mountain, then Powder Paradise in Mineral Basin, and then linking to Alta for famous off-trail ski experiences there too. Snowbird has consistent, long steep pitches, often powder covered, and most of the upper mountain is bowl skiing where skiers find their own routes through the terrain.
Backcountry Skiing at Snowbird
Apart from signed "Permanent Closures" all in-bounds areas are available throughout the season. When conditions dictate, additional temporary closures are necessary. All out of bounds areas are roped off, and backcountry skiing must be accessed through designated gates. Having said that, the backcountry opportunities are fabulous. From the Cirque Traverse at Hidden Peak skiers can go down either side of the mountain to discover chutes and gullies. Below Twin Peaks in Gad Valley there's also good backcountry skiing.
Wasatch Powderbird Guides tailor their heli-skiing tours to the weather conditions and abilities of the group. The thrill of the chopper ride is nothing compared to the chance of making virgin tracks in some of Wasatch's most remote backcountry powder bowls. Call 801-742-2800 or visit www.heliskiwasatch.com.
Snowbird Boarding & Freestyle In contrast to next-door Alta, Snowbird courts boarders with two snow parks (one for beginners and one for experts) and a 375ft Superpipe.
At Snowbird, boarders and skiers can ski together on the whole mountain, from Chickadee green trail to expert off-piste flights. It's very easy for boarders to get around the mountain as there are few flat spots. The incredible natural terrain and sculpted halfpipe provide just about every kind of hit a diehard rider could want.
The beginner terrain park, Big Emma, can be accessed from the Mid-Gad, Gadzoom and Wilbere chairlifts as well as the Tram. Once you've honed your skills try the expert park, Baby Thunder, where there are rails, hips, spines and tabletops. Finnally check out the new in-ground 375ft Superpipe, it is more than 50ft wide and has 16 foot walls.
Snowbird Mountain Restaurants Apart from Mid-Gad Lodge up the mountain, most lunch and snack options are down in Snowbird village.
Most of the refuelling oppportunities at Snowbird are at the base of the aerial tramway. Up the mountain is Mid-Gad Lodge, at 9,215 feet (2,808 m), with its Mid-Gad Restaurant offering burgers, pizza, salad and chili in a self-service atmosphere. Also here is the Mid-Gad Espresso bar, open for specialty coffee, hot chocolate and tea, as well as cookies, fudge and ice cream.
In the village, Cliff Lodge has The Atrium, an enlightening spot for pastries and coffee, a sunny buffet lunch or a warming apres-ski snack, and Superior Snacks by the family pool, serving pizza, hot dogs, soups, sandwiches, draft beer, smoothies and soft drinks.
At the Snowbird Center, indulge in diner-style breakfasts and hearty lunches in Forklift. Rendezvous is a convenient spot for a fast lunch-natural salad bar, burgers, sandwiches pasta, etc. Birdfeeder is good for a quick bite or beverage between tram rides-coffee, cookies, sandwiches, hot dogs, soup, chili and microbrews. Pier 49 specializes in gourmet sourdough pizzas, by the slice or whole, and also does deliveries.
General Gritts is Snowbird's general store, stocked with an ample selection of groceries and other items.
Snowbird Village Snowbird is a pedestrian village with attractive, modern, avalanche-proof buildings. It offers all the skier services you will need, along with moderate and luxury accommodations, a range of restaurants, shopping, and non-ski sporting activities.
Snowbird Restaurants & Bars The lodges in Snowbird village have a variety of dining options, ranging from flame-broiled beef to sushi.
In Snowbird village, Cliff Lodge and Spa, the Snowbird Center, the Lodge at Snowbird, and Iron Blosam Lodge have a variety of dining options among them. In Cliff Lodge there's the Aerie Restaurant, with a creative New American menu and award-winning wine list; the Aerie Sushi Bar; and Keyhole Junction for ribs, enchiladas and moles as well as plenty of choice for the kids.
At the Snowbird Center, head to the legendary Steak Pit, Snowbird's original steakhouse, for flame-broiled beef, king crab, lobster, chicken and bottomless salads. The Lodge at Snowbird offers the Lodge Bistro, with elegantly prepared main meals, and the Lounge, famous for fondues and deluxe burgers.
And finally, in Iron Blosam Lodge there's the Wildflower Restaurant, with a menu influenced by Italian, Spanish, Provencal and Middle Eastern flavors. Enjoy it all and the incredible mountain views.
There's no set time for bars to close in Snowbird, so you can party on into the small hours.
There are four bars and 15 restaurants in the village area of Snowbird. The Wildflower Lounge in Iron Blosam Lodge is a locals' favorite for après-ski, with a pool table and big-screen T.V. Otherwise there's the Keyhole Cantina for relaxing après-ski, in Cliff Lodge. The Aerie Lounge, also at Cliff Lodge, has regular live jazz and the Tram Club in the Snowbird Center is a sports bar and nightclub with live dance music or a D.J.
The minimum age for drinking is 21 and membership is required for entering the lounges, although this is automatically included for guests at Snowbird hotels. Children can only accompany parents in bars and other places serving alcohol if they are eating. The good news is that there's no set time for bars to close, so you can party on into the small hours if you want.
Snowbird Other Activities Adventurous snowmobile tours deep into the Wasatch Mountains or one of 24 treatments at The Cliff Spa, there's something for everyone at Snowbird.
New for 2002/03, snowmobile guided tours provide an exciting adventure beginning in Mineral Basin and taking you deep into the Wasatch Mountains. Or take a snowshoe tour or go ice-skating on the slopeside rink at Cliff Lodge. There's a family tubing hill adjacent to Cliff Lodge.
For alternatives to winter sports activity, the Snowbird Canyon Racquet and Fitness Club features 10 indoor tennis courts, racquetball, squash, spinning classes and more. The Cliff Spa offers 24 treatment areas to rejuvenate your entire body after a hard day on the mountain. Services offered range from specialty massages to herbal wraps. There are also yoga, aerobics and meditation classes.
As far as shopping goes, Snowbird is not as extensive as some resorts, but there's a variety of specialty stores and boutiques, featuring ski gear and fashions, jewelry, home decorations and gifts. There's also a pharmacy, general store and sundries shop.