Skiing in Snowbird
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 Ski Area Overview
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.
Beginner Skiing in Snowbird
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.
Intermediate Skiing in Snowbird
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.
Advanced & Expert Skiing in Snowbird
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.
Boarding & Freestyle in Snowbird
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.
Backcountry Skiing in 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.
Mountain Restaurants in Snowbird
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.