Snowbird

Utah, USA

Snowbird is home to some of North America’s best inbounds terrain. Add to that are copious amounts of dry, fluffy powder and the result is one fantastic ski mountain. Don’t let first impressions fool you – the giant concrete buildings erected in the 1970s aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing. But this is a friendly, world-class resort that is sure to satisfy all levels of skiers.

Scout Loves

  • Challenging terrain and lots of it.
  • Breathtaking scenery everywhere you look.
  • The 125-person tram that covers 2900 vertical feet in seven minutes.
  • Fuelling up on a powder day with a slice of artisan pizza from the Tram Car.
  • Friendly locals and an unpretentious atmosphere – it’s all about the skiing here.
  • Breathtaking views atop Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet!

Scout Tips

  • To add variety to your stay, buy a combined Alta/Snowbird joint ticket and have a day skiing Alta. It can easily be accessed via a gate in Mineral Basin.
  • If you’ve saved your pennies, go heli-skiing with Wasatch Powderbird Guides, which leave from the resort. A full day will set you back about $1200 but leave you with a lifetime of memories, and bragging rights.
  • If you have bought a Mountain Collective pass it is good for two days at Alta/Snowbird. Additional days are 50% off.

Scout Review

All serious skiers should visit Little Cottonwood Canyon at least once in their lives, though once a year would be preferable. The combination of two incredible resorts - Alta and Snowbird - provides enough terrain to keep experts satisfied for days. But if there’s one thing that eclipses its reputation for gnarly terrain, it would be the powder snow. Lots, and lots, and lots of it.  To be exact, 500in. And it’s that wonderful, fluffy powder that’s so dry it’s almost impossible to make into snowballs. Falling over here doesn’t (usually) hurt. But if you release out of your ski you could be searching in all the powder for hours – they just disappear under all the white stuff, sometimes never to be found again (until spring at least).

But if you can keep your skis on, one of the great parts about Snowbird is that it doesn’t just cater to the advanced skier. It has some fantastic terrain for beginners, and intermediates will have a blast on the cruisers – especially in Gad Valley. This area is even better thanks to the old Gad 2 lift being recently replaced by a high-speed quad. Make sure you take a ride through the mountain (literally – there’s a tunnel with a magic carpet) and head out to the Mineral Basin where intermediates and advanced skiers can have some fun in the sun.

The only downside to Snowbird is that the base area is pretty small, and there’s not any nightlife to speak of. The facilities and extra activities are pretty limited so if you’re here for a week, you’ll want to be here for the skiing, and not anything else. But it doesn’t really matter because if you’re taking advantage of everything Snowbird is dishing up on the mountain, there’s not much chance you’ll have any energy left for anything else.

Snowbird Skiing

Snowbird is famous for being steep and deep - incredible rugged terrain which features great alpine bowl skiing, tree runs, and nail-biting sliff drops. The off-piste skiing is what draws the most avid advanced skier to Snowbird every year.

The resort is made up of 3 main areas for skiing and snowboarding; the Peruvian Gulch, Gad Valley, and Mineral Basin. If you're seeking the ultimate vertical powder run, the Peruvian Gulch is the spot to be, with fantastic snow coverage and advanced off-piste runs. The Gad Valley and Mineral Basin caters to all ability levels, with tame groomed runs and wide open terrain. Surprisingly, despite its reputation as having some extreme slopes, Snowbird is a good option for beginners and first-timers, with wide mellow runs that are close to resort facilities. The Chickadee run is popular for the novice skier. Intermediate skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the pitch and flow of the groomed runs at Snowbird, whilst advanced skiers will feel right at home among the black diamond runs (like Regulator Johnson). Some fantastic tree runs can be found throughout the resort, especially near the Gad 2 chairlift and Mineral Basin.

Countless black and double black runs with varying difficulty and plenty of bowls and chutes will keep even the most expert skier occupied at Snowbird. The aptly named Fields of Glory, is a perfect spot for skiers to test their skills. As is Barry Barry Steep. The resort receives copius amounts of snowfall each season, and on a powder day, the Cirque and Little Cloud Bowl will ensure you get your face-shot fix. Accessing the backcountry areas via the gated system is also highly recommended, however, as always, avalanche safety and backcountry knowledge is a must (especially with a resort this steep).

The aerial tram is an icon of skiing at Snowbird, and a test of heights for any skier. The journey is relatively quick to the top, but lift lines are expected, especially on powder days and weekends. One of the highlights of skiing Snowbird is the tunnel at the top of Peruvian Gulch - a simple magic carpet ride through the mountain with some Snowbird history scattered along the walls. It's a fun and quirky change to simply jumping on the chairlift up the hill.

Remember, you can also head over to neighbouring Alta Ski Resort to explore some more advanced terrain. The two resorts are connected by a trail and multi-resort pass is required. Skiers only!!

Snowbird For Families

Snowbird has some excellent services and facilities for families. The majority are located at the main base of the resort at the Snowbird Centre, where you'll find everything you need for your skiing holidays - rentals, shops, ticket sales, and restaurants. Camp Snowbird provides wonderful childcare facilities, however, it's located at the Cliff Lodge, so a bit further away from the resort base. Evening babysitting is also available. 

The Snowbird Mountain School offers a range of programs for both children (aged 3 and up) and adults; group and private. It's a well established service, with a great instructor to child ration for the younger kids. The beginners' package is highly recommended, and reasonably priced. On-mountain, you can find a good variety of eateries including mid-mountain for a quick grab-and-go snack. As like most ski resort, the cafes and restaurants cater well to families and offer a wide range of food options for even the most picky of eaters.

The lodging at Snowbird is mainly made up of 4 lodges, each offering hotel-condo style rooms for families. Due to it's location within an avalanche-prone valley, the buildings at Snowbird are built to withstand such events, and thus not overly attractive to the eye. However, the lodges each have wonderful amenities, luxurious trimmings, and super close to the slopes. The Cliff Lodge and the Lodge at Snowbird are recommended for families for their proximity to the slopes, flexible bedding configurations, and on-site facilities including swimming pool, hot tubs, childcare, and day spa.

Other than night skiing and ice-skating at the Cliff Lodge, Snowbird doesn't have many option for kids on those non-snow days.

Snowbird Accommodation

Snowbird has a few options for accommodation, most of which are operated by the resort. They’re not very luxurious, but staying on the mountain and the chance to be first in lift lines on a powder day is a luxury in itself. And the best part is that as far as ski-in ski-out hotels go, the Cliff Lodge represents some pretty good value. You could also stay at Alta and use the gates or catch a short bus ride in the mornings to the base area.

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Resort Activities

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Most of the activities in Snowbird are centered around skiing. From cat skiing, to backcountry guiding or even heli-skiing there are plenty of options that will extend your skiing experience beyond the boundaries. Snowmobiling is offered, and sightseeing rides on the tram are allowed after 11am. Apart from that the non-skiing activities in Snowbird are pretty limited.

Getting There and Around

Snowbird is 29 miles (47km) from Salt Lake City International Airport. The drive takes about 45 minutes, although can be longer in the mornings and afternoons or in bad weather. SLC airport is a hub for many airlines, meaning there are frequent direct flights to almost every major city and plenty of small ones.

The best way to get to Snowbird is to catch a shuttle bus. Snowbird Airport Transportation has express round trip transfers from 8am to midnight departing every 20-30 minutes. 

When To Go

When the conditions are right, Snowbird has one of the longest seasons in North America – opening towards the end of November and staying open to mid-May. Snowbird can get very cold – particularly in late December and January. But the snow can be fantastic. February is usually the most reliable month and sometimes the snow can be excellent right up to season’s end. They’ve even been known to ski here on July 4 weekend.

Holiday periods that are busy are:

  • Christmas and New Year.
  • Martin Luther King long weekend
  • President’s Day long weekend

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 7760ft / 2365m Tram 1 Beginner 27%  
Summit Elevation 11,000ft / 3352m Express Quads 5 Intermediates 38%  
Vertical Drop 3240ft / 987m Double Chairs 5 Advanced 35%  
Skiable Area 2500+ac / 1012+ha Surface Lifts 2      
Annual Snowfall 500in / 12.7m          
Longest Run 2.5 miles / 4km          
Operating Hours 9.00am –4.00pm          
Night Skiing Wed, Fri, Sat          
MAGAZINE
Photo: Corbet\'s Couloir at Jackson Hole.

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