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Insider's Guide To Snowbird

Snowbird-Tram-II

Tramway a seven-minute flight to summit. (Snowbird/Facebook)

This is a serious skiing and riding mountain. Powder and steeps are what The 'Bird's all about. Little Cottonwood Canyon catches as much snow as anyone, and the precipitous terrain will make even the most daring pause.

Steep and snorkel deep. (Snowbird/Facebook)

Terrain. Expert/advanced runs are Snowbird’s trademarks. The few green runs are accessed from Gad Valley base. Blue runs scatter about the mountain. But it’s the steeps we come for. Top of Tram unveils an infinite selection: the trees and chutes of Mid-Gad or hucking cliffs off High Baldy Traverse, and all sorts in between. Or the expanse of Mineral Basin on the back. The front mountain is bifurcated by The Cirque Ridge -- a powderhound’s legend. Traverse can be bouncy-gnarly but well worth it when you drop into the snowfields of Great Scott or Upper Cirque. Other side of ridge offers less-populated but equally jaw-dropping Wilma’s or Upper and Lower Mach Schnell. When tram gets crowded (often), ride the chairlifts that serve the upper steeps – like Little Cloud and Gad II. Or, with the right ticket and skis on your feet, ride the Interconnect Carpet over to no-snowboard Alta. Plenty of ridges to hike, too.

Backside powder in Mineral Basin. (Snowbird/Facebook)

Beware: Salt Lake locals swarm up in the morning to track up new powder before going back to work. And be cautious at end of the day: Narrow runs into Snowbird’s tram base area get congested and haphazard, especially because everyone’s thighs are burnt out from a day in the deep-and-steep stuff.

Challenge the gullies on Hidden Peak. (Snowbird/Facebook)

Play. Helicopters buzz overhead most days, ferrying ‘hounds deeper into the Wasatch. There’s snowshoeing, snowmobiling, snow cat and X-C backcountry tours, and non-skier tram rides. Camp Snowbird nursery and child care entertains the young-uns off and on the snow. Oldsters can stroll base village for eateries, bars and retail.

The Summit a mountaintop respite. (Snowbird/Facebook)

Eat. Glass-encased The Summit serves reasonably priced mountain fare and pizza at 11,000 feet where tram disgorges atop Hidden Peak. Only other eatery on the mountain is Mid-Gad Restaurant, with classic beef stew and burgers; it gets crowded so put a place-holder in line right away. Down in the village, options from gastro pub to Mexican tequila bar to haute cuisine await – plus a couple of walk-up windows for fuel between runs. Schedule a trip into Salt Lake to sample what it has to offer; famed Red Iguana’s mole sauce is worth standing in line for.

High-end Cliff Lodge sits at base. (Cliff Lodge/Facebook)

Stay. Four options at the mountain, including upscale Cliff Lodge and passel of hotel-condos. Concrete exteriors a bit stark, but avalanches can rumble into the village. Up the road, Alta has several old-school choices. Down canyon, you’ll find a ton of VRBOs and modest motels in Sandy. Or dive into the city for whatever you desire.

Public transport the best way to get to the mountain. (Snowbird/Facebook)

Travel. No skiing-riding is closer to a major airport than Snowbird and the three other resorts in Cottonwood canyons. Rental car, shuttle van or bus will get you on slopes an hour after landing. Congested and often smoggy, Salt Lake keeps fares down for skiers and ‘boarders to encourage them to use public transportation. On-mountain parking is tight and often a considerable hump to the nearest lift.

Deals. Snowbird is in Mountain Collective, as is neighbor Alta. Online purchases cut price nearly in half, as do multi-day tickets that can also be linked to rental or lesson. Peak ticket at window is $129. Snowbird/Alta combo available. Salt Lake’s 3-5 day Super Pass cuts about 25 off rack price. Many down-canyon businesses deal cut-price day tickets. And, present an airline boarding pass and ski for cheap on same day.

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