So, all you want is deep pow', first tracks and freshies all day. You're not interested in checking the grooming report for morning corduroy. Only snowboards or fat-boy skis on board. And hiking is the best way up. If this is you, then Silverton Mountain and Powder Mountain await your arrival.
Perched in the northern Wasatch, Powder Mountain looms over small-town Eden, Utah, about a half-hour from Ogden. Statistically the largest ski and snowboard mountain in the U.S. (8,400 acres), "Pow Mow" presents a bare-bones, oddball approach.
The main base is at the top of the mountain. Lodging and food service solid but limited. No snow guns on the hill. Only one high-speed among four chairlifts in total. Snowcats and an old school bus are preferred for uphill transport.
Inside the ropes, it's classic ridge riding, with wide greens below and infinite lines through the trees off the peak of several ridges. Runs aren't super-steep but plenty of pitch to float the light-and-deep.
But it's the beyond that beckons at Powder Mountain. On either side of the chair-served terrain sit massive powder stashes: Cobabe Canyon and Lightning Ridge. Each has its own snowcat, payable per-trip basis.
And, if you venture onto the backside, the true Pow Mow experience comes forth. Hire a guide and hit the trees and gullies hard in Wolf Creek, Lefty's Canyon or Gertsen Canyon -- with snowcat trips for non-skinners. Or, find your own frontside lines off Lightning Ridge and hop the school bus to get back to the upper lifts.
If even Pow Mow is too developed, slide down to the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado for the ultimate powder day. Open Thursday-Sunday, Silverton Mountain does not groom, has only one lift, a school bus shuttle, and a bus-tent serves as a base lodge with only sack lunches and snacks for sale.
But powderhounds come for an expanse of deep powder lines unparalleled in North America. All expert terrain ("flattest" pitch is 35 degrees), few bail-out routes, and everyone has to have a guide until late in the season. Heli-skiing now up and running, too.
The term "trail map" doesn't apply here. Instead, you get photos of the east and west face of a massive ridge that climbs to 13,400-foot Storm Peak. Off each side pitch gullies and snowfields with names like Concussion Woods, Hell's Gate, Nightmare, Waterfall and Maze.
Guided tours cap at eight, and no more than 450 skiers and riders are on the mountain at any one time. Much is hike-to terrain.
Apres-ski means crack open a six-pack in the parking lot or head down the road to funky mountain town Silverton -- where a decent meal and a few rooms can be had.