Utah Snowbird / Alta / Snowbasin - 2/19 to 2/25


Getting off the lift
New York
My wife, my son (7), daughter (almost 5), two other families, and myself just finished up an 8 day trip to SLC. We rented a house big enough for all 12 of us almost right at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon as we expected to do most of our skiing at Snowbird and Alta.

Heading into the trip, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of conditions. I’d been checking snow reports on and off over the last few months, and there didn’t seem to be much good news in there. This season had been shaping up as a low snow one for the Utah resorts. That said, I was still stoked for the trip. I’d been loosely following the epic Telluride go / no go thread, and can’t imagine being that wound up by and invested in the conditions. I’ve skied enough places in enough conditions to know that (for me) even when the skiing is bad, it’s still good. And of course as the great @Bob Barnes says, there’s good snow, and there’s snow that’s good for you. I was pretty much expecting the “good for you” snow, and especially given the terrain I like to ski at AltaBird, knew I’d come back a better skier for it.

Except things didn’t quite go the way I was expecting.

We arrived in SLC late on 2/17. We were originally scheduled to fly the following morning, but a storm in NYC resulted in a cancelled flight, and we rebooked on an earlier one that just snuck out as the storm hit. We had originally planned to arrive on 2/18 and didn’t intend to ski that day, and with the late arrival the night before, we stuck to that plan. Reports from the people I spoke to who’d skied Snowbird that day said that it was a little firm, and we hadn’t missed much. That was the last day of our trip that anyone could possibly use a word like firm to describe conditions.

I was watching the forecast for the night of 2/18 into 2/19. It seemed like there was a LOT of snow coming. We had the kids booked in for ski school at Snowbird, and I was a little concerned about getting up the canyon in time to check them in. @BobMc provided some helpful tips, and I got an alert in the middle of the night that LCC was expected to be closed from 6am to 8am. We were close enough to the canyon entrance (about a mile) that it didn’t really make sense to sit on line for an hour +, and it didn’t make sense to try to beat the closure with the kids. So we left around 7.35, dove a few hindered yards, and waited in line.

LCC opened a few minutes before 8am, and we were moving by 8.05. The drive up was slow, but uneventful, save for a traction challenged pick up truck that was holding everyone up. He eventually slid gently backwards off the road, and we were able to complete the drive at around 20 to 25mph, getting there right around 9.

The kids were in ski school, and we were ready to go. From memory, they reported 14” overnight and 22” by the end of the day. The snow was a little heavy by UT standards, but the skiing was insane! A couple of untracked runs where we timed rope drops right, but mostly deep, soft, cut up crud (which I love to ski). It was awesome! Highlights included the untracked runs in Mineral, some steep skiing on Silver Fox, and just enjoying a powder day with my friends.

The next couple of days were kind of a blur. It didn’t seem like it stopped snowing, although there wasn’t nearly as much snow as day 1. Maybe we got another 10” over the next couple of days. We skied another day at Snowbird and then three at Alta. One of them (Maybe Thursday?) was bluebird. The skiing was stellar, and we skied bell to bell every day going at it pretty hard for the most part.

Friday at Alta was (at the time) the best day of the trip. They reported 8” overnight, and it snowed hard all day. I'm not sure if they under reported the snow totals or we were just lucky and hit the right aspects, but it skied like a lot more than 8”. First run of the day was a natural half pipe off Supreme where I was first one in. I made maybe 4 big turns in a few hundred yards, with snow between knee and thigh deep. It was proper UT blower pow, and the smile stayed on my face the rest of the day. It was incredible - we skied onto lifts all day, there were very few people on the slopes, and the snow kept piling up. We spent the morning lapping Supreme and Sugarloaf, with the highlights the first few runs right off the lift, and then the next few after some short hikes into Catherine’s. The afternoon was spent on Collins skiing some trees and some of the runs off High T.

We skied Snowbasin on Saturday after they had a ton of snow Friday. We figured Saturday would be a good day to get over there - we’d avoid the weekday commuter traffic and we’d miss what I assumed would be a zoo in LCC. Wrong! A poor season to date + a big dump + a big race meet + Saturday = the biggest crowds of the year at Snowbasin. The last 4.5 miles of the drive took over an hour, and when we finally got there, the line for the gondola was almost back to the parking lot.

We eventually worked our way out of the base area, but it was 11am before my skis were sliding on snow for something other than to ski between lifts. I wound up booking a half day private lesson just to cut the lift lines. It seemed like a great plan until we skied down to Strawberry gondola and saw that it was stopped with a line stretching way back up the hill. We wound up being in line for 40minutes and were late for the start of our lesson. With the morning’s dramas behind us, we had a great afternoon, with the highlight being skiing the top pitch of the men’s downhill course off the tram with my son and our instructor. My son absolutely ripped it in big bumps and poor visibility - it was fantastic to seem him ski that pitch that aggressively, and with excellent control.

Sunday was our last day, and surprise! It snowed another foot in LCC! We decided to head to Alta, and we were rewarded with a bluebird powder day for the ages. I’ve had some pretty good days on skis, but this was a top 5 day for me. The conditions certainly had a lot to do with it, along with the lack of lift lines (we didn't wait more than maybe 3 minutes all day) but the stoke level, and smiles on everyone’s faces contributed a lot too. Conditions were so soft that I was even able to convince my air-averse buddy to hit a little cliff drop after me!

We ran into my 7 year old son’s ski school group at the top of Wildcat and followed them around a little. They were skiing some great lines, and he was skiing well. He was skiing well enough and the snow was soft and deep enough, that his teacher let him hit a 12 foot cliff.....and he stomped the landing! We finished up the day skiing a couple of green tree runs with my 4 year old daughter, and my buddy and I took the last run of the trip with my son out along High T and dropped in to the line one over skiers left from High Rustler. The three of us were just so stoked at the bottom of that run! The perfect way to end the trip!

I think we wound up with about 50” for the week, and I got to ski hard for 7 days in soft snow. It was beyond my wildest expectations.

If you were skiing in UT last week, I suspect you can thank me for all the snow. About a week before we left, the forecast wasn’t looking all that promising, so I sharpened and waxed my Brahmas, and packed them into my ski bag next to my Supernatural 108s. They were nowhere close to making an appearance, but like washing my car is sure to bring rain, prepping and lugging my skinnier skis across country got us the goods.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to top this trip the next time I head west. I’m sure as hell going to enjoy trying though!

A couple of pics from the week....

Me skiing Erosion Gullies off Supreme at Alta


Me and my wife near the top of Sugarloaf at Alta


Quick snap on Sunnyside at Alta


My son skiing Lone Pine with his ski school class at Alta - he's the one right behind the instructor



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No longer on the single track.
Pugski Ski Tester
Ogden, UT
You got so lucky! And Snowbasin is definitely no longer the quiet paradise it once was. Glad you had a good afternoon there!


Getting on the lift
Your son skis the bumps better than I do! Thanks for the report. If we move back to the US Utah will be our first trip for sure. Love the Cottonwoods...