The combination of super skiing and snowboarding plus super facilities lures both hard-core enthusiasts seeking spectacular powder, and those who enjoy the pampering that accompanies a stay at a full-service resort. Consistently rated among America's top-10 ski resorts, Snowbird, P.O. Box 929000, Snowbird, UT 84092-9000 (tel. 800/232-9542 or 801/933-2222, and 933-2100 for snow conditions; www.snowbird.com), is Alta's "younger, slicker sister." The same wonderful snow falls here, but this resort has a wider range of amenities, including Snowbird's extremely popular spa and salon -- worth the trip even if you don't ski. Some, however, find Snowbird's dense, modern village and resort atmosphere cold compared to Alta's historic, European-style lodges and classic, ruggedly Western atmosphere and attitude.
Many expert skiers absolutely worship Snowbird, however, with plunging cliff runs like Great Scott, one of the steepest runs in the country. Mogul-meisters will want to take the Peruvian or Gad II lifts to a great variety of fall lines on some steep and sinuous runs.
But beginners and intermediates haven't been forgotten, and their runs are also top-notch. There are even some "family-only" ski zones. Novices might want to head over to explore West Second South, set in a woodsy glade, or the less crowded Baby Thunder area. Intermediates will enjoy the excellent runs coming off the Gad II lift; if you decide to take the tram, wait around a bit at the top while your fellow riders take off so that you'll have these blue runs all to yourself -- the next tramload won't get dumped off for another 5 minutes.
The entire mountain is open to snowboarders, and the resort also provides snowmobile adventures and cat skiing and snowboarding.
Snowbird has 89 runs on 2,500 acres, rated 27% beginner, 38% intermediate, and 35% advanced. The ski season generally runs from mid-November to mid-May, although the 600 inches -- that's 50 feet -- of snow that fell in 1994-95 allowed Snowbird to keep the lifts running through the Fourth of July -- the latest lift-served skiing ever in Utah. And in 2008-09, over 600 inches again kept the lifts running into mid-June. From a base elevation of 7,760 feet, the vertical rise of 3,240 feet reaches Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet.
An aerial tram transports 125 skiers and boarders at a time up 2,900 vertical feet to Hidden Peak in about 7 minutes. It's quick, but can feel like a crowded New York City subway car. Snowbird also has four high-speed detachable quads, six doubles, and two conveyor lifts, giving it a total uphill capacity of 17,400 skiers per hour. The tram and lifts operate between 9am and 4:30pm daily, except for one that operates until 8:30pm for night skiing Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Lift Tickets -- Adult lift tickets cost $62 for a full day and $55 for a half-day; for both lifts and tram, the cost is $72 and $62, respectively. Children 7 to 12 are charged $29, or $39 including tram, and seniors 65 and over are charged $51, or $59 including tram. Children 6 and under can ride the lifts for free and the tram for $15. Combination lift tickets are available for both Snowbird and Alta.
Lessons & Programs -- The ski and snowboarding school (tel. 801/933-2170) offers an all-day class (which includes lunch); a package for first-timers; and specialized workshops for racers, women, snowboarders, half-pipe riders, and seniors. Half-day workshops start at $100.
Established in 1977, Snowbird's Wasatch Adaptive Sports Program (tel. 801/933-2188; www.wasatchadaptivesports.org) is among the best special-needs sports programs in the country. Using state-of-the-art adaptive ski devices and a team of specially trained instructors, the program is available to both children and adults. Sit-skis, mono-skis, and outriggers are available at no extra cost.
Off the Slopes at Snowbird -- Don't miss the popular Cliff Spa (tel. 801/933-2225), which offers a lap pool and huge whirlpool, aerobic and weight-training rooms, and individual treatment rooms for massages, body wraps, mud baths, and hydrotherapy. The Snowbird Canyon Racquet Club (tel. 801/947-8200), 15 minutes from the slopes, features 23 tennis courts (10 indoor), racquetball, and aerobic and cardiovascular facilities. Snowbird provides a variety of facilities for children, including a state-licensed day-care center and a youth camp; call for details.
Heli-Skiing -- Between December 15 and April 15, helicopter skiing is available on more than 40,000 acres from Wasatch Powderbird Guides (tel. 800/974-4354 or 801/742-2800; www.powderbird.com). Daily rates (seven runs, a continental breakfast, and lunch) are $980 to $1,000 per person from mid-January through the third week of March, and $875 to $910 per person at other times.
Warm-Weather Fun -- After the skiers go home for the season, Snowbird is still active with hikers and mountain bikers. A lift hauls mountain bikers up the slopes. Snowbird's summer music program includes several annual festivals; call or visit the website for details.
Where to Stay & Dine
The approximately 900 rooms at Snowbird range from standard lodge units to luxurious condominiums with kitchens and fireplaces. Snowbird Central Reservations (tel. 800/453-3000) books all lodging for the resort and can also arrange ground transportation. Room tax adds about 11.6%; resort fees add another $6 to $20 per night.
The Cliff Lodge & Spa is located in a ski-in, ski-out pedestrian mall. Practically all of the 511 rooms, with mission-style furnishings, have splendid views of the mountain or canyon. Choose a standard or extra-large room, or a one- or two-bedroom suite. You'll find a splendid spa, restaurants, shops, and practically anything else you might want. Rooms are $189 to $389 double in ski season, and suites start around $400.
The Lodge at Snowbird, the Inn, and Iron Blosam Lodge are condominium properties, offering rooms, efficiencies, studios, and one-bedroom and one-bedroom-with-loft units. Many have Western decor and Murphy beds and/or sofa beds. Winter rates range from $139 to $299 for a room at the Inn to $800 or more for a deluxe room in a lodge.
The Aerie Restaurant (tel. 801/933-2160), on the top floor of the Cliff Lodge, features New American dining with spectacular views, and serves a skier's breakfast buffet in the winter, and dinner year-round. Entree prices range from $20 to $40. Also in Cliff Lodge, El Chanate (tel. 801/933-2025) serves Mexican seafood for lunch and dinner in the summer, dinner-only in winter. Dinner prices range from $8 to $25. On level B of Cliff Lodge is the Atrium (tel. 801/933-2140), with tremendous alpine views. It features a buffet lunch in winter and a light breakfast buffet in summer, with prices from $12 to $22. The Atrium Espresso Bar is open daily.
For steak and seafood, try the Steak Pit (tel. 801/933-2260), in Snowbird Center, open for dinner daily. Prices range from $19 to $45. Also in the Snowbird Center is the Forklift Restaurant (tel. 801/933-2440), serving breakfast and lunch daily. Prices range from $7 to $11.
The Lodge Bistro (tel. 801/933-2145) is on the pool level in the Lodge at Snowbird, offering an eclectic dinner menu in an intimate setting. Italian fare is offered for dinner daily at Iron Blosam's Wildflower (tel. 801/933-2230). Entrees at both range from $10 to $35.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.