Nuts and Bolts: An hour's drive from Park City or Salt Lake City, the Ogden Valley is home to a pair of world-class resorts in Powder Mountain (tel. 801/745-3772; www.powdermountain.com) and Snowbasin (tel. 801/620-1120; www.snowbasin.com). You'll also find a world-class watering hole in the Shooting Star Saloon (tel. 801/745-2002), Utah's oldest operating tavern (est. 1862).
Snowbasin, home of the men's and women's downhill at the 2002 Winter Olympics, is known for its long, undulating runs (half of them groomed) and a wild side in Strawberry Peak -- the summit can induce vertigo during times of low visibility, but when the shroud lifts, a near-perfect chunk of wide-open terrain with renowned powder appears. Then there's the swanky side: Both Strawberry and the main base area are serviced by gondolas, and the lodges are some of the glitziest in the West, thanks to plenty of shiny bling installed for the 2002 games (think dragon-encrusted chandeliers and bathrooms fit for royalty).
Less than 30 miles north, Powder Mountain is one of the bigger resorts anywhere, with an unique layout: the bare-bones main lodge is located mid-mountain at 8,900 feet, closer to the summit (9,422 feet) than the base (6,895 feet). Alongside a nice selection of groomers, there are vast tracts of unspoiled powder on Lightning Ridge accessible via snowcat ($15/ride). For those who venture into the timbered, steep, and deep black-diamond Powder Country, a shuttle bus returns to the lodge. The array of options can be daunting, and for this reason the resort offers hosts to give newbies a free tour.
Then there's the Shooting Star Saloon. Sporting a layer of signed dollar bills on the ceiling, rubber chickens, and cowboy boots hanging from the rafters -- and a menagerie of taxidermy highlighted by a St. Bernard trophy head better known as Buck -- this is the après-ski spot in the valley. Shooting Star serves up cheap draft beer, bottled microbrews, and delicacies like the Star Burger (a double cheeseburger topped by knockwurst). And don't ask for fries.
What's New: Snowbasin put in a 22-foot Superpipe for the Dew Tour Finals, which took place at the resort in mid-February, and added new snowmaking and other features in its terrain parks. Powder Mountain opened 1,000 new acres of snowcat "safaris" ($375/day), bringing its grand total to a mind-boggling 7,000 skiable acres, although less than half of that total is lift-served.
Ski Deals: Powder Mountain and Snowbasin are two of Utah's best values: walk-up full-day adult lift tickets are $59 and $66, respectively, and you can regularly find discounted tickets at retailers in Ogden.
Great for beginners and families, dinky Wolf Creek Utah (tel. 801/745-3511; www.wolfcreekutah.com) offers 110 gentle acres below Powder Mountain with full-day lift ticket rates under $40.
Where to Stay: Lodging in Ogden, about a half-hour drive from either resort, is downright affordable, but I prefer staying in the valley proper. My pick is the Atomic Chalet in Huntsville (tel. 801/745-0538; www.atomicchalet.com), located within 20 minutes of either resort and within a few blocks from the Shooting Star. The B&B features European style and ski-bum attitude, not to mention a billiards table in the living room and a pair of goats in the backyard. Rooms start at $95 per night and go up to about $200 for four guests in a loft room.
Powder Mountain has a few on-mountain lodging options, but Snowbasin does not.
Quotables: "It's my job to make sure everyone is stoked." -- Gregg Greer, Powder Mountain's Ambassador of Stoke
"Traditional physics stops explaining things once you get to the subatomic level. Your burgers? They're coming, hon. You'll get 'em before we close." -- bartender at the Shooting Star
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