Priceless antiques and priceless runs
It’s hard to believe the run from the top of Snowbasin's Needles Gondola is only a mile and a half. It seems to go on forever as it winds through short steeps and long, wide, test-your-daring speed freeways. At the base, lean your gear against a rack and go into Earl’s Lodge, where a huge fireplace is blazing with constantly refilled crackling logs. Sit on the wide stone hearth or sink into one of the elegant upholstered chairs or couches. Note the antique carved hutches and buffets around the room, obviously worth many thousands of dollars. The gorgeous lobby is like a living room in some baronial mansion, and it seems to belong to you; so much so that even if you bring your cafeteria lunch there and eat it off one of the beautiful end tables, no one will say a word. At Huntsville’s ’Basin, you’re not just king for a day; you feel like you belong there.
And that’s not counting the fantastic snow and terrain. Like Deer Valley, the lift-served runs are mostly intermediate, but you can hike to steep terrain that will definitely make you nervous. Or, take the long John Paul lift from the base, then board the Olympic tram a few feet away. Exit to a narrow ridge and stand at the sketchy trail to the top of the men’s 2002 Olympic downhill. You’ll quickly understand why it made National Geographic’s list of “25 Things To Do Before You Die.”
Snowbasin offers user-friendly extreme luxury and extreme action with a rustic flair. The Winter Dew Tour will return February 10-13.
News to You: The smoothly groomed superpipe is no longer just for Dew athletes. It will be up all season long. Hey, we’re talking 22-foot walls here!
Lift Ticket: $66
Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
3925 E. Snowbasin Road, Huntsville
Utah’s answer to Aspen
It’s not quite a singles resort, but almost. Like Aspen, you don’t even need a pickup line to hook up. The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort has 15 restaurants and bars—er, lounges. That’s not counting the Plaza, full of big tables, where no one minds if a stranger sits down and starts being friendly—and it’s always beer-thirty.
Unlike Aspen, where it’s all about movie stars and fur coats, Snowbird’s instant friendship actually comes from the snowriding. Everyone knows what everyone else has had to navigate to get around the mountain—the ’Bird is tough—and it’s that shared snowriding experience that, for some reason, is expressed best at the ’Bird.
It might be the tram. It’s as crowded as a Japanese train, with people standing shoulder to shoulder. Someone usually calls out “Moooo,” and there’s a big burst of laughter. It seems to set the tone. People are still smiling and talking to new friends as the tram comes to a stop and the liftie gives his tired speech about which runs are open for the day. Though the resort still fights with the Forest Service about a restaurant permit for the top of Mineral Basin, it’s actually nice to have nothing up there but the large, warm restrooms at the top of the tram, next to the ski-patrol hut.
If you’re hesitant about snowriding down the top of Mineral Basin from the tram, don’t be. Yes, the Disney-esque Peruvian tunnel may let you out on easier terrain, but the top of the big bowl is surprisingly easy to ski; try it.
News to You: Public relations director Jared Ishkanian shares a secret: “You can use the Cliff Lodge hot tub for $20 a day. Just go to the front desk of the spa. We provide towels. It’s a great deal; you have access to the rooftop pool and hot tub, the eucalyptus steam room and the fitness center. You can use it, then go out to the slopes, come back and use it again.”
Lift Ticket: $74
Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Highway 210, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird
So very European
Solitude's base area, styled like a cobblestoned medieval village, adds a nice quaintness to this resort, which keeps its old-fashioned ambiance despite the updated lifts. PR honcho Nick Como says, “We try to be an escape from the commercial world; we’re very back-to-nature. Honeycomb (the top of the mountain) is a backcountry paradise.”
There’s only one shop in the village, but there are five “fine dining” restaurants. It’s a romantic place to go with a date.
News to You: Solitude’s cross-country and snowshoe trails are a nice way to spend the day, with 20 kilometers of groomed and tracked trails for cross-country skiing and 10 kilometers for snowshoeing. Rental gear is available.
Lift Ticket: $68
Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon
Rustic and peaceful, a place to relax
This is the most underestimated, unfairly ignored resort in Utah. It’s a small resort, less than 500 acres, but nearly half its terrain is black diamond, and it now has night skiing. “There’s not any other place exactly like it. It’s very understated; you see the mountain and nature, not the buildings. There are locals who don’t even realize we have lodging here, because everything’s tucked away; it’s all very discreet,” says PR director Lucy Ridolphi.
Sundance has also been called one of the most beautiful snow resorts in Utah because of the way the peaks of the Timpanogos surround it. The resort, above Provo off Highway 189, has a grill, a dinner restaurant, a cafe at both the top of the mountain and base area plus a deli and a bar. The bar was brought from a Wyoming establishment that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid actually frequented.
There’s also a cross-country center, with 15 kilometers of groomed trails, plus a 10K trail for snowshoeing.
News to You: Yes, Robert Redford skis there frequently, so you can see him. But during the Sundance festival, when Park City becomes unbearable, Sundance is empty—the people in black are all watching movies in Park City.
Lift Ticket: $47
8841 N. Alpine Loop Road, Sundance
Great for beginners
Wolf Mountain, which is down the road from Powder Mountain in Eden, is a place where parents don’t have to worry about where their kids are. The resort is like a triangle, with the point at the base. Stick around long enough and your kid will come down, and so will your spouse or anyone else you’re waiting for.
It’s the smallest resort in the Wasatch, only 110 acres, but it’s a great place to test burgeoning snowriding skills. You can go quite fast on an uncrowded day. Wolf Creek is actually a real-estate selling point for some nearby condos—“Buy these condos and you get your own private resort.” But it’s far from private; the resort is surprisingly popular among the local teenagers, perhaps because of the cheap ticket price.
News to You: The tiny parking lot is often icy and steep. Your tires may just spin instead of gripping the road so you can back out. If you get stuck, go to the ski patrol building. Someone will quickly gather a crew to help push you out.
Lift Ticket: $29 weekdays, $35 weekends.
Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
3567 Nordic Valley Way, Eden