Snowbird — Mountain layout
Snowbird is divided into three distinct areas: Peruvian Gulch, Gad Valley and Mineral Basin. A good suggestion: Warm up in Mineral Basin where the sun shines and softens the overnight hard-pack early in the day. After a couple of runs in the bowls, head over to Gad Valley for a leisurely 3,000-vertical-foot drop to the Gadzoom high-speed quad. A northeast exposure on the Peruvian Gulch side keeps The Cirques steep runs good all day, a treat for the late morning or early afternoon once the legs are warmed up but not shot.
Snowbird is a very tough mountain. If you’re unsure of your ability, read the descriptions for the level above you and below you and begin by taking the easier routes. The rating of a trail can vary greatly according to snow conditions. Be advised that most intermediate trails here would be rated advanced elsewhere. In fact, Mineral Basin is this mountains saving grace for intermediates. The terrain there is aptly rated for them and provides the opportunity to improve skills without being scared stiff. The single diamonds here can also be confidently tackled by advanced intermediates. If you are in a group of adventurous intermediates or better, Chips Run provides the perfect opportunity for you to stay together because off of Chips there are short drops of single- and double-diamond trails.
|Expert, Advanced: Unlike many mountains that are steep near their summits, then flatten into more gentle run-outs, Snowbird is palm-sweating steep from the first turns off 11,000-foot Hidden Peak to leg-aching steep about 3,000 vertical feet later when the base area finally comes into view, looking like buildings at the base of a cliff.
The 125-person tram is the most direct route to Hidden Peak. When the first tram arrives at the summit on powder days, theres a mad dash for the slopes. Skiers and snowboarders hurl their equipment and then themselves over the docking stations railings to make first tracks. If you
If the bowls, chutes, and trees look intimidating, the easiest ways down from Hidden Peak are Chips Run, a narrow zigzagging cat track that winds down Peruvian Gulchs headwall, then spills into the more forgiving bottom of the Gulch, or the airy Road to Provo into Gad Valley.
But most experts will want to test their legs in The Cirque, a wide-open plunge that tumbles into even steeper bowls and chutes. You can choose a run thats steep or steeper, some with chutes that hold only enough powder to slow your virtual freefall. Anyone who has dropped through the rock- and tree-lined chutes of Upper Silver Fox, Great Scott or Upper Cirque deserves to be treated with reverence—they
From the tram ridge, Primrose Path is an unrelenting black diamond, normally the choice of those who think twice about diving into The Cirque. But this terrain isn even the toughest at Snowbird. For that, look for Gad Chutes or Barry Barry Steep, to the left off the Cirque Traverse. If you like trees, head to the Gad 2 lift.
The Peruvian Express quad, new in 2006, has changed how experts ski and ride Snowbird. On a powder day, many still head for the tram. But the Peruvian quad takes you 2,600 vertical feet into Peruvian Gulch and is a good way up the mountain when the tram line is long. Although the Cirques steeps aren accessible from here, its a quick four-minute trip through a tunnel to Mineral Basin. Or follow the traverse on skiers right to the gladed double-diamond chutes and trees on the west-facing wall of the Gulch.
Advanced skiers who choose routes thoughtfully can find plentiful challenges and thrills at the right ability level. Off the tram, Regulator Johnson, a wide-open snowfield, presents the most obvious choice. It can be skied repeatedly from the Little Cloud lift, but its a crossroads for many other routes and tends to chop up quickly. Johnson is black-rated, but it does have a wide groomed swath down the center, and this descent can be easier than Chips sharp and crowded switchbacks, even though Chips is rated blue.
To skiers left of Johnson, descending routes to Little Cloud can be varied. Shireen and Last Choice, black-rated, and blue/black Mark Malu Fork offer character variations.
Going to skiers right from the tram, follow Primrose Path all the way down, or branch off onto Adager or lower Silver Fox, for an incredibly long top-to-bottom slide.
Nash Flora Lode and Silver Dipper, found about two-thirds of the way across Path to Paradise, create perhaps the best drop-in for advanced skiers; Juniors Powder Paradise offers a gentler blue/black descent. Mineral Basins far side (skiers right) is strictly expert territory. Skiing to Mineral Basin in the opposite direction off the tram, along Chips Access, leads to Double Down and Chamonix Chutes, two good runs for advanced skiers.
Runs like Gadzooks, S.T.H., Black Forest and Organ Grinder, reached from the Gad 2 lift, are often overlooked. They aren too long, present a nice challenge, and some gladed secrets can be found between them. Or, try Tiger Tail for a longer challenge.
Way off to skiers left by the Baby Thunder lift—and nearly forgotten—Tiny Tiger offers a short challenge, and double-black rated Lazy Susan and Alice Avenue create an opportunity to try expert runs that are short enough to forgive any skills shortcomings.
|Intermediate: Do not board the tram without a test run elsewhere. A good tryout run is Big Emma from the top of Mid-Gad. Big Emma is rated green on the trail map, but its difficulty can vary with conditions. Many a beginner has halted along its upper rim, asking passing skiers and boarders, “Is there an easier way down?”
If you can ski Emma with ease, you have several options for the next test. Any of the blue-square runs off the three Gad chairs will be fun. Bananas and Election off Gad 2 are as exhilarating as it gets on skis. If you can handle these, you should be ready to tackle the easiest runs off the tram. Adventurous intermediates should try some of the short ungroomed pitches off Chips for some extra challenge.
For others, the Baby Thunder area helps to bridge the steepness gap between Snowbirds novice slope and Big Emma, so head here for easier terrain. You can also work on technique on the greens under the Wilbere chair.
Mineral Basin is a wide-open bowl with a backcountry feel to it. Wilderness and a peaceful quietness surround you here, don miss it. Meander your way down via Lupine Loop (green on the map) to figure out your comfort zone here. The blues are aptly rated. If you
|Beginner, First-timer: The beginners ski school with rentals, lift tickets and instruction is at the Snowbird Center base area, below The Cliff Lodge. Just beside The Cliff Lodge is the best lift for first-timers and beginners. The Chickadee run, with a gentle pitch and friendly lift operators, is guaranteed to be smoothly groomed, even on mornings after a huge snowfall. Note: Other runs on other lifts that are designated green may not be groomed and may not be suitable for some (perhaps many) beginners. Its best to check before venturing out. Snowbird is a challenging mountain, so please take heed and know that its very easy to end up on so-called beginner terrain that is extremely difficult. We recommend lessons for beginners, if only to have a guide to keep you out of trouble.
After a bit of a hike—and there seem to be quite a few to get around Snowbird—daring beginners can ski down Ski School Lane to the Wilbere Lift. The Mountain School Learning Area is just off the top of the Wilbere Lift, so you know its got to be beginner-friendly.
Big Emma is a favorite cruiser when its groomed. Its a bit steep and can be crowded. You can venture farther to the Baby Thunder Lift and ski the green Easy Street run, but this is mainly a blue and black area, so be aware of both the difficult runs and the fast skiers in this area. The Mid-Gad Lift also accesses some green areas, but again, be aware of crowded and craggy conditions.
If its socked in and visibility is poor, stick to the front side where the trails are below treeline. If its a clear day, however, opt for Mineral Basin. Keep in mind that the green runs here would be marked blue at another resort.
For a memorable experience beginners can’t find at most mountains, take the tram up to Mineral Basin, where you can get a view of the backcountry. Lupine Loop, an airy path that winds down Mineral Basin, will take you to Baldy Express. This lift feeds runs marked green on the map, but keep in mind that they will challenge most beginners. When you want to return to the base lodge, simply take the tram back down (do not even think about skiing down the front side, there is no easy way down).