This may seem a strange itinerary for my first trip to Utah, but I had a Worldmark condo available for a week in Eden, 6 miles from Pow Mow, and also a short drive to Snowbasin. My girlfriend has family in Mendon (near Logan in the Cache Valley) so we visited with them and skied the Beav. I wanted a day in Wasach and it was the day after Xmas, with new snow, and I figured Alta and Snowbird would be packed with skiers eager to try out their new powder skis and Brighton would be swarmed with snowboarders, so I went to Solitude.
Sun Valley was the logical stop for a couple days on the way back to the PNW. Drove on I-84 past Deadman's Pass the day after the charter bus accident, saw the guard rail smashed. Didn't know what had happened until after I got home, when I also found they had closed that section of 84 some time after we drove through it.
Saturday 12/22/12. Shamora wanted to rest after a long drive the previous day, so she dropped me off at Powder Mountain (I took the shuttle back to Eden at the end of the day). My first turns in Utah, but not fresh powder. Rather, it was hard pack, though with sunny skies and a private tour with a mountain host. The Paradise chair wasn't open yet, and the Sunrise tow was on wind hold. Nonetheless enjoyed the skiing. Mostly intermediate and beginner terrain, though the most interesting beginner terrain I'd even been on, nice long wide trails with trees. Took a couple of cut-up chowder runs under the Hidden Lake Express lift. The lodges are pretty old-school, very basic, no-frills. Maybe three items on the menu. Locals seem to view Snowbasin as the "evil empire" : "Sure, it's OK if you want to crap on gold-plated toilets."
Sunday 12/23/12. Snowbasin. Wow.
OK, so only the Needle gondola was open, along with Middle Bowl, Porcupine and Little Cat (basically about a third or less of the total skiing area), but that was still a lot of terrain for any given day. Met briefly with 4ster who was busy and not able to meet to ski, but did ski most of the day with Tromano. Love the terrain, lots of variety. Even with only an inch or two of new snow overnight, it was skiing really nice. Best runs were from Porcupine, and at the end of the day found myself on Dan's Run and Utah Express and really enjoying the skiing.
Monday 12/24/12 Xmas eve day. Pow Mow. Very pow today. 8" new overnight, probably another 8-10" fell during the day. 16 degrees at the end of the day at 3:30pm. Great snow from Sunrise tow, tracks from previous run already filled in with new snow, hardly anyone in sight. Great tree runs through the groves of Aspens. Paradise, Lightning Ridge and Powder Country still not open, so most of the terrain was blues and greens, but I got some nice untracked powder on black runs (Sunslope) from the Timberline lift.
Tuesday 12/25/12 Merry Xmas. Back to Snowbasin. Same terrain, but with new snow. A lot of it got cut up pretty early, but I still found some untracked at the end of the day at Utah Express. Porcupine again was the least crowded and had the best views. I was wishing I had a chance to ski the John Paul and Strawberry areas. (Side note: had to change a tire in the parking lot, slow leak. Tires are new, less than a month old. Turns out there was a broken nail in the tire. I swear I didn't put it there. Good thing I had a full sized spare with nearly-new tread.)
Wednesday 12/26/12 Shamora wanted a day to relax, I wanted to try a Wasach resort. Driving from Eden, through Ogden down to SLC it pretty much snowed the whole time. With the poor visibility I never really got a view of the Wasach range. Decided to go to Solitude. It turned out to be a good idea. No crowds (I took three runs down Challenger off the Eagle Express at different times, only once was there another skier on the run). Nice variety of terrain, with wide tree runs from Eagle Express and Moonbean Express, to open bowls from Powerhorn, to some beautiful gullies from Summit. And then there's Honeycomb canyon. OMG that place is beautiful. Black and double black lines all along both sides of this loooooooooong canyon, with a long runout to the Honeycomb return lift that comes out near the top of the Eagle Express lift. There is a lot of variety in a relatively small ski resort (about 1200 acres, 1800 vert) but it's uncrowded so it seems bigger and wide open.
Shamora spent the day in the Solitude village and got a massage at the spa. She was just as happy as I was I was.
Then there was the drive back. Slow driving with backups all the way down Big Cottonwood Canyon. The resorts may only be 12 miles or so from Sandy or Cottonwood Heights, but it can take a long time in adverse conditions with moderate traffic. Then the drive from SLC to Ogden was even worse than in the morning, and the drive from Ogden along 84 to Trappers Loop was the worst visibility I have driven in a long time.
Thursday 12/27/12 Took a day to rest. Got tire fixed (under warranty). Packed up from condo and went to Mendon to stay the night with Shamora's extended family, went skiing with them next day at.....
Friday 12/28/12 Beaver Mountain. About 45 minutes from Logan, this is a small-medium sized family area, 1600 vert, not sure how many acres. Loved this mountain. Very friendly, family oriented place. Snow was great. Fun terrain, nothing gnarly, but interesting trails. Ski the Beav!
After Beaver, we drove to Sun Valley, skied Saturday 12/29 and Sunday 12/30. Sun Valley is far away from anything else. Sun Valley is a place where lift tickets are $99 (but where service is impeccable). It's expensive, but they have tons of lifts and it's pretty uncrowded. It's a place where it's sunny, but also cold (6 degrees at night, 10 degrees at 9am when I get on the gondola, maybe a high of 20 degrees during the day). The drinking tube to my hydration pack froze once. After I thawed it out, I took frequent sips to keep the water from freezing.
Sun Valley is a place where you will meet locals who wouldn't think of being anywhere else, as well as people on vacation, like the guy from Hoboken, NJ who only skis at Sun Valley for 10 days with his family, because he doesn't like East Coast areas after skiing Sun Valley (but he was feeling guilty about not getting his kids out on the slopes more after seeing local kids tear up the mountain). Or the two retired women from New Yawk, both with garish ski jackets (one with leopard print), who come every few weeks between "handling the responsibilities back east" and trips to Florida. It was at the end of the day. "Honestly, I don't think I can handle another mogul run", she tells me, but gestures to her friend, "this one can rip them all day long."
I saw one local, a crusty guy with a mustache and old-fart ski clothes, but he had a nice pair or Atomic Access skis (he didn't know the model, I did, but he knew how to let them rip. I rode the Challenger chair with these two semi-retired men, one a Master's racer and the other a Master's ski instructor. And a lot of people on vacation, some from Seattle, some from California. Some people come from Boise, 2 1/2 hours away, they apparently don't ski Bogus Basin (preferring sunshine and less crowding). I rode the chair with a couple of college-age kids, one a snowboarder and the other on skis. "You should have been here last week, the snow was awesome! Though if you like moguls, this is your place."
Sun Valley gets maybe 200" a year; it can be 2 weeks in between significant snowfalls. They do a lot of snowmaking each night, and groom about 2/3 of the runs each night. It often snows a little overnight. The result is awesome corduroy first thing in the morning on the runs they groom, and lots of moguls on the one they don't. The mountain has a very consistent pitch top to bottom. Probably the best place for high-speed cruising. First thing in the morning you can really feel your skis grip the snow and let it rip, 3000' vert with beautiful blue skies and views that go on forever. There's nothing else like it. Later in the day, it's the same experience, only with the surface scraped up and skied out, you're busy focusing on holding your edges so you don't go screaming out of control. I really wished I'd brought my carving skis.
Another thing about Sun Valley (at least, on Baldy) is that it isn't a easy mountain. The green runs would be blue runs anywhere else, the blue runs would be kind of a black and blue anywhere else, and the black runs are black runs. If you see a green run (that's not a cat track) it's usually worth skiing. The views from most runs are outstanding. The Warm Springs side has long runs like Limelight that go uninterrupted for 3000' of fall line skiing, the River Run side has little valleys and different aspects. College Run is a long ridge that separates the two sides. Frenchman's is it's own bowl in between the two sides. From the top, the south facing aspects of Christmas ridge and bowl meet the Mayday side bowls, during the month of December that's where the sun shines constantly all day, so I spent a lot of my time there. Seattle Ridge is adjacent to Mayday and faces Christmas ridge and bowl. Cold Springs, in between Seattle Ridge and River Run, is an area all its own, with narrow valley-like runs.
In summary, I really enjoyed every area I went to. I would go back to Snowbasin again and again (also a Sun Valley resort, great service and similar lodges to SV). I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Beaver. Sun Valley I'd probably go back to only in late season when the ticket prices are lower rather than during peak season. (I am not quite as affluent as many of the people I met there). SV is a great skiing mountain with a lot of variety, however not for powder hounds.
The bargains were Pow Mow (discount tix at the market in town at Eden), Solitude and Beaver. All were uncrowded with plenty of terrain and great snow.
I'll post some video later.
Edited by DesiredUsername - 1/1/13 at 7:34pm