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Sun Valley/Snowbasin/Alta/Snowbird - January 8-12,2016

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

This was the year I bought my first Mountain Collective pass and I was determined to make it count.  I got my pass early and elected to take my bonus day at Aspen (which meant I had to go, right?).  My first trip this season was going to be a return to Utah, but with a side-trip to either Sun Valley or Jackson Hole since those are within driving distance.  I had been to Jackson Hole before, but never Sun Valley.  I had also heard that Sun Valley was right up my alley offering steep runs groomed to perfection.  My wife and I planned a five-day ski tour which would start at Sun Valley and end at Little Cottonwood Canyon.

 

DAY 1: Sun Valley, Idaho

 

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Upon arriving at the River Run base, I was immediately impressed with the steepness of Bald Mountain and the congeniality of the Sun Valley staff as I was given a wagon to wheel my gear from the parking lot to the lodge.  My wife and I grabbed some breakfast at the River Run Lodge and then hopped on the lower lift to begin our ski season.  We warmed up going down Lower River Run just to make sure that we remembered how to ski and then ramped things up from there.  By the time the day was over, I hit runs such as College, Flying Squirrel, Lower Picabo's, Limelight, Warm Springs, Greyhawk, Hemingway, Christmas Ridge, Christmas Bowl, Christin's Silver, Mayday Bowl, Sigi's Bowl, Blue Grouse and Canyon.  Enjoyed lunch at Seattle Ridge Lodge and finished the day skiing around 27,000 vertical feet.

 

DAY 2: Sun Valley, Idaho

 

Began the cold day taking the Roundhouse Gondola and Christmas Express to the top and then came down Upper College to check out the Frenchman's area.  Came straight on down Graduate/Undergraduate and found that I enjoyed the slight change of pace that the Frenchman's area provided.  Moved over to the Warm Springs area for a few runs (Flying Squirrel, Lower Picabo's, International, Cozy, Limelight).  Stopped for a break at the Lookout Restaurant (GREAT tacos!) to warm my toes.  Did one more run on the Warm Springs side then spent the rest of the day in the middle area (Janss Pass, Graduate, Canyon, Blue Grouse, River Run, Olympic, Christmas Ridge).  Finished my day with 30,500 vertical feet.

 

DAY 3: Snowbasin, Utah

 

I spent a day at Snowbasin last year and enjoyed it enough to return even though I'd actually have to pay for a lift ticket.  It was pretty overcast and lightly snowing to begin the day.  I took the Needles Gondola up and immediately headed over to Strawberry.  Our first run down was fabulous.  There was a couple of inches of new snow on top of the runs that had been groomed and it was A TON softer than what we had been skiing on at Sun Valley.  We took the Strawberry Traverse over to Main Street.  It was exceptionally good.  On the ride back up the gondola the clouds started rolling in creating a visibility problem which the Strawberry area is known for.  We took the Coyote Bowl route down, but it was pretty hairy as bodies were everywhere and no one could see a thing.  I lapped the area three more times before taking a little break in hopes that things would clear up.  It never did.  We got out of Strawberry via Penny Lane and returned to the main area.  It was a Sunday and we were a bit overwhelmed with the crowding that occurred at the Needles base upon our return to that part of the resort.  I took a very cold ride up the John Paul lift and an equally cold trip down Wildflower Downhill.  After taking a break for lunch, I returned to the Needles Gondola and the sun began breaking through.  My wife and I then enjoyed a very special afternoon getting to know Snowbasin and all that it has to offer.  24,000 vertical feet.

 

DAY 4: Alta, Utah

 

Spent the night at Goldminer's Daughter and had the difficult commute to Collins to begin this cold Monday morning.  Warmed up on Main Street and noticed that the snow here at Alta was firmer than what we had skied at Snowbasin the day before.  It was a bluebird day and I had so much fun exploring the mountain, mainly sticking to the groomers in the morning and then venturing out in the sunny afternoon.

 

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Sunspot was especially nice and soft as the afternoon sun hit it.  I kept coming back to that run finding different ways to get there each time.  I typically don't enjoy long traverses, but know full well that's part of what makes Alta...Alta.  25,300 vertical.

 

DAY 5: Snowbird, Utah

 

I was skiing solo today as my wife decided to take the day off since she worried about whether or not she was good enough to enjoy herself at Snowbird.  I began at Alta and the Collins lift, bombed down Roller Coaster to the Sugarloaf lift and was in Mineral Basin just a hair after 9:30.  It was another bluebird day and Mineral Basin is just a beautiful sight to see.

 

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I spent most of the morning taking various routes down Mineral Basin, loving each and every line.  Though there's not all that much vertical to be had, I do love skiing in Mineral Basin.  There was hardly anyone there (as you can see from the photos above) and I really enjoyed having room to roam in such a scenic setting.  After six laps, I then hit Regulator Johnson.  It was pretty firm, and I had the run all to myself.  I ventured over to the Gad 2 lift before coming back to Little Cloud.  I noticed that Mark Malu had been groomed and I had never taken the Road to Provo traverse before, so I thought I would check it out.  The snow on Mark Malu was fantastic...groomed, but oh so very soft.  I kept going back there.  I finally made my way down to the base of Snowbird, but mainly stuck with the Peruvian Express as I find the Tram a bit of a hassle.  I did numerous laps on the Peruvian side before heading all the way back up and over.  Here I am towards the end of the day from the deck of the new Hidden Peak Lodge.

 

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Since I had the Alta/Bird pass due to the Mountain Collective, I made my way back to the Alta side and noticed that it was definitely busier there at Alta.  I finished the day by making a quick Alta circuit (a run off Supreme, a run off Sugarloaf and then returning to the Goldminer's Daughter by taking Saddle down to the Wildcat base.  39,000 vertical feet.

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS:

 

  • SUN VALLEY: I am so glad that I visited Sun Valley, but was overall not impressed.  It was a great place for my wife to gain some confidence as pretty much the whole mountain is steep (even the green runs!), but there was just too much sameness to everything.  Just about every run was straight, steep, and groomed.  There were a few exceptions...but only a few.  My favorite run was either Christmas Ridge or International.  I have always wanted to visit Sun Valley because I always thought of myself as someone who loves steep groomers.  While that is true, I learned something about myself on this trip and that is that I value variation and unique terrain over just a zoomer groomer paradise.  Enjoyed dining in Ketchum at Taste of Thai and the Pioneer Saloon.
  • SNOWBASIN: I love this place!  In fact, I can't think of a more fun place to ski.  While I've always been inclined to name Telluride and Aspen Highlands as my two favorite spots, there was something about this trip to Snowbasin where I discovered just how playful this area is.  And not just that, it has everything you could want.  Favorite run: Hard to name just one as I love Coyote Bowl, Wildcat Bowl and Grizzly Downhill.
  • ALTA: Can't hold a candle to Sun Valley in the vertical department, but has so much more personality, in my opinion. Favorite runs: Roller Coaster and Saddle.
  • SNOWBIRD: This is a wonderful place to ski, and the Cirque is a pretty unique area here in the U.S. for advanced skiers.  With well-placed fast lifts, it's amazing how much skiing you can do here...especially on a weekday.  Favorite runs: Mark Malu Fork, Primrose Path, and Powder Paradise.
  • ALTA/BIRD CONNECT: One of the many great things about the Mountain Collective is that your two days in Utah are Alta/Bird days.  It is fascinating how close these two areas are and yet how different they are from one another.  On my last day of this trip, I started at Alta, spent most of the day at Snowbird, and then finished at Alta.  I love both of these areas and I love how unique they both are...enjoying both of them on the same day was special.
  • GOLDMINER'S DAUGHTER: In my one prior trip to Utah, I stayed in downtown Salt Lake City and just drove to the various mountains each day.  Due to a considerable amount of positive feedback regarding the lodges at Alta, I decided to change things up and spring for slope-side accommodations.  Holy freakin' cow!  This was the highlight of the trip.  The meals were great...the location was great.  It's going to be VERY VERY hard to go back to Utah and NOT stay at one of the lodges.  I can't tell you how much my wife and I enjoyed it.  The only downer (and this is really mild) was that the saloon there was beer-only.  My wife likes wine and not beer and would have to wait until dinner until she could have a glass as opposed to enjoying one right after skiing.
  • DEMO SKIS: I tried out three sets of skis during this trip.  At Sun Valley, I was on Bonafides (173cm), Sin7s (180) at Snowbasin, and some Atomic ski at LCC.  All this to say, I am head over heels in love with the Rossignol Sin7s.  I tried these out last year and loved them and my experience this year confirmed that this is an outstanding all-mountain ski.  I've already got some reserved for the Gathering in Aspen, so watch out!

 

Sorry for the length.  If any of you read this whole thing, I am amazed.  I'll leave you with a couple of pictures of my wife and me at Alta,

 

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Edited by Lofcaudio - 1/17/16 at 8:27am
post #2 of 10

Great Stuff.  It's been many years since I've skied Sun Valley and my main memory of it was that it was steep but I remember having fun there although at the time I was 21 so I was just happy to have the chance ski.  Also Lofcaudio you never answered my question.  How old is that coat?  Surely it's not the same one you were wearing at our Keystone/Copper trip back in the day. :D

post #3 of 10

Great trip report.

 

I was also at Snowbasin on Sunday and can relate to the socked-in experience on Strawberry.  Typically, when the visibility is low, I stay away from Strawberry at all cost.  The JP side is much easier with the trees for perspective.

 

I'm really glad you were able to experience the mountain as it started to clear up in the afternoon.  There really is some awesome terrain to be found at Snowbasin.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by drewder View Post
 

How old is that coat?  Surely it's not the same one you were wearing at our Keystone/Copper trip back in the day. :D

 

I'm pretty sure it is.  I bought that coat at DSport when Joe was working there, most likely in 1994.  What's wrong with a 22-year old ski coat?  Who am I trying to impress?

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NeedToSki View Post
 

I was also at Snowbasin on Sunday and can relate to the socked-in experience on Strawberry.

 

 

 

 

On my second or third run down, I finally was able to make out the little yellow/green guide markers from the top of Elk Ridge.  However, I was skiing with them on my right and quickly realized that I was on the wrong side.  Once I was on the other side of them, things became much easier.  It's pretty weird when you cannot even see the snow you are skiing on.

post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

 

 

On my second or third run down, I finally was able to make out the little yellow/green guide markers from the top of Elk Ridge.  However, I was skiing with them on my right and quickly realized that I was on the wrong side.  Once I was on the other side of them, things became much easier.  It's pretty weird when you cannot even see the snow you are skiing on.


That looked like a great trip.  Ive had to follow a patroller down off that thing - Snow and 40mph winds.  BTW - what was the crowd like @ SB?  W where there after New Years last year and it was swarmed. Not like the "old" days :).  Trying to figure out day 3 of SLC trip in a week (first 2 are Alta/Bird).  

post #7 of 10
     
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

DAY 4: Alta, Utah

 

noticed that the snow here at Alta was firmer than what we had skied at Snowbasin the day before.

> I like Snowbasin and always hit it on a SLC trip, but just about always there is a difference btn SB & AltaBird snow.  from Dec-Feb you are going to have that perfect, cold, crunchy snow 95% of the time because of the north orientation.  Esp bird over alta that applies.

 

 It was another bluebird day and Mineral Basin is just a beautiful sight to see.

> that place can't be beat!  Drop in anywhere on the 2 miles? of ridge that surrounds the bowl.  And looks like it is getting bigger very soon, maybe next year.

 

I spent most of the morning taking various routes down Mineral Basin, loving each and every line.  Though there's not all that much vertical to be had , I do love skiing in Mineral Basin.  There was hardly anyone there

> you are lucky about the no one there.  There is often a line at the bottom of the MB express.  But it moves along.  Gone after 2:00.  On your next trip you'll have to take more lines down Little Cloud.

 

 there was something about this trip to Snowbasin where I discovered just how playful this area is. 

> playful - good way to describe it.  What's nice about SB is the very, very long lines you can take.  I don't think there is any better place for cruising in Utah. Some very steep ones too. 

 

always thought of myself as someone who loves steep groomers.

>then I hope you didn't miss Regulator Johnson in Little Cloud Bowl.  Named that because when Dick Bass created Snowbird there was a guy named Johnson who was highly involved in all the planning. He was the "regulator" of the process.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by givethepigeye View Post
 


That looked like a great trip.  Ive had to follow a patroller down off that thing - Snow and 40mph winds.  BTW - what was the crowd like @ SB?  W where there after New Years last year and it was swarmed. Not like the "old" days :).  Trying to figure out day 3 of SLC trip in a week (first 2 are Alta/Bird).  

 

It was by far the most crowded of the spots I visited on this trip.  A quick synopsis...

 

Friday (Sun Valley): Not crowded at all.

 

Saturday (Sun Valley: Not crowded at all.  More people (and kids) than on Friday, but still plenty of room on the trails and no waiting in lift lines.

 

Sunday (Snowbasin): Some crowds, but really not bad.  The only wait was on the Needles Gondola and by wait I mean 90 seconds at most as you wind through the corral.  There was a kids' race competition going on there which may have made it seem a lot more crowded than it was.  There was no wait getting on the Strawberry Gondola or any other lift and once you got away from the top of the gondolas, no crowds on the runs as the huge mountain spreads everyone out, until you get back to the base area again.  I love Snowbasin and will make an effort to come on a weekday on my next trip to Utah.

 

Monday (Alta): Not crowded at all.

 

Tuesday (Snowbird): Pretty much empty.  Never waited in a lift line, not even at Mineral Basin.

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by givethepigeye View Post
 


That looked like a great trip.  Ive had to follow a patroller down off that thing - Snow and 40mph winds.  BTW - what was the crowd like @ SB?  W where there after New Years last year and it was swarmed. Not like the "old" days :).  Trying to figure out day 3 of SLC trip in a week (first 2 are Alta/Bird).  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post

 

It was by far the most crowded of the spots I visited on this trip.  A quick synopsis...

 

Sunday (Snowbasin): Some crowds, but really not bad.  The only wait was on the Needles Gondola and by wait I mean 90 seconds at most as you wind through the corral.  There was a kids' race competition going on there which may have made it seem a lot more crowded than it was.  There was no wait getting on the Strawberry Gondola or any other lift and once you got away from the top of the gondolas, no crowds on the runs as the huge mountain spreads everyone out, until you get back to the base area again.  I love Snowbasin and will make an effort to come on a weekday on my next trip to Utah.

 

Yes. And Snowbasin seemed about twice as busy Saturday, 1/9 then they were the Sunday Lofcaudio reports on. The singles lines were about 3-4 minutes on Needles and 1-2 minutes on Strawberry and John Paul. Outside the singles lines, I think the waits were longer. At one point I saw what looked like a line of kids stretched a long way back from Becker... but I didn't investigate, so maybe they weren't actually in line. So still not awful crowds (and nothing like the 45-minute Mineral Basin lines a couple times last year), but definitely not empty.

post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

 

I'm pretty sure it is.  I bought that coat at DSport when Joe was working there, most likely in 1994.  What's wrong with a 22-year old ski coat?  Who am I trying to impress?


full disclosure.  I'm bringing the same coat I wore on that Keysone/Copper trip to Aspen.  I am also bringing a new one because my wife insisted that I purchase a new one.  Maybe I just looked to 90's for her.  Anyway great write up on the trip and Snowbird sounds like just the kind of place I'd like to visit.

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