The State of Utah has long claimed to offer the 'Greatest Snow On Earth', the trademarked slogan even appears on Utah vehicle registration plates, and Little Cottonwood Canyon on the western flank of the Wasatch Range, south-east of the Great Salt Lake, is the place cited as being responsible for that claim.
This is where Snowbird is located, right next to its linked neighbour Alta, set deep within this glacially sculpted canyon, catching an average of more than 12 metres of accumulated snowfall every season.
Snowbird is the closest ski resort to Salt Lake City, only 47km drive from the city's international airport, making it one of the USA's most accessible ski resorts, yet despite its accessibility the ski area is usually relatively quiet during the week, only ever really busy at weekends and during state/school holiday periods, meaning that the slopes here are usually free of crowds, upping your chance of scoring some fresh tracks in all that famous Utah powder.
Snowbird is a totally purpose-built ski resort, with just four big self-contained resort hotel/apartment complexes on the valley floor, at the foot of an impressively rugged ski area that offers a well-balanced mix of big-scale slopes suitable for all abilities. The link with Alta provides further variety and value, although it should be noted that only skiers are permitted to use Alta's ski lifts (i.e. snowboarding is permitted only at Snowbird).
The Snowbird ski area is draped over a cluster of rugged granite peaks, ridges and bowls on the predominately north-facing southern flank of Little Cottonwood Canyon, with its lowest base-area altitude at a snow-sure 2,365m. Furthermore, this region lies within the lake-effect snowbelt of the Great Salt Lake, which is reckoned to boost snowfall levels here by around 10% in comparison to Utah's more easterly ski areas.
Beginners are well catered for with a separate central nursery area next to the base terminal of Snowbird’s cable car (Aerial Tram), as well as at a dedicated on-mountain learning zone served by the nearby slow-geared Wilbere chairlift; the spacious 'Baby Thunder Family Area' at the adjacent
Creekside base area is also a safe slow-ski zone ideal for younger learners. Confident novices can move out around the ski area via a number of long traversing trails, the most exciting of which passes through a tunnel into Mineral Basin at the farthest reaches of the ski area.
Intermediates likewise have a nice selection of long excursions to choose from, ranging throughout the Snowbird ski area and crossing into the neighbouring linked Alta ski area (NB: Alta is a skiers-only area); the wealth of easily accessible steeper black-diamond pistes also give intermediates plenty of opportunities to progress on to more testing terrain too.
Advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders are drawn to Snowbird not only for the quantity and quality of its powder snow but also because its upper sectors are in high-altitude bowls where the powder accumulates deepest and where they can choose their own lines of descent away from the groomed runs.
The area also boasts perhaps the steepest marked run in the USA, the double-diamond 'Great Scott' off the Cirque Traverse on the front of Hidden Peak, together with masses of steep chutes (couloirs) and tough mogul sections.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Snowbird's linear canyon-floor layout of just four large hotel/apartment complexes and a services centre means that the resort lacks any real 'village' ambiance.
There are, however, a handful of bars and over a dozen decent restaurants housed within those buildings; the biggest, the renowned Cliff Lodge, in particular pretty much offers a self-contained resort on its own, with a number of indoor shops, restaurants, lounges and bars, plus a fabulous roof-top swimming pool and spa.
The adjacent Snowbird Center services building at the cable-car base terminal also houses a number of shops, as well as Snowbird's liveliest apres ski and late-night joint, the Tram Club disco-bar.
Alternative activities include an outdoor ice-skating rink, snowshoeing treks, and snowmobile tours, whilst the spa and swimming pool at Cliff Lodge provide a more relaxing way to actively unwind.
NB: 21 is the minimum legal drinking age in Utah.
Bars and clubs