I saw Shawna, from Uber Mammoth meetup group post this trip sometime in november and i jumped right on it. This season i had made it a goal to travel to different ski resorts across the country and that is why i decided to buy Mammoth MVP premium pass which gives 50% off at all mountain collective resorts.
We were going to spend 4 days in Park City and i didn’t really think about where i was planning to ski until the trip got closer which was weekend of 2/28/14. As i was asking different people and reading about different resorts it was clear that i wanted to spend at least 2 days at snowbird/alta. In the end i ended up spending a day each at Park City, Alta, Snowbird and Canyons.
My only worry was the roads to snowbird might get closed because of the storm and we might not be able to make it but fortunately that wasn’t the case.
I want to focus this post only on what i thought about each of those resorts. Please do keep in mind that i am not an expert by any means but just someone who is passionate about skiing and considers himself a snow snob. Every individual has their own style/preference when it comes to skiing and this post is all about what worked for me.
I have been skiing only for 6 years but having taken lot of lessons, i have progressed fairly quickly (i think) and i can ski down most of the runs on any mountain. I enjoy varied steep terrain, tree skiing and wide open bowls.
I wasn’t too keen on PCMR to begin with but we were staying walking distance from the resort and everyone in the group was going to ride there so i decided to go along with it.
Jupiter lift has the most advanced terrain so the plan was to get there as quickly as possible but from Silver star lift it took us a good half hour to get there and it was already packed. There weren’t many fresh tracks to be had.
There is little bit of traversing and hiking involved if you want to get to some of the runs and my snowboarding buddies found the traverse to be quite tricky. They dropped in a steep tree line which i wouldn’t have, the snow was great everywhere so it didn’t matter.
After talking to locals the hike to Scott’s bowl was supposed to be good so we decided to go for it. It had a nice 5ft drop so it was a perfect opportunity for me to take the camera out and do some action photography.
I decided to go in first and then wait for others so that i could shoot them. I had put my boots in walk mode and unfortunately i forgot to tighten my left boot and put it back in the ski mode. Ofcourse i found this out after i crashed and lost my ski which decided to go 40-50 ft down the hill and into the trees. Luckily we found it quickly, lesson learnt.
I took my BC setup on this trip since i had read about being able to hike in utah resorts and it was only my 3rd time using it. So it was a very good learning experience for me and i hope not to repeat the same mistake again in BC where the consequences of such a mistake could be far greater.
We had enough of this lift at this point and decided to check out other lifts but it seemed like in terms of advanced terrain our options were limited. We headed over to Mcconkey’s and did the bowl run but the snow was terrible. It was few inches of fresh powder on top but it was crusty underneath and it wasn’t fun at all.
It was time for a lunch break and after that we headed up Mcconkeys again and this time we decided to explore the trees. The first run we dropped into some really tight trees and it was little scary. I wasn’t really linking any turns and it was mainly survival skiing so for the next run i decided to go into area with trees more spaced apart and it was more fun. This area is known as glading in black forest, not sure if i would rate it as double black.
The best part was the lower run which was almost like a natural half pipes with lots of whoops and small jumps and it was the best run of the day for me. Personally i felt like PCMR redeemed itself for me with this run, i did it couple more times and then it was time to figure out way to head back.
Heading back it was the worst snow of the day on the last run and me being lazy/tired i fell couple more times but didn’t loose my ski so that was good.
It was good day at PCMR but i was looking forward to snowbird lot more the next day specially since it had got some fresh snow and was going to snow during the day as well.
The road was closed but it was expected to open at 8am so we left as early as possible and we got to snowbird just before the lifts opened. It was still snowing and when we got there none of the lifts were running.
When i bought my pass i had to buy the snowbird/alta combined pass because of the MVP premium discount and given the fact that none of the lifts were running at bird i decided to take the shuttle to Alta and check that out instead. I didn’t really want to wait in line and deal with the crowds at snowbird.
When i got to Alta there was a big line for Collins lift so i decided to jump on the wildcat lift instead and it was great. I had to be careful since the visibility wasn’t great but there were fresh tracks to be made everywhere.
After couple of laps i decided to check out Collins and brave the long lines, it was about 10 mins in the singles but totally worth it. Some people were talking about sugarloaf being open so i decided to head over there from collins and ended up spending most of my day there.
It was definitely the best chair of the day, there were times when the visibility was absolutely none but since i was doing laps on the same chair i was getting more comfortable and it didn’t matter. I was having a blast.
I was told the best terrain is off the supreme lift but i was apprehensive about trying to get on more advanced unknown terrain specially when there was limited visibility.
The plan was to do some turns together with a friend of mine who was skiing at snowbird so i decided to head out there but all the gates were closed except for Blackjack traverse and it was an adventure.
Earlier in the day i had seen sign for snowbird from the Wildcat lift and i asked the lifties whether it was open or not and it was open. I followed the sign and it seemed like a traverse through the trees but after a while i was completely lost on where to go.
I wasn’t sure whether i had to stay high up or descend and the path down was quite steep in the trees with me being uncertain whether i was over some cliffs or not. I was little scared at this point but luckily for me there was some guy who came and he was heading in the same direction. He said that i had to follow orange markings on the trees and that was the only sign, it was sketchy but after a while i got out of the trees. This time i could see avalanche danger signs at bird, i got out of the area as soon as possible and even got some fresh powder.
I would not recommend this traverse to anyone who isn’t an advanced skier or familiar with the terrain, if it wasn’t for that guy i would have probably gotten lost in the trees and ended up somewhere in middle between snowbird and alta.
Once i got back to snowbird i decided to ride the peruvian express since we had already decided to be back at the car at 3.30. I headed down from the lift without paying much attention to the signs and it made for some good mogul skiing. I was tired so was stopping after every few turns and after 3 runs on the chair i decided to call it a day.
Since yesterday i missed out on skiing snowbird and everyone was raving about mineral basin area, i wanted to head over there first thing in the morning. It seemed like tram would be a slow way to get to mineral basin since i could take peruvian express and then go through the tunnel but i wanted to experience the tram so i waited and rode it. When we got to the top mineral basin was still closed so i decided to do a lap on little cloud and it was super nice.
I loved the groomed wide bowl of regulator johnson, it had few inches of fresh and made for great skiing. When i took the lift back up, mineral basin had opened up so it was time to head there. After i did lap or two there, i saw the powder paradise had opened up and even though it was mostly lapped up i decided to go there and was able to get my own fresh tracks it was nice.
I was eyeing road to provo from little cloud express and had decided to be one of the first ones to be there when it opened up. So i was just doing laps around that area, ski patrol was still doing avy work and when it seemed that they were getting closer i decided to wait for it.
I waited half an hour for it and when it was about to open the line was at least 100 people long and it was a mad dash for it. I was probably among the first 15 people to go through the gate and instead of going farther into the traverse i just dropped in as soon as i could and it was awesome. I have no words to describe the feeling and it was great to be part of the crowd since it felt that everyone was feeding off each others energy. There were plenty of loud happy shouts and high fives once we got back to the chair lift. It was a huge adrenaline rush and i did couple more laps though of course they weren’t as great as the first one. It was all tracked out in matter of minutes.
After lunch i did a lap on gad zoom but the snow wasn’t that great and it was time to head back to the other side. Early in the day i had thought about dropping into a chute at top of mineral basin but i chickened out so i wanted to hit it and redeem myself. I dropped in and managed to ski fine, the snow would have been lot better early in the morning though. I decided to go through the tunnel for the heck of it and then call it a day.
Some folks in the group had bought 2 day tickets for PCMR but since i wasn’t too impressed by it on the first day, i decided to go check out Canyons instead.
I knew Ninety-Nine 90 was the lift for advanced terrain and i wanted to get there first thing but i was disappointed by the snow. It was fairly crusty and not fun at all, plus me being tired from 3 days of skiing wasn’t helping too. The hike to the nearby peaks to go off boundary was really tempting but since i was by myself i didn’t want to risk it.
The quicker way to get to Ninety-Nine 90 was to take Orange Bubble express to thunder mountain express instead of red gondola to thunder mountain express.
From top of 9990, i headed over to red pine chutes so that i could get to a wide open bowl which promised some fresh tracks but unfortunately as i traversed over there it was closed. I dropped into red pine chutes and snow was better than the previous run but i had to be careful to avoid some cliffs. I wanted to traverse over to one side but was unsure if it involved any jumps or not so i took the safer visible path down.
I was planning on doing the mountain tour offered but it was full so i talked to one of the hosts and he suggested that i head over to dreamcatcher and dreamscape lifts for best chance of good quality snow and some advanced/intermediate runs. I took his advice and wasn’t disappointed. It made for some really fun tree skiing with fresh snow on the ground. It wasn’t as crusty underneath and i did few laps on both the chairs.
After lunch i was tempted to go back on Ninety Nine 90 but that didn’t seem like a good idea since i was tired so after couple of runs i decided to call it a day. It was time to get to the airport and head back home.
Overall it was a great trip and for me the preference of resorts would be Snowbird/Alta, Canyons and then park city. On my next trip to SLC i would prefer staying closer to snowbird instead of park city and then just ski there. Canyons would be a great option if they had some fresh snow, the backcountry seems so easily accessible from the resort. PCMR, i have no intentions of going there again, Canyons is way better option in park city.