Alta/Snowbird, Utah

Nov 1, 2008
Outside Magazine
Carving fresh tracks at Snowbird, Utah

Carving fresh tracks at Snowbird    Photo: courtesy, Snowbird Resort

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Snowfall: 500 inches
Area: 4,700 acres
Vertical Drop: 3,240 feet

So what makes these two connected resorts, perched at the top of a sleepy Utah canyon, the best skiing destination in North America? The snow. Sitting on the bull's-eye of the Wasatch Range's freakishly powerful storm track, Alta/Snowbird consistently offers up more of the deep, light, and dry than any resort on the continent. This is where Ski Utah gets its 500-inch snowfall number—in a weather-dependent sport, AltaBird is the closest you can get to a sure thing. But deep snow ain't fun if you don't have the terrain to go with it. You'll find steep and direct skiing off nearly every lift, with six high-speed quads and Snowbird's famous tram to get you there. Learn the ins and outs of the many traverses and hikes (try Alta's Devil's Castle and the 'Bird's Thunder Bowl) and you'll ski soft snow on new lines for weeks. The resorts' vibes differ—laid-back Alta is dotted with old-school wooden lodges, while Snowbird is shiny and loud, concrete and glass. But what both places share, other than a dearth of nightlife, is a lack of pretense. Everyone is here for powder. And they get it. Last winter was so stormy, the Wasatch Powderbird Guides' heli-ski operation barely got off the ground before February. A whopping 88 inches fell in April alone. At the time, I happened to be there doing some "reporting." Here's what I found out: If it's dumping all winter, book a spring trip. The locals had long since packed it in, and our crew skied untracked powder for two solid days.

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