Five hundred (500) annual feet of light, dry, fluffy snow. Thity-two hundred (3,200) vertical feet of world-class terrain spread over twenty-five hundred (2,500) acres. On sunny days, riding the Tram gives you a birds-eye view (pun intended) of Snowbird. Every chute, bowl, and glade seems to call your name. The long Cirque Traverse with double black drops off both sides calls to you like a Warren Miller movie with you in the title role.
If you pull up to Snowbird on an overcast or snowy day and haven’t been there before, the mountain seems to project out of the canyon floor into the mist like the Wall in Game of Thrones. It’s pretty intimidating.
Snowbird is the posh to Alta’s shabby chic. The land for the resort was cobbled together in the 1960’s by George Theodore (“Ted”) Johnson; the surfer, handyman, photographer, ski instructor, and manager of a couple of lodges at Alta. Alta skiers had been hiking over the ridge and skiing the areas know as the Peruvian Gulch and Gad Valley for years. It was Alta’s backcountry. Ted’s vision was realized after he teamed up with badass Texas oilman Dick Bass in 1969 and raised the funds to open Snowbird in 1972. Their story is chronicled in the video here.
Snowbird’s terrain is simply amazing. The resort’s first promotional video featured Corky Fowler and was irresistible (except for the soundtrack). It can be seen here. The appeal of Snowbird was immediate. We found this gem from the K2 Demo Team visiting Snowbird in 1972. You can see it here.
Snowbird Expert Skiing
You’ll find expert terrain everywhere at the Bird. Three areas stand out: Peruvian Gulch; Mineral Basin and boundary adjacent terrain off Gad2.
Peruvian Gulch: High Baldy Traverse & Cirque Traverse
If you’re looking at a map, the Peruvian Gulch is a big upside down “U” or horseshow right below the aerial tram. Below and skiers right of the Tram is the High Blady Traverse. The High Baldy Traverse allow you to access High Ridge and West Baldy, If you stay high you’ll eventually reach Fields of Glory and Thanks for The Memories. North shots off The Cirque Traverse is the Bird at it finest. You can access iconic north facing runs like Silver Fox, Great Scott, Upper Cirque and Lower Cirque. If you take the Cirque Traverse as far as it goes to the knob at the crest, you’ll find Wilbere Bowl, Wilmas, Binx’s Bumper, Upper Mach Schnell and Dalton’s Draw. If you drop into the West facing runs of the Cirque Traverse towards Mid Gad you’ll find the Gad Chutes, Restaurant Roll, and Barry Barry Steep.
Mineral Basin is a 500-acre area of Snowbird sitting between Snowbird and Alta. There is no terrain in Mineral Basin that cannot be found elsewhere in Snowbird. So what makes it special? It’s separate from the main areas of Snowbird. It also has avalanche challenges. This combination leads to ski patrol closing the area during large storms; and keeping it closed, sometimes for days. The result can be the accumulation of feet of fluffy powder. Get there before the crowds and its like you’ve been dropped off by helicopter in the Bugaboos. On these days you head straight down the Path to Paradise to Bookends Traverse. You’ll try your hardest to reach Bookends Bowl as you traverse across acre after acre of untracked bowls and gullies. Locals will lap this area as many times as they can before it gets skied out. There are also fun runs under the Mineral Basin chair. Keep in mind that only runs off Bookends Traverse face North. This means most of Mineral Baterrainaine gets sun and is subject to harsh melt and freeze cycles.
Gad2 to Area Boundary
Off Gad2, from the top, skiers left to the area boundary, are a series chutes and bowls. This is a very special North facing area that holds powder stashes all season and is largely unknown to most visitors. There are amazing runs in this area like Temptation Chutes, Boundary Bowl, and Thunder Bowl. Stay high on the ridgeline, and you’ll reach Defiance Ledge and Figure 8 Bowl. If you drop low on High Saddle Traverse you’ll find the glades of Mushroom Land and White Rabbit.
Snowbird Side Country
We don’t cover backcountry on this site. But we occasionally mention side country options. Especially when they are attached or accessible via resort gates. Snowbird has some amazing options. Some of the easiest to access are Scotty’s Bowl and White Pine. Never leave resort boundaries without proper equipment, knowledge, and experience.
Snowbird Insider Tips
There are gates between the ridge separating Alta and Snowbird: Keyhole and Doorknob. From Alta, they are accessible from the Collins Lift. From Snowbird, they are accessible if you hike a bit on the Baldy High Traverse and stay on the ridgeline. The area below these gates and along the adjacent ridgeline offers some of the best deep powder skiing at Snowbird. Alta locals lap these the Keyhole ridge area by taking Wildcat Chair and hiking to the Keyhole Gate and then ski the ridgeline areas down to the Bypass Road. From here they jump on the Alta – Snowbird bus back to Alta.
If money is no object, you lucky ba$tard, Snowbird offers The Seven Summits Priority’s Pass. It includes early Tram ride privileges (7:45 am), lockers, Cliff Lodge amenities and lift cutting privileges. With money to burn you should also catch some helicopter skiing offered by Powderbird. They have a helipad near the base of Snowbird.