Snowbird

The Ultimate Guide to Snowbird, Utah

Written by Meimei Ma  • Last updated Oct 13, 2017

Visit Snowbird, and you’ll quickly learn why so many professional freeriders and extreme skiers call it home. The terrain is as rugged as you’ll find anywhere so even the most experienced shredders will get a rush going down challenging lines. And let’s not forget about the snow! In a normal year, Snowbird and its neighbor, Alta, get 500 inches of the “greatest snow on earth” dumped onto the highest resort terrain in Utah. The mountain gets the lion’s share of the magical stuff and can sometimes get twice as much snow as nearby resorts in a single storm! The trees, bowls and chutes will hide these powder stashes for days, just waiting for you to draw your lines. Since it’s on privately owned land, it stays open as long as there’s snow (some years even into July!), giving it the longest ski season in Utah. All of these factors combine to make Snowbird a sparkling jewel in the crown of North American skiing!

Feel like rugged terrain? Snowbird has you covered!

Of course, Snowbird isn’t perfect for everyone. Although over a quarter of the mountain is rated for beginners, the easy terrain isn’t very accessible for the inexperienced and the progression to more advanced terrain is abrupt. There is no “ski town” at the base, rather a collection of resort buildings which offer limited options in the way of food and drink (at least there’s not much dilemma about where to go for dinner!). They were designed to be able to withstand the worst of a mountain winter, and the result is a brutalist, fortress look with its exposed concrete - although inside, you’ll find clean and comfortable accommodations and top-notch customer service. For the local powderhounds who call Snowbird their home mountain, and for the repeat visitors who return year in and year out, the on-mountain experience more than makes up for the lack of film festivals and fancy stores!

 Just a taste of the terrain that’s on offer

While Snowbird shares the Little Cottonwood Canyon with Alta, both resorts have very different personalities and have their own quirks. Snowbird embodies more of a resort feel where the lifts, food service, ski rentals, lodging and non-skiing activities are owned and managed centrally. The lift infrastructure is more modern with high speed chairlifts which have footrests and trail maps. Alta, on the other hand, is a collection of independent businesses which have banded together with the Alta Ski Lifts Company to service skiers, giving it a more local business vibe. There have been ongoing improvements to the chairlift system (safety bars were added in 2012!) with an upgrade to the Supreme chair due to open for 2017/18 season. It’s also on U.S. Forest Service land, which means no extended late season skiing no matter how good the snow coverage is after mid-April. Oh, and it’s only for skiers – a tradition which have been upheld over 80 years.

The Mountain

Snowbird is spread out across 2,500 acres spanning several drainages, offering up all sorts of terrain to explore. Its main areas are Peruvian Gulch (on the border with Alta), Mid Gad, Gad Valley, Baby Thunder, and Mineral Basin on the backside.

The Peruvian Gulch – Are you ready?

The variety of terrain is glorious and will keep you very busy as you navigate through the double black runs of trees, chutes and cliffs. That said, the trail map is a bit deceptive because it makes the lower mountain look a lot bigger relative to the upper mountain. 

Top of Mineral Basin

Mineral Basin a wide-open expanse of powder bowls with some chutes and cliffs for the truly adventurous (or crazy); it’s also a lot bigger than what the inset on the trail map makes it look! You’ll be able to see just how big it is from the Summit lodge when the Snowbird tram drops you off at {11,000 feet}}, high enough for the view to be literally breath-taking!

There's a lot of lines to choose from at Snowbird

When to Go

Snowbird’s season typically begins no later than early December. Even though Mother Nature delivers an almost unbelievable amount of snow, the resort still maintains some snowmaking equipment to make sure they’re able to get some groomers open before the blizzards come. In fact, they work hard to have at least a few runs open by the Thanksgiving holiday although this could be just a few groomers and upper mountain trails for the advanced folks. 

You don’t need to be there that early, though. January is when you’ll see a good coverage of snow on the advanced and expert runs. The season lasts as long as there is snow, so it’s common for the lifts to run through late May and beyond. We like to visit mid-February to early March, when there’s plenty of snow and sunshine. That said, if you're lucky, you can catch a powder storm later in the season. You also skip the hustle and bustle of the holiday season which means cheaper lodgings.

If you find yourself at Snowbird late into the season, follow the sun over the course of the day to find the best conditions. We like starting out in Mineral Basin in the morning before moving over to the front side of the mountain in the afternoon. Stay high on the mountain after lunch – temperatures at the base can hit 50 degrees Fahrenheit resulting in very sticky snow in the lower half of the mountain.

Lift Tickets

Snowbird’s ticket prices are comparable to other destination resorts in the US, with a full day adult ticket going for $116 in 2016/17 ($128 if you tack on Alta). There are discounts for youth (12 and below), seniors (70 and above), and half-day tickets. For true beginners who starting out, there’s a ticket limited to the Chickadee beginner lift next to the Cliff Lodge available for $29. It’s a great way for the novice members of your group or family to get started without paying for access to lifts and terrain they’re not quite ready for yet! Kids six and under get to ski free. Multi-day tickets are also available at a reduced per-day cost, and discounted tickets are available in package deals with resort lodging.

Another option is the Mountain Collective Pass, which is worth considering if you’re staying at least four days and want to ski both Snowbird and Alta (snowboarders aren’t allowed on Alta’s lifts). The 2017-18 pass gives you two days at each area, and 50% off each additional day. If you have other big trips you’re considering in the same season, the Mountain Collective Pass also gives you two days at several other resorts around the world including Snowbasin which is one and a half hour drive from Snowbird.

Discounted lift tickets are available at Smith’s Supermarkets, a local chain, as well as many of the rental shops in the Salt Lake City Area with very competitive pricing (on par with Liftopia). If you’re staying in Salt Lake City, you look into the Ski City Super (SCS) Pass which is good at Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton. It includes round trips transportation on UTA ski buses and public light rail to get to the ski areas and rental discounts starting at 20% at participating shops. SnowPak also has some great ski packages for Snowbird and Alta.

Photos by Greg and Heather Burke, and Meimei Ma

Overall Rating

4.4 / 5 based on 34 reviews
Accessibility
Food
For Beginner
For Intermediate
For Advanced
For Expert
Sidecountry
Backcountry
Fresh Snow
Facilities
Activities
Nightlife
Family Friendliness
Paul Pitts from Utah

When I've been skiing well lately and am looking for a challenging day on the slopes, I head to Snowbird. It's get's the same awesome snow that it's neighbor Alta gets as far as quality and quantity but seems to offer access to some of the more challenging terrain right off the tram and lifts that you might have to hike for elsewhere saving you energy and time for more runs. Don't come here if your looking for the nightlife that is offered at the Park City resorts cuz "it's all about the skiing" at Snowbird. I like to ski around a resort rather than ski a few of the same lifts and runs so skiing at Snowbird offers everything your heart desires if you look around for it. And on a powder day, it's "steep and deep" which let's the gravity do all the work as you try to navigate through the snow shooting over your head as well as remembering to breath when you come up for air at the top of your turns. One downside I often forget about is some of the rocky conditions you might encounter during early season but Snowbird does a pretty good job at snowmaking as well as not opening terrain that is not ready to ski. I personally love the lodging, especially the rooms that have patios and face south towards the ski runs. If you haven't skied Snowbird before you have to try the Tram. If your a returning skier you can save some money with a "chairs only" pass which I personally prefer.

Posted on Oct 08, 2017
Miroslaw from Illinois

Guaranteed snow, great slopes. Alta nearby. Apre Ski and restaurants could be better. Needs few slope side restaurans or bars.

Posted on Feb 11, 2013

Elevation

Base
7760 feet
Base
Summit
11000 feet
Summit
Vertical Drop
3240 feet
Vertical Drop

Lifts

Gondola & Tram
1
Gondola & Tram
High Speed Quads
3
High Speed Quads
Double Chairs
6
Double Chairs
Surface Lift
1
Surface Lift

Terrain

Beginner Runs
27 %
Beginner Runs
Intermediate Runs
38 %
Intermediate Runs
Advanced Runs
20 %
Advanced Runs
Expert Runs
15 %
Expert Runs
Total Runs
169
Total Runs
Terrain Parks
1
Terrain Parks
Longest Run
2 miles
Longest Run
Skiable Terrain
2500 acres
Skiable Terrain

Ski Resorts in Salt Lake City