Snowbird

Snowbird, Utah

Written by Meimei Ma • Photos by Greg and Heather Burke • Last updated Oct 21, 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.

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

Opening and closing dates

Season Open Date Close Date
2017/2018 11/23/2017 (estimated) 05/28/2018 (estimated)
2016/2017 11/26/2016 06/11/2017
2015/2016 11/20/2015 05/30/2016
2014/2015 11/21/2014 05/10/2015

Lift ticket and season pass prices

Category Age restrictions Price (USD unless otherwise stated)
Adult 13 - 64 $129
Child 6 & under Free
Child 7 - 12 $61
Senior 65 & over $109
Season Pass
(Chairs Only Value)
$999

Overall Rating

4.4 / 5 based on 38 reviews
Levi Jessop

I have gone skiing here many times with my family. And every time it has been a blast. Very family friendly and priced well. And the snow is great most years. I'm glad to have this resort so close to home.

Posted on Nov 13, 2017
Estuardo AVALOS

Nice resort to ski or snowboard close to Salt Lake City. The tram ride has great views of the wasatch front. The parking is big enough and close to the resort

Posted on Nov 11, 2017
Colton

Snowbird is the best resort in the United States. It’s only issue is the level of crowd, it’s really busy on weekends and holidays. Too busy, it takes always Business.

Posted on Nov 08, 2017
Jeremy

So good. Steep, long runs, heaps of snow, great terrain, easy access from SLC airport. If you get a powder day (which is probably pretty likely), you can just do laps on the tram and get heaps of ski miles in. Not much of a village or apres.

Posted on Nov 08, 2017
larry batori

a little less crowded on a powder day would be nice! easier access to back country . some side country to access from the lifts . better parking options. more reasonable food options on mountain

Posted on Nov 07, 2017
Ronald Dean

Had a great time. Lots of snow and amazing terrain. Loved taking the tunnel to Mineral Basin and viewing the history and artifacts in the tunnel. Highly recommend this ski resort!

Posted on Nov 12, 2017
Eric Betsill

WICKED TERRAIN. I was back in Mineral Basin in mid February last year and bathed waist deep cloud dust for six straight hours! Pretty sure my ski career peaked that day!

Posted on Nov 11, 2017
Bill Wagner

It's snowbird... it's steep, has amazing snow and terrain. Not a good beginners hill. Lines can suck and new snow gets skiied out fast. Its still one of the best ski hills around.

Posted on Nov 08, 2017
Nathan Christensen

Snowbird is awesome. The terrane is incredible. Not a beginners resort. Powder days can be super crowded and it can take a while to get the mountain open, but overall I like this place

Posted on Nov 07, 2017
Sid

Tram, Tram,Tram 8 minutes to 11k that's all that needs to be said. This mountain has it all steep and deep. The best people on the planet. Chips run 2.5 miles got to love it. Cliffs,groomers,moguls,trees, fantasy mountain. Plus it's in Utah so you get that fluffy powder.

Posted on Nov 07, 2017

Ski Resorts in Salt Lake City