Overview of Snowbasin, Utah
Written by Greg and Heather Burke
Snowbasin Resort is by far one of the best ski areas in Utah. The majority of skiers go to Deer Valley, Park City and Snowbird - that one aspect alone makes Snowbasin great, just 10 minutes further (45 minutes total) from Salt Lake City it’s a skier’s gem.
What you notice foremost upon arrival at Snowbasin, up the highway style access road, are the big beautiful lodges. Enter Earl’s the most opulent base lodge ever with grand timbers, gold chandeliers and fixtures, and leather couches around grand fires. Posh like Sun Valley Idaho by no coincidence. Both ski resorts are owned by the Holding family of Little America Hotels, and even more money - Sinclair Oil, the Holdings purchased Snowbasin in 1984, installed two gondolas and a tram, built lavish timber lodges and soon acquired Olympic bids for the Downhill, Super G, and combined for the 2002 Olympics.
Snowbasin is big – 3,000 acres to ski total. With about 6 unique peaks you have tons of great long trails – long cruisey blues on Strawberry Peak to steeps groomers on Allen Peak where the Olympic race trails are located. In between the groomed trails are wide open bowls. Snowbasin would be amazing on a powder day, with all that terrain and half the people of other nearby Utah ski resorts. Snowbasin runs are super long and scenic, you can see four states and the Great Salt Lake from several summits. No wonder Snowbasin’s runs seem endless, with three of Utah’s five longest vertical ski lifts - the Strawberry and Needles Gondola, and the John Paul high-speed quad are all about 2,400’.
You could say Snowbasin is Utah’s best-kept secret – but it’s also one of the oldest continuously operating ski areas in the nation – since 1941. Snowbasin earned fame as the host of the 2002 Winter Games speed skiing events, and you can ski the steep exciting Downhill course.
Our Snowbasin tip: Everyone queues up for the Needles Gondola first run, instead go around the Grizzly Lodge to the John Paul Express quad. Skiing the perfectly groomed steeply pitched Olympic downhill runs, Grizzly and Wildflower, first tracks is better than coffee. If the upper tram Allen Peak is open, go for the gold and 510’ more vertical to the incredibly scenic top – experts only terrain and the true race start chalets. Ski the entire 2,900 vertical down 78% grade steeps, over technical turns, and radical gulches. Bernard Russi, crazy Swiss course designer and Downhill champ himself carved out the spectacular Grizzly men’s downhill and Wildflower women’s course, designed for speeds of 80 mph. It's okay to take longer than the requisite two minutes to ski the course, stopping to contemplate the sheer madness of this event or to enjoy the view.
Next board The Needles Gondola for a swift 2,300-foot vertical ride in an enclosed gondi, each one emblazoned with the name of a former Olympian. The view of Mount Ogden and the Needles are dramatic from the comforts of your “Bode Miller” gondola car. Head east for deliciously sweet Strawberry Bowl. It reminds me of Aspen Snowmass’ Big Burn - a perfect intermediate pitch with soft snow, fabulous open glades, and stunning panoramic views. Strawberry Bowl is scrumptious, often coated with light fluffy powder. Here you ride another plush eight passenger 2,400 verticle Strawberry Gondola, this one emblazoned with Winter Game countries in fun alphabetical order.
Lunch in one of the decadent mountain top lodges, Needles or John Paul Lodge – our favorite. The views of Mt Ogden and the ski-able chutes are jaw-dropping. It's cafeteria style under grand gold chandeliers by a big beautiful fireplace – very nice, and the food is too- and surprisingly affordable versus say Vail’s Two Elk with a similar food court format.
Finally, explore the western flank of the mountain for vast glades and chutes off No Name Peak. Après ski, go to the sumptuous Cinnabar in Earl’s lodge or enjoy the patio and fire pits. Cinnabar has live entertainment weekends and holidays and a full bar, big leather chairs, very inviting – hard to leave to drive down the Mountain road (which is highway like). To be sure, a powder day at Snowbasin leaves no one disappointed. Like the more popular Snowbird and Alta, there are miles of secret stashes for the extremists. Overall, Snowbasin is vast and offers classic Utah snow and terrain like the more famous Snowbird and Alta and Park City, except with very upscale Sun Valley-like lodges and the most sophisticated snowmaking in Utah.
Slopeside lodging is years away still at Snowbasin- even though the Holding family has a hotel background and plenty of privately owned surrounding land. For now, the mountain resort is pristine. Huntsville is just 8 miles away, and Lakeside Resort Properties is the place to stay to ski Snowbasin. This townhouse style condo resort is located on the shores of Pineview Reservoir – hence the name Lakeside. Each condo has its own car port, fireplace, and its own outdoor hot tub. Our unit was beautifully decorated in rocky mountain regal leather and antlers, with a spectacular view of Snowbasin’s slopes. Other units have a water view. Luxury amenities are provided, it's not daily housekeeping, but it’s a lovely set up – very private – a home away from home. From Lakeside, you’re a short drive to the historic Shooting Star Saloon – the oldest continuously operating saloon west of the Mississippi. Have a burger ( that’s the menu) and beer (warning 3% on tap) while you admire the authentic funky décor. You will have dollars left for the jukebox or to decorate the ceiling. Eden is a few miles beyond with a Valley market and liquor store, and a few fun Mexican joints. Ogden City is 17 miles from the mountain and offers a quirky frontier town city, renowned as the home of the east-west railroad’s Golden Spike. Ogden has a Marriott steps to the historic 25th Street - fun walk after skiing, whether you are up for Greek, Italian, or a brew at the old train station.
Something for everyone. Great steeps and trees. Groomers and bumps with good lift capacity. Plenty of snow.
At Snowbasin, there isn't any real reason for any long traverses such as at Alta. At Snowbasin where there are traverses, there is an easy path. At such places like Alta, it is rough, and takes its toll on you. I'd rather be skiing, than fighting a traverse.