Booking a ski trip several months ahead of time can be a bit of a crapshoot. Will the weather be nice? Will the snow be deep? Will we even be able to ski the runs we’ve dreamt of skiing? While a ski area might be getting great early season snow falls, the weather could dramatically change, leaving a mountain slushy, rocky, and inaccessible. When my dad and I booked our late-February ski trip to Snowbird back in December, we knew those risks, and we knew anything was possible. But, if you had asked me then, I never would have predicted just how epic it would be.
Our first day at Snowbird, February 25th, stayed rather mellow. Visibility was pretty low and, most significantly, we needed a bit of time to adjust to the altitude. So, after a few laps and a quick tour of the mountain, we treated ourself to some hot coffee and a quick nap in the Snowbird Center lodge.
The snow was great that Saturday, but, since there hadn’t been a major dump in a few days, nearly everything had been skied off. To the right of the Little Cloud lift, however, from Old Ladies to Upper Bassackwards, was entirely untouched. Not a single skier or snowboarder, not even working ski patrollers, had touched that bowl since the last snowfall. We made sure to keep our eye on it for the duration of our trip.
The following two days were spent elsewhere, one at Solitude (wicked cool mountain) and one through the backcountry, where we passed through the legendary Chad’s Gap and spent the entire day earning a grand total of two ski runs (it was 100% worth it). The night of Monday, February 27th, brought a boatload of snowfall, and we went to bed dreaming of powder runs on the Snowbird Cirque.
With the road through Little Cottonwood Canyon closed for avalanche mitigation until 9:30am and our lack of proper planning putting us further towards the back of the line, we didn’t make it onto Snowbird’s lifts on Tuesday until around 11:30am. But, as nearly everyone else on the mountain was stuck in the same, unmoving traffic, we were still able to hunt down plenty of fresh stashes.
The Cirque was deep and plentiful, there was plenty of room to play off of the Gad lifts, and Peruvian’s mid-afternoon opening provided plenty of fresh turns to conclude the day. Mineral Basin, and that bowl off the right of Little Cloud, remained closed for avalanche mitigation, meaning there would be plenty more in the days to come.
Wednesday, once again, saw a road closure through Little Cottonwood Canyon, but we planned a bit better this time. With the road opening at 8:30am, rather than 9:30, we got in line early enough to be some of the first several on the mountain. A good amount of snow had fallen overnight, providing us with some decently soft lines throughout the morning, and lift lines remained really low.
A quick, mid-day stop for some coffee ruined our chances of 100% fresh lines that day, unfortunately. Within the 30 minutes that we took to rest, Mineral Basin had opened and been nearly completely skied off. Now, to be clear, there was still a boatload of snow, there just weren’t any untouched lines available.
Is that a bit disappointing in the moment? Absolutely. Did we still manage to enter the white room a few times. 100%. Am I complaining about the lack of fresh lines? Nope. It was mostly a surprise to see how many people showed up, given how empty the rest of the mountain seemed throughout the morning. One random local that we talked to on the lift made the claim that people wait in the top lodge until new terrain is opened, just so they can be some of the first to touch it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case, but I have no evidence one way or the other.
With no more snow in the forecast for the rest of our trip, only one area of Snowbird continued to have complete, untouched pow into our final day of skiing. That bowl to the right of Little Cloud remained beautiful and flat as we left Snowbird for the second-to-last time.
Thursday brought us our first day of sun and blue skies on the trip. There was still plenty of snow across the whole mountain, despite little falling overnight, and the groomed runs were perfect. In short, it made for a perfect, final, easy-does-it day, as our legs were near falling apart. After a few runs off of Peruvian and a couple Mid-Gad laps, though, we began to notice a few groups of ski patrollers heading across Road To Provo and Knucklehead traverse, and we had to question whether or not that bowl to the right of Little Cloud would open for the first time since we had seen it on Saturday.
We chose to wait by the gate into the terrain, along with a couple hundred other people, after hearing that it would probably be opening fairly soon. Ski patrol came through to let us know that they would be pulling the passes of people acting unruly (it isn’t uncommon for people to trample each other, shove other guests, blatantly cut to the front of the line, etc. If that’s how you behave in a rope drop, I honestly hope you never get to ski again).
My line through that bowl may have been the best I’d ever skied. As some of the first people into the bowl, we had no trouble finding 100% untouched lines. By the time we made it to the bottom, it was nearly completely skied off, and the Little Cloud lift line had grown from nearly no wait at all to somewhere around 30 minutes long.
That run was our second to last in Utah, and it will likely remain as the top memory from the entire trip. The snow was deep, the crowd was amped, and the employees, though clearly a bit anxious due to the number of people, were excited. In a way, that’s how the energy felt the entire trip. Snowbird has been getting slammed with snow this year (590″ YTD snow total as of March 6!), and they’re not alone in the state. Even off of the mountain, in the Salt Lake City area, you could tell that every skier was having a remarkable year.