As you’ve probably heard, Utah now has the largest ski resort in North America.
But did you know that Utah actually has two resorts over 7,000 skiable acres and at one of them you can get a $4 slice of homemade pizza?
If this is news to you, then it’s time to discover Powder Mountain, a really big resort, with a really chill attitude, in northern Utah.
And while the price of a slice appeals to the mom in me, Powder Mountain’s 7,200 acres of skiable terrain appeals to the skier and rider in each of us.
A Big Idea Leads to Big Skiing
The idea of a ski resort near the small town of Eden, Utah took root in the 1950s when physician, rancher and local landowner Alvin Cobabe was horseback riding with friends. Surveying the landscape, one of his buddies mentioned that the terrain was perfect for skiing.
Intrigued by this idea, Cobabe spent the next two decades acquiring 14,000 acres of property in the area. In 1972, he opened Powder Mountain with one lift and an outdoor barbecue.
Lifts, lodges and additional terrain were added regularly and in 1999 Pow Mow (as the faithful know it) became the largest resort in the United States.
This season, you’ll find over 7,200 acres served by 7 lifts, the Powder Country shuttle, and the Lightning Ridge and Raintree single-ride snowcats. Additional backcountry terrain is open to full-day guided catskiing, giving Powder Mountain not only a formidable acreage total, but some uniquely diverse skiing and riding.
Powder Mountain is an “upside-down” resort, where much of the skiing falls below the lodges and parking lots.
Twenty-five percent of the terrain is beginner, with green runs found off of each lift.
Beginners often start at Sundown. The Sundown lodge is the first lodge you meet driving into the resort and the home of Pow Mow’s Ski and Ride School.
The Sundown runs are mostly green and blue, and 50% of the trails are groomed. Duck in and out of the trees. Find secret powder stashes and then rest your legs on the groomers.
Sundown also has night skiing and this part of the resort is open from 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. every day.
Hidden Lake is the heart of the mountain with terrain for everyone. Topped off by the Hidden Lake Lodge and parking area, this is a great place for families. Much of the terrain directly adjacent to the lift is low angle, dotted with sweetly spaced glades. Build your tree skiing skills on easy greens like Mushroom Valley or Picnic and then work your way through the blues to several advanced runs.
If you’re looking for more challenge, drop into Powder Country, 1,200 acres served by a free return shuttle.
Or, traverse to the Sunrise Poma lift and lose yourself in the North Slope trees. From here you can also take the Raintree snowcat into Cobabe Canyon.
Above and beyond Hidden Lake are Mary’s, Lefty’s and Gertsen Canyon, three areas reserved for guided catskiing.
While you can park at the top of the Hidden Lake Express, you’ll find more options for riding and parking at Timberline Lodge.
In addition to housing the resort’s main cafeteria and the Powder Keg bar (with live music most afternoons), Timberline is where you’ll find the Adventure Center. Book single ride or full-day catskiing and inbound guided tours here.
Ski down to the Timberline Triple Chair and enjoy short, steep black runs like Exterminator and Dynamite.
Work your way across the mountain to the Hidden Valley Express or ski to the bottom of the Paradise chair.
True to Pow Mow’s upside-down nature, the steepest, most challenging lift-served terrain is found in the chutes and glades on both sides of the Paradise lift.
Although the lift base is only 6900 feet, weather patterns provide ample snow in this area, and the more challenging aspects keep many skiers and riders away, thus preserving powder for days.
Why Powder Mountain
To a person, everyone we’ve met who has skied Pow Mow raves about the trees and the powder.
Powder Mountain gets the Utah norm of 500+ inches of ultra-dry blower each season. Since the resort doesn’t make any snow, there is little or no ice on the slopes.
As you might expect, some of the best snow is found in the shuttle, snowcat and touring areas.
My son and I did three cat-served laps on Lightning Ridge and by traversing just a little bit further than everyone else, we found an untouched bowl beyond Big Kash. And this was 4 days after the most recent storm.
Even the snow on the lift-served terrain lasts longer than normal.
Powder Mountain is a bit further afield and less well-known that the other Salt Lake area resorts. While it’s still nearby, just 1.5 hours from the Salt Lake airport, fewer people on the mountain means more snow to score in the trees.
And here’s the deal with the trees.
Although, Powder Mountain has 144 named runs, this number doesn’t begin to tell the real story, which is that you can ski pretty much anywhere within bounds.
Unlike many western resorts, Powder Mountain is wholly on private land, rather than leased from public lands. Thus, the owners can continually thin and maintain the mountain’s glades.
More on Catskiing
Snowcat service on Lightning Ridge and in Cobabe Canyon is provided at $20 per ride. Snowcats hold 18 guests, yet even during a holiday week, we shared the cat with just a handful of people. On one ride we were the only takers.
Since we had no clue where to ski, we quizzed the driver. He was super helpful, getting us oriented and suggesting routes, while pointing out cliffs and rocks to avoid.
As for full-day, guided snowcat expeditions, these are for advanced, experienced powder skiers and depart at 8:30 a.m. Reservations are required.
New Locals, New Ideas
In 2013, Powder Mountain was purchased by Summit, a group of young entrepreneurs with big, albeit refreshingly unorthodox, plans for the resort.
Summit’s big idea for Powder Mountain is the Summit Series, an annual conference for young entrepreneurs. As Summit explains, they hope to make Powder Mountain an “an epicenter of innovation, culture, and thought leadership.”
While that might be intriguing for “thought leaders,” most winter guests will be more intrigued with the upgraded, though still affordable, on-mountain food and bev options, the resort’s newly acquired condominium lodging and the North Fork Table and Tavern in Eden.
We stayed in a four bedroom condo in Wolf Creek. It was warm, clean, comfortable and worth a repeat visit. It was also quite convenient.
As for the North Fork Table and Tavern, the menu was fresh and updated, offering unique combinations of fish, vegetarian offerings and ski town classics, like spaghetti bolognaise and pizza. I’d go back on the strength of the vegetable and quinoa bowl alone.
Share Your Powder Mountain Experiences and Tips
One day at Powder Mountain is definitely not enough.
Since we barely scratched the surface, I welcome your suggestions on where to ski, stay and eat.
Tips, suggestions, thoughts, experiences: please share!
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- The Five Alta Lodges: History, Charm and Family Fun, February 7, 2012.
- Spring Break Glamour in Utah? Snowbasin Delivers a Luxe Experience at a Bargain Price, March 3, 2011.
- Park City Mountain Resort: Fantastic Family Skiing in Utah’s Ski Town, January 7, 2011.
- Snowbird, Utah: A Practically Perfect Day, September 30, 2010.
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