2009 was supposed to be our year. Finally freed from the constraints and demands of the ski racing schedule, we were looking forward to our first real Spring Break in several years. While my husband suggested a tropical trip to Mexico, the boys and I immediately jumped on the idea of skiing at Saint Anton, Austria. We had it all sussed out. We would use the money saved from not paying for coaching, training, equipment and race-related travel and ski in the Alps.
Then the Economic Downturn hit and we began trying to SAVE MONEY. Our dreams of powder with a German accent were pushed aside and we decided instead on a week of skiing in Utah. Not Austria, but all-in-all, we thought it a pretty darn good fall back position.
As March approached, I was getting more and more excited about skiing in Utah. I have always loved Utah. We’ve done plenty of time in Moab, the various Salt Lake City ski resorts, and less energetically, the convenient Salt Lake City airport. So, here I am talking to a friend, just one week prior to Spring Break.
Friend: Where are you going for Spring Break?
Me: Utah. To ski. (said in a smug and self-satisfied voice)
Friend: Oh, don’t feel bad. We’re not going anywhere glamorous either.
Apparently, glamour is in the eye of the beholder.
Our first stop in Utah was Snowbasin, home of the 2002 Olympic Downhill courses, the summer and the winter Dew Tours, and a Sun Valley Resort only 17 miles east of Ogden. While there is no base village and no ski-in/ski-out lodging at Snowbasin, it is, without a doubt, the poshest ski area I have ever visited. Large, opulent lodges are appointed with chandeliers, enormous stone fireplaces, plush carpeting and comfortable classic furniture.
The restrooms have marble floors and sinks and full-length wooden doors. I heard more than one person say “I feel like I shouldn’t be wearing ski boots in here.” Our sons thought that the lodges felt like the lobbies of five-star hotels and they were right.
Glamour in Utah? You’d better believe it.
For all of this opulence you would think that Snowbasin would be pricey. Nope. For 2011, adults pay only $66 for a full-day while kids ages 7-12 pay $40. Kids under 7 are free.
Glamour at a bargain price? Again, you’d better believe it.
We started our visit to Snowbasin on the Needles Express Gondola and traversed over to the Strawberry Express Gondola. Snowbasin celebrates its Olympic heritage by posting the name and flag of Olympic and World Cup skiing champions on the outside of each gondola car. We were completely enthralled watching the downward-bound cars pass us and reading aloud the name of each skiing legend. The Strawberry Express Gondola omits the champions’ names, but has the flags of the Olympic countries on the cars. We took this gondola several times the first morning and learned to identify a lot of flags.
After lunch at Earl’s Lodge, we took the John Paul Express Quad to the western side of the resort. I have to say that no lift I’ve ever seen terminates in an area of such stunning natural beauty as the John Paul Express Quad. Mount Ogden Bowl, a massive granite amphitheatre, surrounds the lift top and lodge and it is truly breathtaking. I felt as if I’d suddenly been transported to Europe. I was beginning to feel very glamorous.
So what about the skiing? We had heard about Snowbasin from a friend who travels to Ogden from Colorado several times a year and absolutely swears that Snowbasin is the best resort in the West. I am used to the steep and deep terrain of Little Cottonwood Canyon, so that is what I expect when I go to Utah. Snowbasin actually has more varied terrain, with something fun, challenging and appropriate for all skill levels. I enjoyed the cruisers off of the Strawberry Gondola and the mellow moguls in Middle Bowl, but was somewhat disappointed by the steep mogul runs off of the John Paul Express. There were some fun pitches, but with the exception of the John Paul run, they weren’t sustained.
The Olympic downhill courses are the exception to this. The Grizzly and Wildflower Downhills are world-class, exciting, steep, icy runs, just like good downhill courses should be. The experience of skiing these runs is enhanced by taking the Mt. Allen Tram, a small 15- person tram from the top of the John Paul Express to the downhill start.
We all felt a frisson of excitement getting out of the tram on what feels like a knife-edge ridge. You look down one side at the downhill course; you look down the other side into Ogden. It is actually a bit dizzying.
From this point, skiers and boarders willing to hike can ski and hike along the ridge to a small peak called No-Name. We did this on a day with less than optimal conditions, but I can imagine that with fresh snow there would be some fun glades and steep powder to shred.
We spent two days at Snowbasin and on day two we were blessed with a foot of fresh Utah powder. We spent the day skiing fresh tracks off of the Porcupine lift and the Needles Gondola. The snow was falling fast and thick and there were so few people skiing that we found lots of untracked powder on each and every run.
Would I recommend Snowbasin? Absolutely. Especially to families with small children. The lack of crowds and relatively gentle terrain make Snowbasin an excellent choice for beginning and intermediate skiers. Advanced skiers who crave speed will enjoy the downhill courses, and on a powder day I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t find it exciting and enjoyable, and glamorous, too.
When You Go…
Snowbasin, of course, has a comprehensive website with pretty much all the information you will need. Only 17 miles from Ogden and 31 miles from Salt Lake City, Snowbasin sees a lot of “locals” and visitors making the commute. Utah.com is a good source for Ogden lodging information.
We stayed as close as we could get and spent three nights in Huntsville, Utah at the Lakeside Village condos. These condos were super nice, clean, new and we had a unit with a hot tub on the deck. Perfect! We got a terrific per night rate which included discounts on lift tickets and a dining credit at Snowbasin. We picked up groceries in Ogden before arriving in Huntsville, because there simply aren’t very many restaurants and we knew we’d rather sit in the hot tub and watch ski movies than go out anyway. However, I have heard that Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville has great burgers.
One late afternoon after skiing at Snowbasin, I put on my cross-country skis and skied around the Jefferson Hunt state park. The next day, we saw dozens of bird watchers in town. Apparently some rare species pass through Huntsville during the spring. I can’t remember what they were spotting, but they were spotting with great enthusiasm!
Parking at Snowbasin is free, close-in and easy. We had lunch one day at the John Paul Lodge and it was quite good and not at all hectic or crowded. And while it is a cafeteria, the furnishings and decor are, of course, opulent.
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