By Andrew Thompson Landerghini, University Marketing and Communications
‘Tis the season…to shred the “greatest snow on Earth!” With a boost from this past week’s big powder dump, all of the Cottonwood, Park City and Ogden-area resorts are open for business—and with base levels ranging from 24-40 inches, business is good. While all the runs might not be open right away, here are eight thrill rides, curated by Utah Freeskier Society alumnus Jake Bullinger, to keep in your back pocket for when there is complete coverage on the mountainside and the slopes are primed with powder.
Prince of Wales, Solitude
Solitude’s Honeycomb Canyon is one of the crown jewels of Wasatch skiing, and it certainly holds the best terrain in Big Cottonwood Canyon. There are plenty of runs to choose from, and Prince of Wales is a good starting point. It’s far enough of a traverse to ensure good snow, but not so far as to lose significant vertical. There’s a great mix of open powder and perfectly spaced trees. What’s best, though, is the scenic backdrop.
Straight Shot, Powder Mountain
Powder Mountain’s terrain is about as mellow as it gets in Utah, except for the runs off the Paradise Lift. Nestled beneath a mountain full of lazy tree runs sits a lift filled with cliffs, chutes and rock gardens. The best way to experience paradise? Follow the lift line on Straight Shot. You’ll have to do some traversing around peaks and cliffs, but the reward is deep powder at a consistent pitch with rock jumps and cliffs to keep you entertained the entire way.
Main Chute, Alta
There aren’t many ski runs as iconic as Alta’s Main Chute. Accessible only by hiking up Mount Baldy—which is shared by Alta and Snowbird—the Main Chute cuts a scar right down Utah’s most recognizable ski peak. It’s narrow enough to keep you turning, but not so narrow as to force you to straight line the run. Its location on the leeward side of the mountain means it loads up with snow, and the rock walls keep the sun from ruining the snow quality.
Barry Barry Steep, Snowbird
On a powder day, thousands of skiers and boarders will flock to Snowbird’s tram to take laps on the Cirque. Don’t be a lemming and follow the crowd off the Cirque’s eastern exposure. Instead, stay on the traverse a while longer and hit Barry Barry Steep, a northwest-facing tree line that is steep, long, and generally ignored. Barry is characterized by a long, twisting fall line that keeps you turning through perfectly spaced conifers. Truly one of the best tree runs in Utah.
Grizzly Downhill, Snowbasin
If it’s good enough for Olympians, it’s good enough for you. Snowbasin is known for its lactic acid-producing lines, and Grizzly Downhill is one of the longest and steepest on the mountain. The run hosted the downhill competitions at the 2002 Olympic Games and is now a proving ground for us mere civilians. It takes two lifts to get to the top of Grizzly and enough leg strength to withstand the 2,900-foot drop to the base of the John Paul Express quad. The best part? Instead of being a sheet of ice as it was in the Olympics, it’s now an ungroomed powder run.
Willy’s Run, Park City Mountain Resort
Park City doesn’t get as much snow as the Wasatch Front does. To deal with less precipitation, PCMR runs groomers on the steepest parts of its mountain, making what it calls the Signature Runs. Willy’s, named after former ski racer Willy Schaeffler, is about as steep and speed inducing as a run in Utah can get. Point your tips, get on your edges, and feel like Hermann Maier for a run — just don’t replicate his near-death crash on the way down.
Jordanelle, Deer Valley
Deer Valley is the most posh ski resort in America and quite possibly the world. You don’t come here to ski tight chutes, drop cliffs or hunt for bottomless powder. Instead, enjoy Deer Valley’s impeccable grooming. The resort turns entire mountainsides into smooth corduroy, and Jordanelle is one of the best runs out there. It’s not particularly steep or challenging, and that’s the point. This long, mellow cruiser is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
Red Pine Bowl, Canyons
Red Pine isn’t the steepest or snowiest bowl in Utah, but few offer the type of varied terrain Red Pine does. Beginning at the top of Canyons’ Ninety-Nine 90 lift, the bowl spills north over a ridgeline. This keeps you from lapping it on Ninety-Nine 90, but it forces you into a leg-burning run that can exceed 3,000 vertical feet. Start with wide-open turns at the summit of Red Pine, then drop into the Red Pine Chutes to take you down to the next lift and a reprieve for your burning quads.
More resources about skiing in the Wasatch and the entire state of Utah can be found at ski.utah.edu.