Gaze up 3,000 vertical feet from the base of Snowbird and you may spy the red or blue aerial tramway in miniature, scooting along cables above the glittering snow. The beloved tram cars and all that Snowbird encompasses welcomes guests for a 50th season in December 2021.
What is it that makes this resort so special?
Every season I come away from Snowbird having learned about a new run, a shrouded powder stash or a tricky line I hadn’t yet skied. The pinnacle of Snowbird's magnetic draw is undoubtedly its unrivaled terrain. I’ve been exploring Snowbird for over three decades and I’ve yet to discover all the mountain’s secrets. The dramatic landscape was hewn by a glacier 12 miles in length, tens of thousands of years ago. The hanging valleys, expansive bowls and precipitous cirques were carved over eons by the weight of glacial ice up to 80 stories deep.
Thanks to its high perch in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird serves as ground zero for the brunt of winter storms that slam into Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range. I must travel for work and despite exploring resorts across the US, Canada, Austria, Switzerland and Japan, nothing compares to Snowbird’s beguiling terrain and perfect powder recipe. Dry desert air, a dash of salt, a smattering of lake effect snow and one of the deepest snowpacks in the continental US legitimize the slogan, “The Greatest Snow on Earth®.”
It is the dynamic landscape of Snowbird, the rugged terrain and the spirit of the mountain that keep us all so enthralled. Five decades have flown by but since day one, Snowbird has been a place where mountain lovers find their wings. Navigating the contours of Snowbird requires commitment and attitude. It’s a mountain that demands respect and will push anyone to their edge. You cannot leave Snowbird and remain unchanged.
The souls of Snowbird’s people thrive on grit. The mountain coerces the adventurous into confronting their fears, pushing beyond perceptions of what is physically and mentally possible. To sweep down Snowbird’s steep and unrelenting flanks is to earn a badge of honor. Regardless of athletic prowess, Snowbird is a place where everyone comes away a better skier or rider. From a child’s first tracks in Chickadee Bowl to the grizzled old local stacking Tram laps, the mountain provides perspective and imparts the lessons of life.
I’ve watched fearless young freeriders like Bird athlete and snowboarder Lila Yeoman chase down the tracks of local hero Shannon Yates. Lila got her start as an 11-year-old freeride competitor in her first IFSA event on Silver Fox in 2017. This winter she’s heading to Austria for the Freeride Junior World Championship. The same goes for Olympic hopeful, alpine racer Jared Goldberg, who cut his teeth on the Wilbere Ridge Race Course as a child clad in spandex. There’s snowboarding legend Bjorn Leines and the incomparable siblings, Johnny and Angel Collinson. The list of distinguished riders calling Snowbird home can be found topping podiums and in the credits of movies from Warren Miller, Teton Gravity Research and Matchstick Productions.
Snowbird serves as a training ground for some of the best skiers and riders in the world.
Snowbird may comprise some of the most grueling ski runs but it is also a place where everyone can find their edge in America. I’ve witnessed this first-hand in the transformative and life-affirming experiences provided by Wasatch Adaptive Sports. Volunteering with this organization has given me a profound appreciation for the power of Snowbird to positively impact someone’s life. To see a stroke survivor or a child living with Down syndrome experience a ski lesson for the first time has brought me to tears on numerous occasions. The students of Wasatch Adaptive routinely set goals and smash them, redefining what it is to live without limits.
A first-timer like Ruby can show up at Snowbird with her mom, Melody, in tow and instantly feel at home amongst the warm smiles and adoring attention of Wasatch Adaptive instructors and volunteers. The staff at Creekside Sports enthusiastically helps Ruby find her gear and before long, Ruby is experiencing her first sliding sensations down Chickadee Bowl. Ruby’s smile and newfound enthusiasm for skiing encapsulate the spirit of Snowbird.
Stepping on snow at Snowbird is a conscious decision to push beyond a perceived limit and the experiences we gain forge an indelible bond between mountain and rider. Snowbird has been my home for over 35 years and I can’t calculate all the ways in which it has shaped my life, my career in the ski industry and my personal development. No matter where I ramble, I am always proud to call Snowbird home. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t Little Cottonwood and Snowbird that lured me back to Utah after college in Washington. I couldn’t thrive without Snowbird in my life and I had no choice but to heed the connection I feel to the canyon’s soaring granite walls.
As a second-generation Snowbird skier, the mountain served as daycare for my sister and I. My mom and dad worked weekends in the Snowbird Medical Clinic and they would shove us out the clinic door with a ten-dollar bill. We’d head out and perform hundreds of laps through Mini Miner’s Camp, only stopping for french fries and Snickers bars at the Mid-Gad Resturant. We’d bask in the last rays of the afternoon light on the old Peruvian double-chair and catch the last ride at 4:45 on Wilbere. Thanks to Snowbird, I am most at home in the mountains.
As Snowbird celebrates its 50th year, I’m pausing to reflect on what this resort means to me, my family and all the skiers and snowboarders who have been shaped by this mountain. Hiking Baldy in ferocious powder storms, the old Little Cloud double chair, the season they opened Mineral Basin, sunbathing as a teen in my old pickup truck, the time I lost my ski date in a blinding whiteout, bottomless faceshots and some of the best stories of my life all originate at Snowbird.
To commemorate the big 5-0, Snowbird is sharing stories and photos from all its fans. Take a moment to revel in your favorite Snowbird memory and submit it here so Snowbird can share the memories you've forged on its flanks.
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