New Year's Powder

By J Rhea Jan 3, 2008
New Year's Powder

Hidden Lake Express. Powder Mountain. New Year’s Day. The two skiers next to me are discussing their Utah vacation during the holiday week. “I couldn’t believe how fast Solitude got tracked out yesterday!” I smile, and look happily at the acres of untracked pow spilling away beneath my skis…at about 1PM on a holiday. It was exactly why I was skiing Powder Mountain two days after the last big storm. I wanted to find out how well the lesser-known mountain to the north was living up to its name.

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PowMow is a bit over an hour north of Salt Lake City. Which means that there are a lot of resorts tempting skiers to abandon the long drive…which means more pow for the few who make it all the way up.New Year’s was a cold, bluebird powder day—as good as it gets. While temps read -2 down in Huntsville, they warmed to a balmy 10 degrees at Powder Mountain’s base area. But the winds were calm, the sun was warm, and the snow was epic.

After a few laps off Paradise and Hidden Lake, it was time to sample the real goods: Powder Country and Lightning Ridge. These backcountry-style areas are the soul of Powder Mountain: sustained pitches, endless options for wide-open bowls or perfectly-spaced trees, and of course heaps of powder. The snow was a perfect creamy density; a bit heavier than the usual Utah blower underneath, with a light 5-6” skiff of fluff on top.

Lightning Ridge is accessed via snowcat at $10/ride. In years past, this involved grabbing a long tow rope behind the cat and being hauled up the mountain. To my surprise, this year they upgraded the cat to a huge cabin cruiser that can hold up to 18 skiers and snowboarders. Pure luxury.

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A quick 10-minute ride lets you access nearly endless options – from shorter runs right back to the lifts, to hike-accessed descents from nearby James Peak. I couldn’t resist the easy shot from the top – a huge alpine face that runs straight back to the main lodge and parking lot. About seven high-speed turns through completely untracked pow, and I had the biggest smile I’d had all season plastered to my face. A perfect run to end the day with.

Lightning Ridge:

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