Powder magazine just ranked northern Utah the number 2 destination for powder riding on the continent. While the magazine used a complex “powder per person” algorithm developed by an M.I.T student, the basic formula is simple: more snow + less crowds + plenty of acreage = exemplary powder conditions. No place better defines that equation than Powder Mountain.
Pow Mow, as it’s called by locals and loyals, is a huge mass of rolling bowls, plummeting valleys and perfectly spaced trees tucked away in the small, sleepy town of Eden. It comprises close to 5,000 acres of terrain accessible to day skiers, making it one of the largest resorts in North America.
The lifts (and a bit of in-bounds hiking) carry you to 4,000 acres of terrain, while the single-ticket Lightning Ridge cat adds another 700 acres. The part of the mountain known as Powder Country has you carve and cascade from the lift-served summits down to the road, where a shuttle stops by to ferry you back to base. Powder’s undulating peaks and valleys are covered with 500 inches of snow each year, making it one of the snowiest resorts in one of the world’s snowiest ski regions.
For most any other resort, the numbers – 5,000 acres and 500 inches – would write the bottom line. For Powder, however, it’s the numbers that don’t show up – namely, people – that make it truly special. The resort is just 60 miles from the Salt Lake City airport, but it’s the farthest major resort in the Wasatch. That combined with a dicey mountain-road approach, limited amenities, and a reputation for slow lifts and tame terrain keep the ski masses farther south. With so much room to spread out and so few people doing the spreading, fresh snow hides undisturbed for days, sometimes weeks.
You won’t mistake the terrain or pitch of Powder Mountain for Snowbird, and it certainly doesn’t have the park or pipe facilities of Park City, but when the only sound filling your ears is the whooshing of p-tex across the frosty feathers that connect silent trees, you won’t be thinking about any other mountain.
Unlike your typical ski resort, in which you park at the base and hop on a lift to the top, Powder has several different base areas, including one at the 8,900-foot peak of the main mountain. This means that you can park at the top or mid base and let gravity take you to the lift – a major plus on Powder’s innumerable powder mornings.
Advanced skiers can’t go wrong by parking at the second lot and shooting down the groomed valley to the Paradise lift. On the lazy ride up, familiarize yourself with the tree lines, pillows and rock launches that drop away from either side of the shoulder below. This is some of Powder’s most engaging terrain, and it comes to life on a powder day. At the top, do an about-face and take off for groomer cruising, tree snorkeling or boulder launching. Better yet, piece together all of those features while keeping an eye toward what you want to hit next lap. Then back to Paradise for rounds 2, 3, 4…
When your thighs grow weary from float-turning through bottomless tree stands and airing into powdery plumes, head to the Sundown base area for a change of venue. Buy an $18 single cat ride at the lodge and let your legs enjoy a breather during the lift and cat ride up Lightning Ridge. Once there, you can take off downhill or hike up the ridge to the top of 9,422-foot James Peak – the farther you go, the more likely the snow will transition from choppy and tracked to solid and silent. Enjoy long, flowing carves across the wide-open fall lines. This’ll funnel you back down to Paradise (and through paradise), where you can pick up and start all over again.
In addition to being one of the best places on the planet to find in-bounds powder, Pow Mow is one of the best values in ski country. A regular day ticket costs $65, and the price drops to $55 per day if you commit to a two-day pass. Night skiing adds just a few bucks to a day or half-day ticket and is available separately for $18 (3 to 9 p.m.). Powder also hosts “Powder Safari” day snowcat tours in the adjacent backcountry.
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Find out more at powdermountain.com.