2003 Number 20 Resort in North America: Snowbird, Utah

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Resort Guide Snowbird air pic W 1000

The most ironic ranking in this year's reviews is readers bashing the 'Bird for its weaknesses in the Terrain Park department. Dudes, Snowbird is a terrain park. The better part of its 2,500 acres and 3,240 vertical feet are just that, vertical feet. Skiers with a taste for adventure will find their curiosity rewarded. Steep chutes, tight trees, natural terrain hits everywhere; and we're only talking about the frontside. Spilling off the backside are the roller-coaster groomers of Mineral Basin, a refuge for the cruiser. "Snowbird is steep, deep and will wear you out in a hurry," observes one savvy visitor. "Now with Mineral Basin, it's like a brand new ski resort attached to the back of the original." For those willing to pay a paltry premium ($8!), you can pass into Alta and its legendary descents. Alta and Snowbird are oil and water, but what they share is more important: tons of snow on mountains made for skiing. While some grumble that snagging first tracks is difficult-"You have to be in the know," grouses one visitor-Snowbird rarely opens all at once on a powder day. Listen to the local chatter on the tram, and you can catch stashes like High Baldy just as the rope drops. Finding nightlife is more difficult. "Not a lot to do after skiing," harrumphs one. The Tram Bar does go off, and the sushi bar at the top of the Cliff Lodge is not to be missed. -J.H.

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WHAT'S NEW The price of the Alta-Bird day pass has dropped to $64; multiday dual passes net out to as low as $52 per day.

A GOOD DEAL The Inn costs $95 a night, lift ticket included, before Christmas and after April 6. (Tip: The 'Bird received 100 inches in 100 hours last November.) Two kids ski free with every adult.

MEDALS GOLD Snow, Access, Challenge, Terrain, Scenery, Weather, Lifts; SILVER Value, Service, On-Mountain Food.

HIGH/LOW RANK Snow (3), Access (3), Challenge (4), Terrain (5); Off-Hill Activities (45), Family Programs (46), Terrain Parks (48).

DON'T MISS First Tracks: $20 gets you on ski patrol trams. Best money you'll spend all week. Sign up at the Activities Center.

READER REMARKS (+) "A great resort that got even better with access to Alta." "Best lift-served area in the U.S." (-) "Tough for beginner and intermediate skiers." "Not much resort life."

Great Lodging Deals here.