Snowbird, Utah: Rank 4 West, 1997

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Snowbird is a purist's paradise striving to transform itself into a winter resort. So far, so good. Moving up 10 spots this year, Snowbird already boasts two key ingredients that all of Vail's money can't buy: world-class terrain and heaven-sent Utah snow. (With 500 inches a year, it's arguably the best day-to-day snow in skiing.) The 125-passenger cattle-car tram has always been more chore than charm. But Little Cottonwood Canyon's first high-speed quad will give Snowbird a huge lift this season, as will the first guided tours into beautiful Mineral Basin. Black-diamond runs dominate the mountain, with options thin for beginners and intermediates. "Definitely for the dedicated, hard-core skier," a reader says. For all the riches of the mountain, there remains the poverty of the low-watt social scene, with the Aerie and the Tram Bar shouldering more than their fair share. "Very good for skiing, but not much else to do," a reader laments. With the Salt Lake airport just 29 miles away, "Snowbird couldn't be easier" to reach, another reader applauds. When vacationing at Snowbird, skiing eclipses socializing as the focus of the day. You shouldn't have a problem with that.

What's New The high-speed quad GadZoom will replace the Gad 1 double; guided snowcat skiing in Mineral Basin Bowl; family pool complex at the base of the Cliff Lodge.
A Good Deal Two kids, 12 and under, ski free with any adult who buys a full lift ticket.
Medals Gold Snow Quality, Terrain, Challenge, Weather,Accessibility; Silver Grooming, Value, Lifts, Service,On-Mountain Food.
High/Low Rank Snow Quality (3); Après-Ski (51).
Don't Miss A cocktail and a soak in the open-air pool or giant hot tub on the top of the Cliff Lodge.
Reader's Remarks "Excellent skiing¿steep and deep." "Salt Lake is the only off-hill activity, and it's not exactly happening."