Terrain and snow are what define a mountain's character, and Snowbird draws aces on both accounts. When the tram first sways over Tower 3, the sight of the ultra-steep chutes cascading off the Upper Cirque wallops the eyeballs, twists a knot in the gut and sends an urgent message to the brain: Buck up, it's going to be a good day. Readers rate the 'Bird second on the continent for Challenge, and they aren't kidding. Even if you never drop into the likes of Jaws, Great Scott or North Face, you'll still find other opportunities to scare the bejesus out of yourself (try Gad Chutes or High Baldy). Such intimidating terrain has earned Snowbird a reputation as an experts-only domain, but expansion into Mineral Basin has given intermediate skiers a 500-acre refuge in which to romp. Several readers likened the backside vistas to the Alps, while one summed it up succinctly, "Mineral Basin, wow." This season will see the installation of a second high-speed quad in Mineral Basin, rising northward to Sugarloaf Pass, opening up more cruisers on the backside and connecting Snowbird to Alta. For the first time, both areas can be skied on a single ticket, creating America's third-largest resort and the country's single biggest concentration of expert terrain. Slather the whole enchilada with some 500 inches of annual snowfall, and you have something darn close to paradise. Readers are right to note that the frontside chairs are rickety and slow, on-mountain food is limited, uninspired and expensive, and nightlife is negligible. But the skiing, wow.
WHAT'S NEW A Mineral Basin quad will connect Snowbird to Alta, and a ski-only dual pass will be offered: $68 daily; $1,200 per season.
A GOOD DEAL Snowbird.com offers Internet-only ski-and-lodging packages during off-peak periods. Lead times will be short, values high.
MEDALS GOLD Snow, Terrain, Challenge, Weather, Access, Scenery; SILVER Value, Lifts, Service.
HIGH/LOW RANK Challenge (2), Snow (4), Access (4); Après-Ski (58), Off-Hill Activities (58), Family Programs (62).
DON'T MISS Mineral Basin. A four-minute ride eats up 1,429 feet of vertical, and the tree-free terrain will delight experts and intermediates alike.
READER REMARKS (+) "Mineral Basin has kicked the experience up several notches." "Right there with Alta and Whistler for terrain."
(-) "If you don't ride the tram you get stuck on old lifts." "Not much to do when the skiing ends."