Ski Resort Life

Spring Breakthrough

Some sweet, soft snow and a little skiing jujitsu turn Snowbird, Utah’s rugged terrain into a pussycat.

Jack Pilot airs it out over Snowbird’s Mount Baldy(Photo/Brent Benson)

Based in Boulder, my family regularly skis the I-70 resorts, epic and otherwise. This season my daughter, for the first time, is allowed to bus up to Eldora Mountain with school friends, and occasionally—well, technically twice—has even been magnanimous enough to tow her 11-year-old brother along. Grandma and Grandpa live in Whitefish, Mont., so we spend time there too. 

The drive from Boulder to a long list of Utah resorts is surprisingly easy, even with the requisite stop at Little America in Wyoming for huge slices of pie. For non-racers, the kids have spent a bunch of time on skis. To this day, my daughter’s favorite resort: Snowbird. Favorite time: Spring.

And she came to those conclusions in a roundabout way. Snowbird’s stats describe a sweet terrain profile: 27 percent beginner, 38 percent intermediate, 35 percent advanced/expert. Right. Here’s the profile through a then 12-year-old girl’s goggles: 5 percent beginner (essentially getting on and off lifts); 8 percent intermediate (skier’s left, Mineral Basin), and 87 percent Is there another way down?

But that’s the charm of the place, she says. Her ah-ha moment was during a spring-break trip there. The snow was softish but still firm enough to hold an edge and carry some speed. We were at the top of Regulator Johnson. It was after lunchtime, and naturally we hadn’t stopped for lunch, so the kids were impatient, hungry, and grumpy, which always makes for a fun run. We had two choices: Take the blue Road-to-Provo and eventually cruise to chow at Mid-Gad. Or bomb down Regulator Johnson and bite into a burger a whole lot sooner.

(Photo Courtesy of Snowbird/Dan Campbell)

We bombed. It became her alpine epiphany. Something clicked. All parents remember when their kids learn how to ride a bike. When the wobble turns to a straight line. All skiing parents remember when their kids figure out the complex biomechanics of skiing. When the sliding wedge becomes a confident fall-line carve. This was that moment. For the remainder of that visit, it was Look out below as we sought out increasingly steeper pitches and—careful what you wish for—higher speeds. From then on, trails were selected by shapes and colors (diamonds and black).

It dawned on me that Snowbird’s 2,500 acres had become a giant classroom for my daughter, with a reworked terrain profile of 5 percent beginner (essentially getting on and off lifts); 8 percent intermediate (skier’s left, Mineral Basin), and 87 percent Let’s bomb down here! “I like Snowbird because it forces you to ski better than you think you can,” my daughter said as she dug into a piece of pie in the middle of Wyoming during the drive back to Colorado. And to think of all that money I could have saved on ski school.