The Inside Line: Snowbasin, UT

Inside Line
Inside Line: Snowbasin

Elevation: 9,350 feet Vertical Drop: 3,500 feet Snowfall: 326 inches (at 7,700 feet) Getting There: With a new road paved for the Olympics, Snowbasin is a quick 40 miles north of Salt Lake City. Head north on I-15 for about 35 miles, then it's east on Highway 39 to the resort. Info: 888-437-5488,

Beta: Before a billion people watched the 2002 Olympic downhill on TV, this Wasatch wonder was the best-kept secret in skidom. Since the resort was awarded the Olympic speed events, Snowbasin has gotten a new road, three posh day lodges, two eight-passenger gondolas, one high-speed quad, and one mini-tram. Yet the slopes are still so empty you'll wonder if the world has ended and you didn't get the memo. Chalk it up to the lack of on-hill digs. With the closest pillow six miles away, Snowbasin may be the only 3,200-acre, 3,500-vertical-foot day-skier resort in the country.


Powder Day
Take the John Paul Express to the Olympic Tram. Drop onto the north-facing No Name ridge and Allen's Peak shots. This steep, gladed terrain gets socked in with wind-deposited snow. It might be the deepest stuff you ski all day. Do laps till you start crossing tracks. In the afternoon, ride the Strawberry Express gondola. From the top, go south on Elk Ridge toward Strawberry Peak. Traverse out as far as you can and stay on the south side of the Strawberry Express lift line. If the John Paul area is closed, head up the Middle Bowl gondola. Take the Strawberry Traverse south to Philpot Ridge. The wide-open face of this long ridge feels like Vail's Back Bowls.

3 Days Later
Find untracked on the north face of De Moisy, in the upper Needles area, and in the trees north of the John Paul Express lift line. Traverse from the top of John Paul to the bowl under the Mount Ogden cliff and scan uphill for tongues of untracked that see little sun. Kick off your skis and boot-pack up for some of the lightest snow anywhere.

Spring Day
Head straight for Strawberry Express. The morning sun will have softened up the interstate-smooth groomers. Start on Main Street, and then work the lightly gladed stretches between the runs. Watch out for the ski-snagging scrub oak branches that start poking through as the snow melts. In the afternoon, migrate into De Moisy.

The Riding
There is no terrain park here, but Mother Nature has sculpted all the hits you need. On the south side of the Strawberry Express, there's an unmarked gully that comes off Wolverine and Elk Ridge. Kickers bust out like a teenager's pimples along the face of this gully.

Backcountry Access
Snowbasin has access gates at the top of the Strawberry, Porcupine, and John Paul lifts. The ski patrol is fairly aggressive about opening the gates as soon as it's safe, so if they're closed, keep your keister inbounds. To find out which gates are open, check at the top and bottom of every lift. The Needles area (uphill of Middle Bowl chair) and De Moisy offer the best ski-to-sweat trade-off. People do ski off the back of Mount Ogden to town, but you need ropes, climbing harnesses, and the know-how to use them.

Drinking & Dancing
Though the Snowbasin après scene is still in its infancy, the lounge in the main base lodge serves wicked homemade salsa and margaritas. Better yet, order pitchers of beer and burgers at the Shooting Star Saloon (801-745-2002), six miles down the hill in the hamlet of Huntsville. This 123-year-old joint with a stuffed Saint Bernard on the wall is the oldest continually serving bar in Utah. Try the Shooting Star burger (two beef patties, cheese, onion, peppers, and Polish knockwurst)-it's a heart attack in a bun. For a complete guide to Utah nightlife, check out Utah Underground ($17; 800-815-9236).

On the mountain, order up pizza, pasta, stir-fry, or a killer open-faced roaast beef sandwich at the Needles, John Paul, or main base lodges. The best seat on the mountain is on the deck at the John Paul lodge. Off the mountain, the Yukon Grille (801-745-9293) in Huntsville has the kind of messy and savory ribs that are worth ruining your white T-neck.

Live like Adam and Eve in Eden (Utah, that is) at the Wolf Lodge Condos ($110-$135, units that sleep 4;, 17 miles from Snowbasin. Chow farmer-big breakfasts and sleep in the king-sized bed Daron Rahlves slept in during the Olympics at the Atomic Chalet ($99-$125; For five-star service and a mondo spa, stay 40 miles away in Salt Lake City at the Grand America ($159; 801-258-6000). Stay four nights and get a free lift ticket.

If freeskiing-not racing-is your thing, avoid Snowbasin the week before and after a big downhill event, when they close the whole John Paul side of the mountain. While there's still plenty of good skiing on the rest of the mountain, you don't want to miss skiing the terrain off Allen's Peak and No Name. Call or check the website before you go.

Proving Grounds
Marquee Route Toast your quads and attempt to run Grizzly, the Olympic downhill nonstop. Start near the top of the Olympic Tram, ski past the start house and down the 70 percent grade. From there it's a huge traverse into a plunging, swooping midsection and a final roller that sent Olympic racers flying more than 100 feet downhill.

Off-BroadwayLone Pine Chute is the Corbet's Couloir of Snowbasin. From the top of Strawberry Express, hike 15 minutes up the boot-pack to De Moisy Peak. The north-facing chute is about 30 feet wide with a 45-degree pitch, framed by jagged rocks.

Essential Gear
The jagged peaks at Snowbasin present a good case for wearing a brain bucket. "I always wear a helmet," says freeskier Jeremy Nobis. "And at Snowbasin, you're always hiking to ski some gnarly chute, not an open bowl." Read: More rocks to crack your noggin on. A good choice is Boeri's Axis Rage ($140,, which has removable flaps and venting.