The highlight of this trip was the snow. Even the local ‘powder hounds’ living around Salt Lake were in awe of the amount of new snow we got this week—over 3 feet on top of the 550 inches the resorts had already received before our arrival. Our trip coincided with the biggest winter storm of the season, blanketing the entire west and mid-west with copious snowfall. All this snow made for great, albeit at times, challenging conditions for our week at Snowbird and Alta.
Our group of 28 skiers departed for Salt Lake on Feb. 18. Everyone arrived at their scheduled time, although everyone made their own flight arrangements. About 20 people were on the non-stop flight from Washington and we arrived together bright and early at 10AM--and under 5 hours. We spanned all ages on this trip, with our youngest skier, Emma, 8 years old. She is a veteran of several trip already—including our last trip to Snowbird. She out-skied most everyone on the trip, however, venturing onto double blacks most of the week where most of us didn’t dare. She won the ‘most intrepid skier’ award at our dinner and helped keep us organized at times. She also helped with Delta airlines on our departure, but more on that later!
Our arrival and check in was very smooth at the wonderful Cliff Lodge. While much of the group arrived in the morning by 11am, the hotel was able to allow early check-in for everyone. Many picked up rental skis in the afternoon from Cliff Sports, conveniently near the hotel’s ski-in/ski-out entrance and ski lockers, that were assigned to each room for the stay.
The Welcome Reception was held at 6pm in the Wasatch Room and food was excellent. I don’t think anyone needed dinner that night.
The Cliff Lodge
The Cliff Lodge lived up to its reputation as one of North America’s preeminent ski lodges. Facilities and service were superb. The Lodge is located right at the base of Snowbird, with convenient access to the slopes. Rooms were very nice, and the views of Little Cottonwood Canyon from both sides of the hotel were amazing. We could understand why the hotel was constructed to withstand the heaviest of weather conditions—that we lived through. Participants used the renowned Cliff Spa, pools and hot tubs, dined in great on-site restaurants and appreciated all the great amenities that Cliff Lodge offered. Traversing the unique layout and architecture of the Lodge equaled somewhat the slopes at Snowbird—testing those of us who are directionally challenged!
The ample snowfall meant that the skiing was good throughout the week, with a couple of days that were truly memorable. The almost daily snowfall made for challenging visibility at times. The snowfall was so heavy at mid-week that we twice went into ‘lock down’ mode in the evening, when the road to the resort was closed and you couldn’t leave the hotel until the avalanche risks were addressed. This unique-to-Snowbird term is called ‘interlodge’ and features guards at the doors to make sure that no one had to pay the hefty fines by venturing out. Canons firing at the slopes in the morning to reduce avalanche risk meant we didn’t need alarm clocks to make it to the slopes in time. Expert snow crews were able to get the slopes opened up after “interlodges” with only minor delays, but it meant that only those lucky few staying at the limited on-mountain resorts could take advantage of the ‘first tracks’.
The group package included lift passes that allowed access to both Snowbird and Alta. Alta is connected by lift or shuttle to Snowbird where we were staying. The on-mountain access from Snowbird to Alta passes through a unique through-the-mountain tunnel with historical memorabilia from its days as a mining town.
The two mountains are well matched together for a group like ours which has a mix of skiers with differing abilities. While the conditions made for more challenging skiing at both resorts, I would say our most accomplished skiers enjoyed more of Snowbird, while more intermediate and advanced intermediate skiers appreciated the more forgiving and lovely slopes at Alta. There was enough terrain for everyone between the two resorts, and almost too much snow for some of us at least one day—if one can ever complain about too much of a good thing! That heavy snow day gave some of us a chance to sample the wonderful Cliff Spa!
In addition to the Welcome Reception Saturday, we had our Group Dinner Tuesday in the hotel as well. Good thing too as we were receiving copious snowfall by then and interlodge was declared at 8pm, when the roads to the Little Cottonwood Canyon closed right after our dinner! Our final group dinner Friday night was at the nearby Wildflower Italian restaurant. Daily breakfast was included in the package at the scenic Seventy One Restaurant was a great chance for everyone to meet, eat together and decide daily skiing plans and partners, and also enjoy a fabulous buffet spread put on the Cliff culinary team. We also had an optional dinner at the Lodge Bistro on Thursday night, attended by 16. Informal groups gathered most nights at the lovely Aerie Bar on the top floor of the Cliff Lodge, enjoying après’ ski time together.
Departure—and Home Again
Those of us who were on the non-stop flight at 5:50 PM, about 20 skiers looking for the fastest way home, were thwarted by the late arrival of our co-pilot, and then the rest of the crew timing out after our new co-pilot’s much ballyhooed late arrival at our gate. There had been hundreds of cancellations due to the blizzard weather impacting the wider region in the days prior, so finding alternate flights was not possible. Delta provided hotels in Salt Lake, a meal and Lift rides for our overnight of accommodations and our flight thankfully took off with a fresh crew Sunday morning without further delays. Other participants that were not on the non-stop flight ironically made it home sooner--and without drama.
Our intrepid young skier Emma was a great help to the Delta gate agent, keeping everyone organized and in good cheer despite our unexpected stayover in Salt Lake. Hope we will have her on one of our next season trips!