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TR: AJ's Ski Reports


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I think it's time for another one of my trip reviews/reports. However, given the time of year, this one will be a bit different and will not focus on amusement parks. Instead, this is a photo trip report of every ski area I go to this winter. Hopefully by the end of the ski season (around Easter), I'll have covered around ten different ski areas in here.


Ski Area Schedule:


January 8th, 2011: Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort (below)

January 9th, 2011: Brian Head Resort (scroll down)

February 12th, 2011: Big Bear Mountain Resorts (Snow Summit even further down, Bear Mountain below that)

February 25th-27th, 2011: Mammoth Mountain (Page 2)

March 12th-16th, 2011: Cottonwood Canyon Resorts

-Brighton Ski Resort (Page 2-below Mammoth)

-Alta Ski Area (Page 2-below Brighton)

-Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort (Page 2-below Alta)

-Solitude Mountain Resort


Other areas (specifically So-Cal resorts) may be added depending on snowfall and time allowance.


Now, for the first ski trip of the season.


January 8th, 2011: Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort


I got up at 6:00 in the morning, got dressed, then waited for my dad to get ready. About fifteen minutes later, we got in the car and headed out. We drove out to the I-5 freeway, then onto the CA-55, then onto the CA-91, and then onto the I-15. A little more than an hour after setting out, we were out of the urbanized part of southern California and heading out toward Las Vegas. We passed through Victorville, then through Barstow, then past the site of the old waterpark out in the middle of the desert (of which little remains). Around 9:30, we reached Baker, California, where we stopped for breakfast at an Ihop that used to be a Denny's owned by one of my dad's racing buddies.


After breakfast, we continued on, past Buffalo Bill's Resort & Casino, past the Las Vegas strip, past downtown Las Vegas, until we turned off on US-95. We took this road north for around a half-hour or so, then turned off on NV-156. I'd never been up this way before, so I had no clue what it was like. The road ascended up into the mountains, but unlike most mountain roads there was minimal windiness. It passed a number of various snowplay areas, some of which appeared to be quite popular. Finally, the road dead-ended in the parking lot for the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort.


The Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort (from this point referred to as LVSSR) is the only ski area in Nevada outside of Lake Tahoe. Less than an hour from the Las Vegas strip, LVSSR is the only nearby option for winter sports enthusiasts. The ski area is relatively unknown to non-locals, as I have never seen a single advertisement for it, which isn't surprising given the size of the area. LVSSR is very small by ski area standards at only 40 acres. On that terrain, however, the ski area features 4 lifts (1 triple chair, 2 double chairs, and a surface lift) accessing 11 trails and a terrain park. The longest trail at the resort is only 3,000 ft long, which is another indication that the resort isn't very large. It does, however, have a vertical drop of 800 ft.


When we got to the ski area, we found that the main lot was full and we had to park in the auxiliary lot a little way down the road. Fortunately, the resort has a shuttle bus to get skiers and snowboarders up to the ski area. Unfortunately, the bus only holds about 25 people. Since it was a crowded Saturday, we had to wait a little bit for the shuttle to come back, as the whole line couldn't fit on at once. Once we got to the ski area, we went and purchased tickets, then headed up to the lifts.


LVSSR has a very simple layout, which looks roughly like the letter y. The base lodge is at the intersection of the letter. From the lodge, Chair #1 goes off to the left, and chair #2 goes off to the right. Chair #3 ends at the lodge, and you ski downhill to reach it. Since each chair services unique terrain, I'll talk about the resort one section at a time, going in reverse number order.


Chair #3 is an old Hall double chair that was probably built in the 1960s. I would estimate it to be about 900 ft long with a vertical of no more than 200 ft. The lift ends at the lodge level, and you ski down to get to the bottom of it. This lift services the beginner area. I did not ski down here because it is just a beginner run and I didn't want to go down only to wait in the line to ride back up. From what I saw, it looked like a very basic beginner area.


Chair #2 is an old Hall double chair as well that is probably about the same age as Char #3. I'm estimating this lift is about 2800 ft long and probably has around 600 ft of vertical. This lift services mostly intermediate terrain, although there is one advanced run off of it. The intermediate runs off of this lift are very good for those tired of the beginner terrain, as they aren't too steep and are relatively wide. However, there are terrain features on some of the runs, so it is important to watch out for snowboarders. Also, be cautious of the black run. It isn't marked and, although not too difficult, it does have a short, but very steep, section that is mostly ungroomed. Due to being a double chair and having a number of less experienced riders, the lift has a long line and frequently stops. I skied this lift a few times, but didn't try every way down. Most runs are visible from the chairlift, so it is easy to decide which way to ski down while you ride up.


Chair #1 was where I spent most of my time. It is a CTEC triple chair, and although it was only installed at the ski area a few years ago, it looks like it was originally built in the 1980s. The lift felt like it was about 2400 ft long and probably had around 800 ft of vertical. This chair accesses both intermediate terrain and advanced terrain. Unlike on Chair #2, it is easy to tell which is which here: go left at the top, it is intermediate; go right, advanced. There is a sign warning people who turn right that they are entering advanced terrain. I spent most of my time on this lift and probably ended up skiing almost every possible way down. To be honest, the biggest difference between the intermediate and advanced trails on this lift seemed to be that the intermediate runs were groomed, and the advanced runs weren't. The terrain on this lift is overall steeper than the terrain on Chair #2, but most intermediate skiers could probably handle it.


Overall, LVSSR was actually really good for its size. The ski area had a decent variety of terrain and is definitely somewhere I would consider going back to for a half day if I ever find myself in Las Vegas in the winter. The only problem I have with the resort are that it is small, and that the tickets are a bit pricy. This ski area isn't cheap, with a $45 half-day ticket and a $50 all day ticket. It might not sound like that much, but personally I think it is a bit too high for such a small area. I guess there really isn't any competition here (at least, not until that indoor ski area proposed for Vegas actually gets built), so they can charge pretty much whatever they want and people will still come. If this ski area completes their expansion plan, however (which would bring the size up to about 700 acres), it would defintely be somewhere I would want to return to.


We only skied for about three hours before heading off due to the relatively small size of LVSSR. Once we left, we drove back to the I-15, then took that out of Nevada, through Arizona, and into Utah. We stopped for dinner at a Wendy's in St. George, then headed up the I-15 to Parowan, where we turned off and drove up to Brian Head.


Now, time for pictures. Here are the shots I took of a relatively unknown ski area. Keep in mind that most of these were taken from a lift or base area, so portions of the resort aren't very visible.


If you enjoy this, check back in a few days and Brian Head should be up.


Here's the Ihop we stopped at for breakfast. It used to be a Denny's that was owned by someone my dad knew.


Desperado, the second best coaster in Nevada. I didn't ride it this trip. I didn't even see it run this trip. I don't even know if it operates in the winter.


Las Vegas from a distance. I never actually got off the freeway in this area, but I don't mind because I personally don't like Vegas much.


This is NV-156. About 15 minutes from this point, you reach the ski area.


The view from the parking lot. Note that this is not the ski area. It is just a giant rock.


More giant rocks. This part of the mountains is very nice.


Although those look almost like ski runs, they aren't. If they were, they would defintely be experts only. Chair #1 ends right at the bottom of them.


Chair #1, a CTEC triple chair. I spent most of my time on this lift.


This is the main run off this chair. It is named Keno, and is an intermediate run.


Looking back down Keno toward the base area.


This was taken from about halfway up Chair #1. From this point, the lift gradually gets steeper until it reaches the top terminal and you unload.


Chair #2, a Hall double. This is the most popular lift on the mountain.


The line for Chair #2. Since each chair seats two people, it looks like it could take a while, but it only took about ten minutes.


Chair #2 was a little bit difficult to get to. You could either hike up from the lodge, or come down from Chair #1 with enough speed to go up this hill and around this tower.


Riding the lift up. This was only about a quarter of the way up the lift.


Another Vegas themed run. This is named The Strip, and is the easiest intermediate trail on Chair #2.


Another run. This one is The Line, and is the main terrain park run.


A look back down at the base from Chair #2.


There's Rabbit Peak, the beginner area.


A different angle of the mountain that towers over the parking lot.


Snow blowing on top of the ridge. It looks quite cool in person.


The lodge is split into two buildings. This building houses the restrooms, food service area, bar, and lockers.


The other building has the ticket windows, equipment rentals, ski shop, ski school, and general offices.


There's the top of Chair #3. This picture was taken from right where I removed my skis.


There's still a bit of a line for Chair #2 less than an hour before closing.


One last look up the slope on the way out.

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I can't believe you left Jackson Hole off of that list man! My family and I were lucky enough to head out there over the kids winter break and the snow was phenomenal! I'm just giving you a hard time though buddy, that list is impressive and I hope you have a great time out there on the slopes! Rip it up!

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I can't believe you left Jackson Hole off of that list man! My family and I were lucky enough to head out there over the kids winter break and the snow was phenomenal! I'm just giving you a hard time though buddy, that list is impressive and I hope you have a great time out there on the slopes! Rip it up!

I've never been to Jackson Hole to ski, but I hiked there during the summer the season before the new aerial tram went in. It looks like a nice place to ski, but a lot of steeper terrain which limits a lot of people from being able to ski the entire mountain.

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I can't believe you left Jackson Hole off of that list man! My family and I were lucky enough to head out there over the kids winter break and the snow was phenomenal! I'm just giving you a hard time though buddy, that list is impressive and I hope you have a great time out there on the slopes! Rip it up!


Jackson Hole was one of the destinations we considered, but ultimately we decided to go to Salt Lake City instead for two reasons. First, my dad said ten hours of driving was about all he could do in a day. Jackson Hole is 15 hours away, and if we traveled all the way up there it would cut our skiing time down from four days to two (or possibly two and a half), as there was no way we could extend the trip. We looked into flying, but decided that would be a little too expensive for our budget, and with that combined with the fact I really don't like air travel when it can be avoided we ruled out flying completely. Second, Jackson Hole is expensive and challenging. While my dad likes almost any type of terrain, I usually only ski some black runs and rarely ski double blacks. With half of Jackson Hole being black or double black, we decided it just wasn't the best place to go. Maybe on a future trip we'll give it a try, but not this season.


Anyway, time for another update.


January 9th, 2011-Brian Head Resort


We woke up at 8:00 A.M., got dressed, and headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. On the way, we noticed that the ski area was fogged in. Although we could see the mountain, we couldn't see any of the lifts or trails. We had breakfast, then packed up the car, checked out, and drove to the ski area.


Although it was nearly a half-hour after opening when we pulled into the parking lot, we were still able to park right next to the lodge. We carried our equipment over to the lodge and purchased tickets, discovering that a full day ticket to Brian Head was the same price as a half-day ticket at LVSSR. After getting changed into ski clothes, we hit the slopes.


Brian Head is (as far as I know) the only ski area in the southern part of Utah. It is what I call a mid-size ski area. 650 acres with 9 lifts (7 triple chairs, 1 double chair, and a surface lift) accessing 65 trails, the longest of which is almost 8000 ft, as well as three terrain parks, on a mountain with 1700 ft of vertical. Due to the relatively remote location of Brian Head, it is rarely crowded. We didn't wait in a single line longer than three chairs during the day, and even though the lodge wasn't that big we had no trouble finding a table for lunch. The weather may have played a role in this, but I highly doubt the ski area gets too much more crowded except during holiday weekends.


Before I talk about the area, I will say that my review is somewhat skewed due to weather. In the morning, the upper mountain was foggy, and visibility was somewhat poor. On the chairlift, you could only see about two towers in front of you, and when skiing it was difficult to tell which run you were on relative to the rest of the mountain. In the afternoon, the fog cleared and it got sunny, but there was a slight breeze that closed about three quarters of the main mountain. Due to this early closure, I didn't end up getting a chance to explore every area on the mountain, although I got to most of it.


Brian Head is naturally divided up into three separate areas, so I will talk about each one separately.


Brian Head Peak


Brian Head Peak is the main part of the ski area. At its base is the Giant Steps Logde, and the slopes are serviced by four lifts. Two of the lifts form a V out of the base area, and the other two start mid-mountain. Using these four lifts, it is possible to access almost any type of terrain that can be found at the ski area.


Chair #2: Giant Steps-This is the mountain's main lift. It is a Lift Engineering triple chair installed in the 1980s. The lift is 4800 ft long with 1100 ft of vertical and forms the right side of the base area V. After a 10 minute ride, you are at the summit of the ski area. From this lift, it is possible to access everything on Brian Head Peak. There are no beginner trails down from the summit, but intermediate, and advanced runs can be found. This is also the location of the access gate to hike to the very top of Brian Head Peak, adding about 600 ft of vertical and allowing access to untracked backcountry terrain (as with all ski areas, skiing beyond the boundary is for experts only). I did several runs off this lift throughout the day.


Chair #3: Blackfoot- This is the oldest lift on the mountain, and is the only beginner lift on Brian Head Peak. In addition to beginner terrain, a couple intermediate trails and one advanced one can be accessed from this lift. The chair itself is another Lift Engineering triple chair, and is the only lift on the mountain remaining from the 1970s. It forms the other side of the base area V. 2200 ft long with 400 ft of vertical, this is a great lift for beginners, but is relatively boring for anyone else. We only used this lift once, mainly so I could get the lift credit.


Chair #5: Roulette- This was probably my favorite lift on Brian Head Peak. It doesn't start at the base, but instead starts near the top of the Blackfoot chair and heads toward the top of the Giant Steps chair, but doesn't reach it. Another 1980s Lift Engineering triple, 3000 ft long with 700 ft of vertical, accessing both intermediate and advanced terrain, as well as the only lift serviced expert trail on the mountain (Devo's Pitch). We only did this lift a couple times, early in the day. When the wind started to pick up, this was the first chair to close.


Chair #7: The Dunes-This chair is another Lift Engineering triple, and was installed the same year as the Giant Steps lift. 2500 ft long, 500 ft of vertical, and access to unique intermediate and advanced terrain that can't be accessed when this lift is closed. Unfortunately, I didn't get to ski any of this terrain because the wind closed this chair before I got a chance to ski down to it. The lift itself ends at the top of the mountain, but extends down a separate face, so skiing the terrain if the lift ins't running will lead to a bit of hiking and a lot of pushing. At least the terrain didn't look very different from that accessed by the other lifts, so I didn't end up missing much.


Navajo Mountain


Navajo Mountain is a separate part of the ski area across the street from Brian Head Peak. This side of the resort is entirely beginner and intermediate terrain. This is also where the tubing park is located. I only skied over to this side of the ski area to get my lift credits.


Chair #4-Navajo- The main lift on Navajo Mountain. Another 1980s Lift Engineering triple (this ski area has a lot of these, don't they?). This lift is 3900 ft long with 600 ft of vertical. I'm sure beginners could probably ski this lift all day without getting bored, as there are numerous easy trails down. Other than the top quarter of the lift, the rest of the line is nearly flat, and I'm sure the other slopes on this mountain aren't much different.


Chair #6-Pioneer- The only double chair on the mountain (which is also a 1980s Lift Engineering lift). This is the ski area's absolute beginner lift. I would have ridden it just to get the lift credit, but since it was a little isolated from the rest of the ski area, and was only 1000 ft long with 100 ft of vertical, I gave it a miss.


Brian Head Interconnect


This part of the mountain was just added in 2007. It consists of two Doppelmayr CTEC triple chairs, one on each side of a ski bridge over the road. Before this area was added, the only way to cross between Brian Head Peak and Navajo Mountain was via a shuttle bus. Now, anybody of at least intermediate ability (or a skilled beginner) can cross on skis.


Chair #1-Wildflower- This is the lift on the Navajo Mountain side of the interconnect. 2800 ft long with 500 ft of vertical. The lift accesses a lot of intermediate terrain, as well as a couple beginner trails and one advanced trail. We did a few runs of this lift before leaving once the upper lifts closed due to wind, but unless you are a skilled beginner or low intermediate that is about the most you can do without getting bored of these trails.


Chair #8-Alpen Glow- This lift is here solely to complete the interconnect, and climbs up the Brian Head Peak side. It is only 2300 ft long, but still has just as much vertical as the Wildflower lift. Skiing on the advanced runs directly under the lift allows you to ski what is probably some of the steepest terrain at Brian Head. The only other trail down here is an intermediate rated cat-track. Although we used this lift a few times, we didn't spend very much time on it.


Now that I've talked about each portion of the ski area separately, I'll talk about it as a whole for a moment. Brian Head is not a very challenging mountain. Most of what they consider advanced runs would be considered intermediate at a large ski area such as Mammoth Mountain. My dad skied the one expert trail accessable without hiking, and said that Mammoth's Center Bowl (an advanced-intermediate trail) was more challenging. Despite this, Brian Head is a really nice mid-size ski area. I think I need to try it again in more decent weather to be sure, but I think it might beat out June Mountain as my favorite mid-size ski area. The one thing it needs is an upgrade to the Giant Steps chair, as that lift takes too long. Other than that, there was nothing I didn't like about the ski area itself.


Two other comments about the ski area. First, the food service here is different from many other ski areas. Most places, you wait in line to place your order, then pick it up. Here, you place an order and they give you a number. You pay and get drinks, then go sit down and they bring the food to you. Second, be wary of wind at this ski area. On my visit, the Giant Steps, Roulette, and Dunes lifts closed around noon due to high winds. However, the wind was only blowing about 15 mph. I have been skiing at Mammoth before when the wind speed is probably around 40, and they have still been running everything. Since Mammoth has a lot of Lift Engineering chairs as well, I'm pretty confident Brian Head could have kept running their chairs and closed them partly due to the lack of crowds. Either way, this was the reason we left early (around 1:30 P.M.).


After leaving, we drove back down Interstate 15, back through Arizona, back through Nevada (where we stopped for gas), and back into California, where we stopped at a Taco Bell in Baker for dinner. We then continued on home, reaching our destination around 9:00 P.M. This was the end of the only multi-day ski trip I have done where I spent more hours in the car than on my skis.


Brian Head pictures are below. I didn't take very many due to the weather being bad and it being too cold up until lunch to remove my gloves. I don't know when I'll next update this, but I plan to keep it going all season whether or not this thread gathers interest. I usually do two or three multi-day trips, plus two to four days at local resorts per year, so hopefully there will be a bit more to come.


The view from the parking lot. The lift seen here is the Giant Steps Chair.


Base of the Giant Steps Chair. Pay attention to the terminal design, as there may or may not be a quiz on lift manufacturers at the end of the season.


Blackfoot chair. This picture was taken during the wind hold, so at this time Blackfoot was the only chair open on Brian Head Peak. That line probably represents about 20% of the people on the mountain, showing the low number of people on this day.


Navajo Mountain from the Giant Steps parking lot. The lift seen here is the Wildflower Chair.


This is the reason we left an hour early. If only the beginner chair is open, it is somewhat pointless to continue skiing.


Boo! I hate it when I see this sign.

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^Yes, I usually do two to four days of skiing in Southern California. I've been to Mt. Baldy a couple of times, and I like that ski area, but due to the lack of snowmaking I am only able to go on good snow years. Most of the time, I go to Big Bear (which is one of my favorite So Cal resorts), but have also been to Mt. High (which I don't like too much). I've been to Snow Valley as well, but I personally think they are too expensive for what they offer, so even though there are never any crowds I rarely go there.


If you like Mt. Baldy, you should try Mt. Waterman. I personally like it better than Baldy even though it is smaller, although it is cheaper, and completely empty, and the two ski areas are similar terrain-wise (although Baldy probably has slightly steeper terrain).

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If you like Mt. Baldy, you should try Mt. Waterman. I personally like it better than Baldy even though it is smaller, although it is cheaper, and completely empty, and the two ski areas are similar terrain-wise (although Baldy probably has slightly steeper terrain).

Waterman is a cool place, cheap, and pretty much unheard of. The lift system is ANCIENT!!

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This thread is way overdue for an update as I have skied a few days since January. I want to get it caught up before I leave for Utah in a week and a half.


February 12th, 2011: Big Bear Mountain Resorts


When I go skiing, I prefer to go to bigger ski areas. However, sometimes this is not possible. I only have the financial resources and the time to do two or three multi-day trips per year, so I tend to do at least a couple day trips to local ski areas each season. If there is good snow, I've got a choice of about six different ski areas, but when snow isn't as good, that is narrowed down to two: Mountain High or Big Bear.


Big Bear is probably the local resort I frequent the most, primarily because they have 100% snowmaking so everything is usually open. They also are the most expensive, but are also the largest, although the ski area is split up into two independent resorts. Originally, Big Bear Mountain Resorts was two independent ski areas: Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. In the early 2000s, Snow Summit purchased Bear Mountain and began running a shuttle between the two areas. Since a lift ticket is good at both, I usually end up spending some time at each area when I visit.


As usual, when I do a day trip to a local area, I usually leave my house by 6:00 A.M. This time, due to the front road to Big Bear Lake being closed, we had to leave earlier. We got to Snow Summit, where we parked, shortly before opening. This gave us enough time to get dressed, rent my brother's skis, purchase lift tickets, and get to the slopes before the crowd arrived.


Since Big Bear Mountain Resorts is really two indepentent areas, I'll review each separately. We'll start with the one I spent more time at.


Snow Summit Mountain Resort


Snow Summit is probably my favorite Southern California ski area because it has a variety of terrain and is a decent size. The ski area boundary encompasses 240 acres of terrain, serviced by 14 lifts (2 High-Speed Quads, 2 Fixed-Grip Quads, 2 Triples, 5 Doubles, and 3 Surface Lifts). These allow access to a mountain with 1200 ft of vertical and terrain suitable for anyone from beginner to expert skill level. The ski area's longest run is 6,600 feet, which is a bit on the long side for a ski area of this size, but I'm not complaining.


Snow Summit has a complex layout, but I'm going to try to describe it without a map. There are five lifts out of the base area. The ski area's two Garaventa CTEC high-speed quads, East Mountain Express (Chair #1) and All Mountain Express (Chair #2) both run base to summit. They both are roughly parallel, and have the same statistics (5300 ft long, 1100 ft vertical). They both allow access to the same terrain, although the East Mountain Express does not allow skiers to get to the rightmost lift on the mountain (Chair #9). Anyone from a skilled beginner to an expert can find a way down from the top of these lifts. Running between them is Chair #11, an old slow Hall double. This lift runs approximately three-quarters of the way up the hill, and only allows skiers to access the base area or Chair #3. It also does not access any expert terrain. I have never been when this lift was operating, but I believe the ski area still uses it occasionally on peak holiday weekends.


On the left side at the base of the mountain is the beginner's area. This area is serviced by both of Snow Summit's fixed-grip quads (Chair #4 and Chair #8) and the three surface lifts. The two chairs in this area are very short (approximately 600 ft with about 100 ft vertical) and are not good for anyone except an absolute beginner. The surface lifts are all of the moving carpet variety and provide an alterate method of transport up the hill. This area is almost always insanely crowded, and since I am not an absolute beginner I rarely ever go in here. Fortunately for beginners, it is somewhat isolated from the rest of the ski area and doesn't have more advanced skiers zipping through at high speeds.


Describing the placement of the other chairs gets a little more complex. To start with, there are three summit areas at the ski area. The East Mountain Express ends at the middle summit, and the All Mountain Express ends at the right summit which is the true summit of the ski area. This is also where two other lifts end. Chair #3 is an old slow double chair that is located to the right of the All Mountain Express. It services the terrain park area of the mountain. All trails off this lift are rated either intermediate or advanced. Chair #9 is even further to the right, and is the rightmost chair on the mountain. This lift is a CTEC triple chair, 2400 ft long with 500 ft of vertical. It services mostly intermediate terrain, although some of the runs in this area are more appropriate for a skilled beginner. The only way to access this lift is to get to the right summit and ski down from there. The left summit also has two chairs, both of which start mid-mountain. Chair #6 is the one on the right, and Chair #7 is on the left. Chair #7 services exclusively intermediate terrain, while Chair #6 has intermediate through expert terrain. Both of these lifts are old slow doubles.


This leaves two lifts, Chairs #5 and #10. Chair #5 starts right above the beginner area and goes to a point about halfway up Chair #7. From here it is possible to access Chair #6, but only by a cat track. Chair #5 services advanced and expert terrain (no intermediate trails here), and is the last of the five old slow doubles. Chair #10, a 2700 ft CTEC triple with 700 ft of vertical, ends at about the same location as Chair #5. This lift begins in the trees to the left of the beginner area and services intermediate and advanced terrain.


If you put this all together, you will have a rough idea of the layout of the mountain. Keep in mind that left and right are used as if you were standing at the base looking up the hill, not at the top looking down.


Snow Summit is a very fun ski area. Skiers and boarders of all ability levels can enjoy it, and they need not stick to one part of the mountain. Other than being small enough that it gets crowded on peak weekends (especially the beginner area and high speed chairs) there aren't too many negatives to Snow Summit. It is semi-expensive, but compared to other areas isn't really overpriced. If you are ever planning a ski trip in Southern California and have no idea which ski area to go to, this is the one I would recommend.


Now, time for some pictures. I will add Bear Mountain in the next couple days, and will have Mammoth up next week.


First, I think it is a good idea to show the participants. They are the same for this entire thread. Here I am.


There is my brother (left) and my dad (right). My dad always accompanies me when I go skiing (or rather, I accompany him), but my brother only comes along on day trips. Yes, my dad is skiing in shorts. It was over 50 degrees for most of this day.


Here's the view from the ski area. This was taken from Chair #3, and that lake is Big Bear Lake.


Looking toward the summit on Chair #3.


Unlike some lifts, Chair #3 does not run right over a ski trail. This means to the left you get this view.


To the right, you see this. (note: that's Chair #9 a short distance away)


I didn't take that many pictures at Snow Summit, so this is the other area I have pictures of. This is Chair #6. The run below it is called the Wall, and is the steepest trail at the ski area.


Dicky's, an advanced run. Even though it is only a single black instead of double (like the Wall), I personally think this run is more challenging.


I don't know what this run is called, but it is probably the easiest way down to Chair #6. It was the only closed run when I visited (not enough snow).


Finally, a shot of Olympic. This is just the upper part. The lower part is significantly steeper.

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I am behind on this thread. Since I'm leaving for Utah on Saturday, Mammoth will have to wait until I get back. For now, however...


Bear Mountain Resort


While I really like Snow Summit, I am not much of a fan of Bear Mountain. They say that they are 748 acres, but this includes the entire permit area. The developed section is probably no more than 200 acres, and the rest is in three undeveloped canyons located right in the middle of the ski area. They have 1,665 ft of vertical, but it takes two lifts to access this. The most vertical you can get off one lift ride is 1300 ft. They have 12 lifts (2 High-Speed Quads, 1 Fixed-Grip Quad, 2 Triples, 4 Doubles, and 3 Surface Lifts) but it is rare to visit the ski area on a day that all of these are operating (I've only been twice when they were all running). This leads to large crowds, particularly on the main high speed chair, Bear Mountain Express, and the Access Express, which is required to access another lift servicing expert terrain (Access Express itself doesn't service anything above intermediate). Their longest run is much longer than the longest run at Snow Summit at 10,500 ft, but it isn't as challenging.


All of these are reasons I'm not a fan of Bear Mountain, but I have left out the biggest reason...the ski area is a whole mountain terrain park. For those not in the know, a terrain park is the ski area equivalent of a skate park. Bear Mountain advertises the ski area as "The Park" and rarely says anything about the few runs that aren't terrain park runs anymore. Plus, being a terrain park, there are a ton of snowboarders. I don't mind snowboarders in general, but I get unnerved when they go speeding past me on semi-narrow trails, probably due to the fact that my one skiing injury to date was due to a collision with a snowboarder (it was the boarder's fault and the injury was just a chipped tooth).


Anyway, enough about snowboarders. Bear Mountain has a much simpler layout than Snow Summit. Looking up the hill from the base area, you have the following (from left to right): The beginner area with the three surface lifts and Chair #7, a 500 ft triple chair on almost flat terrain; Access Express (Chair #6), a 3600 ft long high-speed quad with 500 ft of vertical that accesses intermediate terrain (although a skilled beginner could tackle most of it); Chair #2, an old double chair (2800 ft long, 500 ft vertical) that accesses intermediate terrain (once again, skilled beginners could handle it); Chair #5, the 1600 ft long, 400 ft vertical fixed-grip quad accessing nothing other than a couple of intermediate runs; Chair #1, an ancient double that accesses both intermediate and advanced terrain; and Bear Mountain Express (Chair #9), the ski area's main lift, a high speed quad, 5600 ft long with 1300 ft of vertical, which accesses intermediate, advanced, and expert terrain and is the only way to the top of Goldmine Mountain. These lifts form a rough V, with Chairs #6 and #7 going one way and the rest going the other.


There are three lifts that start mid-mountain as well, and each one goes to a different one of the ski area's four peaks. Chair #3, another old double, is located to the extreme right of the ski area. It starts a little way up the hill from the base area and ascends to the summit of Showdown Mountain, the lowest peak. This lift rarely runs, but accesses good intermediate and advanced terrain when it is open. Chair #4 is an ancient Hall double that begins at the top of Chair #2 and ascends to the top of Silver Mountain. This 3000 ft long, 900 ft vertical lift only accesses a couple trails, but they are of advanced or expert difficulty. This is probably my favorite lift on the mountain. Finally, Chair #8 is a triple chair that begins at the top of the Access Express and extends all the way to the summit of Bear Peak, the highest lift-serviced peak in Southern California. There is only one way down from here, and it is rated double-black diamond.


From the description, Bear Mountain sounds like a pretty good ski area. However, it isn't really that great because there are only a few good runs. Most of these are off of Chairs #4 and #8. There are also a few good runs off the Bear Mountain Express, but these are long and tiring. Most of the other runs, especially in the Chair #5 area, are really short. This is the reason why, while I go here almost every time I visit Snow Summit, I would never spend a day at just Bear Mountain (tried it once and was bored by 1 P.M.). On a normal trip to Big Bear, I usually ski for about 4 hours total at Snow Summit, with about 3 hours of skiing at Bear Mountain in the middle of the day. Bear Mountain isn't bad, it just isn't anything special.


Here are the pictures. I took more than I did at Snow Summit, but there still aren't a ton.


Here's Bear Mountain. On the left is Chair #1 and on the right is the Bear Mountain Express.


This chair isn't empty because nobody likes it. It is empty because it is closed.


Chair #3, the other lift that was closed today.


We decided to head over to Chair #4 first.


This lift ascends between two of the canyons. To the right is Goldmine Canyon.


To the left is Deer Canyon.


Chair #8 is located on the far side of Deer Canyon. More on that later.


A view down Exhibition. This is the "easy way down" from Chair #4, but it is still an advanced run.


This lift looks like it hasn't been run in a while.


Now for Chair #8. It ascends up the side of Geronimo, the most challenging trail at Bear Mountain.


Once you reach the top of the lower slope, you realize that the chair still has some distance to go.


Bow Canyon is to the left of Chair #8. This is the canyon that is open the least often.


This is a great perk. There aren't that many places where you can ski two resorts in one day without a special ticket.


Bear Mountain used to advertise this fact extensively. They don't seem to do so anymore. Even though it may be the highest lift serviced peak in Southern California, I've been skiing at places where the base area is higher.


At the top. This lift has a larger than average unloading ramp.


You get a pretty good view from the top of the chair.


Big Bear Lake.


This is the beginner area of Bear Mountain. Yes, it is just as flat as it looks.


Time to head down. It's a long drop.


Almost down. This ended up being the last picture I took that day because my battery died.

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If you can, go this weekend or next. After that, the snow starts to really suck (March usually is ok, but not great). Or, if you can take a weekend, head up to Mammoth. I've been skiing there as late as Memorial Day Weekend and the snow wasn't too bad if you stayed on the upper mountain (chairs 3, 5, 23, and the gondola).

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Very nice! I have a cabin about 3 to 4 hundred feet from snow summit, so I go there and bear all the time. Also, I, as a snowboarder, prefer bear mountain. I am not even a trick sort of person as I don't have the guts to fling myself at high speeds into the air, but I love the little jumps and fun boxes and stuff like that. I feel like in general snow summit is just more crowded on the good runs due to the large amount of skiers, and the only place to ride that is somewhat quiet are the harder runs like The Wall and Olympic, which I can do when they are mogul free, but moguls are very hard on a snowboard. However, at Bear I feel as the good ski runs such as Exhibition and Geronimo are almost always dead, and are the best runs at either resort. Also, bear is somewhat my nemesis as The Wedge(or maybe its the gultch?) is the only run I have not tried as its very moguley and very steep, and it drives me crazy, cause I want to try it, but I heard its crazy hard.

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Haven't been up to Bear Mountain in a longggg time, but Summit is a usual for me. Haven't skied as much as I would have liked this season unfortunately. Glad to see that there are skiers who also love theme parks like me out there!

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I've only been to Bear this season, I guess I prefer it because I'm a boarder and love doing park stuff even though I'm not super good at it. All of the double blacks at Bear are super rad also, love shredding down those things. I'm going to Mammoth for the first time in mid-April so I'm stoked!

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I'm glad people are enjoying this thread. I figured there'd be some others out there who do something different than theme parks, especially in the off-season. It's a little too late this year, but maybe next winter we should try to organize a ski day at Bear Mountain/Snow Summit, or another So Cal area where we can all meet up. Just a possible idea that may or may not become a reality.


Now, time for an update. Since the ski season usually runs until around Easter, I am setting that as the date I want to have all updates finished by.


February 25th-27th, 2011: Mammoth Mountain


Out of all the ski areas I have been to, Mammoth Mountain is the one I visit the most often. It is where I learned to ski, and where my dad learned to ski. Since the 1997-1998 ski season, I have spent at least one weekend here all but two winters. I used to commonly frequent this ski area over three day weekends and longer breaks. Now, however, due to my more restrictive schedule and my dad's lower number of vacation days, most of my trips are weekend trips. Each time I go, I enjoy Mammoth just as much as I always do. Even though I have been to a number of high ranking ski areas in Lake Tahoe (and recently in Utah), Mammoth Mountain is still my favorite.


On this trip, we were able to leave mid-afternoon on Friday, February 25th, because my dad got off work early. This allowed us to avoid the rush hour traffic common on the 91 and 15 freeways, and although we hit some, it wasn't that bad. Once we got on highway 395, it was smooth sailing. We stopped at a small roadside restaurant called the Ranch House Cafe for dinner (I recommend this place), then continued on toward Mammoth. As we were driving along the road between Independence and Big Pine, it began snowing. This is much lower than it usually snows, although I've heard that some years Owens Valley is covered with it. After passing through Bishop, we encountered chain patrol. Either chains or four-wheel drive with snow tires were required. Fortunately, since my dad's Subaru Outback has all-wheel drive, we didn't need to install chains and were able to proceed up the mountain without further delay.


Due to the snow on the ground, it was difficult to see lane markers on the road. This meant that most people simply lined up behind the snowplow. A few people, however, decided to take a shortcut and passed everyone by going up the wrong side of the road. My dad and I were shocked at the stupidity of these people, and it ended up costing them when the first car along in that direction was a CHP officer. He pulled them all over and started handing out tickets. Other than this incident, there was little to report on the drive up, and we arrived at our hotel in Mammoth Lakes, the Alpenhof Lodge, at around 10 P.M.


The next day, we got up in the morning expecting it to be storming. Instead, it was sunny. As quickly as we could, we got dressed, grabbed donuts, and headed over to the Village to catch the gondola up to the ski area. We spent the morning skiing in the Canyon Lodge area, then stopped for an early lunch. After lunch, it began to snow, so we headed over to the Eagle Lodge area, then made our way over toward the McCoy Station. After a short break there, we began to head back toward the Canyon Lodge.


After skiing, we headed back to the hotel and sat in the indoor hot tub for a bit. I hadn't been in this particular tub before, and we quickly discovered that the jets made it into a mini wave pool. You had to half-stand in order to avoid being splashed in the face by the water. Once we were done here, we showered, then headed to Burgers for dinner. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Mammoth Lakes, and is another one that has been there a long time. If you like hamburgers, you'll like it. Otherwise, it may not be the place for you, but they do have some other stuff. Just be sure to go early, as it is somewhat small and very popular. After our dinner, we went over and walked around the Village for a bit, then headed back to the hotel.


On Sunday, we got up and packed up the car, checked out of the hotel, then headed for the slopes. On this day, it was sunny and overall nice weather. We skied all over the mountain, ending up at the McCoy Station for lunch, and finishing at about three. We then headed back to the car, got changed, and began the drive home. We stopped for dinner at a Wendy's right next to the 15 freeway in Hesperia, and made it home by about 10 P.M.


Okay, there is a summary of the trip. Here is the review of the actual ski area. I'm trying a new format that I plan to use for my reports from the Cottonwood Canyons ski areas, so I hope it works like I plan it to.


Mammoth Mountain


Mammoth Mountain is a large ski area, and the statistics show it. The ski area covers 3,500 acres, which is big, even for a ski area. In terms of an amusement park, this is almost ten times the size of Cedar Point. In addition, Mammoth Mountain has a vertical drop of 3,100 ft, although it is rare that you will ski this all in one run. There are a variety of trails on the mountain. The ski resort's 150 trails are split into six different difficulty categories: first-timer, beginner, lower intermediate, upper intermediate, advanced, and expert. To give a comparison, an expert trail at Big Bear would be comparable to an upper intermediate trail at Mammoth, so some of these runs are quite difficult. The longest trail at Mammoth is about three miles long (precisely, 15,840 ft), and descends all the way from the 11,053 ft peak to the base area.


How are these trails accessed? Well, Mammoth Mountain has the best rated lift system in the United States. Twenty-Eight lifts, composed of 3 gondolas, 2 high-speed six-packs, 9 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 7triples, 3 doubles, and 3 platters service this vast expanse of terrain. All together, these lifts can transport 50,000 people per hour up the hill. Now, with this many lifts, the ski area has a very complex layout. I am not even going to describe it in words. Instead, I will post a trail map.



2009-2010 Trail Map. All maps I post in here will be borrowed from skimap.org.


Big, isn't it? When people first visit this ski area, they are often confused, as the lifts are not named, but simply numbered in the order they were originally built. To help with discussing this ski area, I usually divide it into five sections. These are shown in the modified map below. Each area will be discussed in detail.



Refer to this to see what area of the mountain I am discussing.


Main Lodge


The main lodge area of the mountain is the original ski area. Back when Dave McCoy drew the original plans for the ski area, he took a picture of this region of the mountain and drew three lines on it. These lines became Chairs #1, 2, and 3. They were all originally old double chairs, but today they are high-speed quads. Chair #1-Broadway Express was the first high speed chair installed at Mammoth, opening in 1988, and is one of the few remaining Lift Engineering high speed chairs. This 3,200 ft lift with 900 ft of vertical provides access to a lot of good intermediate terrain, and rarely has that much of a line after the first hour or so of operation. Chair #2-Stump Alley Express, a 4500 ft long, 1000 ft vertical Doppelmayr high-speed quad that opened in 1997, accesses the same terrain as Broadway Express, but starts down at the Mill Cafe. In the morning, this is the best place to start your day if you drive up to the ski area. Beware, however, that Stump Alley Express is Mammoth's most popular high-speed chair. As Chair #3 is part of the upper mountain, it will be discussed there.


The Main Lodge itself has two other lifts that can be accessed immediately, both of which are Doppelmayr high-speed quads. Chair #6-Thunder Bound Express is 2600 ft long with 600 ft of vertical and opened in 1997 as well. It replaced an old T-bar, and primarily serves to access the terrain park in the Main Lodge area. In the morning, it also provides an alternate way to access the rest of the ski area, although the upper mountain can't be reached. Although it is numbered Chair #6, it is about twice the length of the original chair #6. The other chair directly out of here is Chair #11-Discovery Chair, which is the beginner chair in the Main Lodge area. This lift is only 1800 ft long with 500 ft of vertical, so it is a bit too short to be worth it, even for a beginner chair. It replaced two parallel doubles, Chairs #11 and 27, in 2009.


In addition to these chairs, the Main Lodge is also the location of the Lower Panorama Gondola, an 8-person Doppelmayr Gondola that replaced the original 6-person gondola. The lower stage is 3800 ft long with 700 ft of vertical, and was installed in 1999.


In addition to Stump Alley Express, the Mill Cafe base area has two other lifts that can be accessed directly from the parking lot. Chair #10-Goldrush Express is a 1998 Doppelmayr high-speed quad. The lift is 5700 ft long with 1100 ft of vertical, and is one of my favorite chairs in the Main Lodge area. The lift provides access to intermediate and advanced terrain, and is one of the longest chairs on the mountain. It is longer than the original Chair #10 double, which only ran to about the top of Roller Coaster Express. The other chair in this area, Chair #21, is a 1980 Lift Engineering triple chair, 2700 ft long with 400 ft of vertical. This lift was installed primarily as an alternate to Chair #10, as it is less exposed when it is windy. Although it looks close to the lodge on the map, this lift is actually a short walk uphill from the building.


There are two lifts in the main lodge area that require other lift rides to access. Chair #5 is another Lift Engineering triple, and is the other Main Lodge chair that I really like. You need to be a strong intermediate to ski this lift, and although most of the runs off this lift are rated advanced, Face of Five is one of the best test trails to determine if you are ready to ski Mammoth's black diamonds. If you can handle this, you should be able to handle anything that is rated as a single black, provided that it is groomed. The other lift that requires a ride to access it is Chair #12, a 1972 Lift Engineering double. This chair is 3000 ft long with 700 ft of vertical, and is one of the oldest operating lifts on the mountain. It accesses a great intermediate area that has a relatively low amount of traffic, so there aren't many others to worry about.


Canyon Lodge


Unless it is closed, the Canyon Lodge is usually where I start my day. Up until the early 2000's, this was a very empty base area. Now, due to the Village Gondola it is the most popular. This gondola, installed in 2002, runs from the Village at Mammoth to the Canyon Lodge in just over 4 minutes. It is a Doppelmayr CTEC product, 5100 ft long with 200 ft of vertical. Although Mammoth claims that the cabins hold 15, 12 is a much more accurate capacity. There are eight seats inside each cabin, and enough standing room for four people and their equipment.


The Canyon Lodge itself has a number of chairs that ascend out of it. From left to right, they are Chair #8, Chair #16-Canyon Express, Chair #17-Schoolyard Express, and Chair #7. Chair #8 is a Lift Engineering triple, and is one of my favorite chairs on the mountain. It usually doesn't have that much of a line, and accesses a large variety of terrain. The lift was a double when I first started skiing, but has been upgraded to a triple to deal with the morning crowds. Canyon Express is the most crowded lift here, but is another lift I like. This Lift Engineering high-speed quad, installed in 1994, ascends 1200 ft over its 5600 ft length. From here, it is possible to ski directly to over half of the mountain's chairs. For upper intermediates, this is an excellent area to ski, as there are numerous ways down. Schoolyard Express is one of the mountain's newest chairs, installed by Doppelmayr CTEC in 2004. The lift is 3100 ft long with 500 ft of vertical, and is the best beginner chair on the mountain. By the second day of ski school, most are capable fo skiing down from this lift. Chair #7 is another beginner chair that has fallen into disuse as it doesn't access any unique terrain and requires a long push across a flat area in order to reach it.


The Canyon Lodge is also home to two of the ski area's platters, Poma and Heimo's Express. Both of these are good for ski school, but at only about 600 ft long they aren't good for anything else. According to my dad, they've been around since the mid-70s, and they both appear to have been built by Lift Engineering. As a side bit of information, a Platter is fixed grip while a Poma is detachable, but both involve putting a stick between your legs and a disc under your behind. Even though one of these is called Poma and the other is an express lift, both are indeed platters.


In addition to the Canyon Lodge, there is also a ticket booth at the bottom of Chair #4-Roller Coaster Express. This is a 1998 Dopplemayr high-speed quad, 3700 ft long with 800 ft of vertical. It is an outstanding lift for upper intermediates, and is probably the favorite lift of many coaster enthusiasts purely because of its name. It is not, however, a credit (not a coaster credit at least, but a ski lift credit, if you count such things). Next to this lift is Chair #20, which is very similar to Chair #21, but is about 200 ft shorter. This lift is a backup lift for Roller Coaster Express, and almost never operates. I have only ever see it run on holiday weekends, so if you are a chairlift credit whore (like me), you will need to brave the crowds at least once to get this one.


The only chair in this area that can't be accessed from a parking lot is Chair #22 a 1982 Lift Engineering triple. The chair is 3600 ft long with 1400 ft of vertical, and services almost exclusively expert terrain. This is one of my favorite lifts because of the ride, but the only trail I've ever skied off it is Relief.


Eagle Lodge


The Eagle Lodge has only one way up: Chair #15-Eagle Express. This 2000 Doppelmayr high-speed six-pack replaced two separate parallel chairs, Chairs #15 and #24. Chair #15 was a double, while Chair #24 was a fixed grip quad. The Eagle Express is 5300 ft long, but with only 900 ft of vertical, it is suitable for second-day beginners and low intermediates.


From the top of Eagle Express, the other two Eagle Logde chairs can be accessed. Chair #9-Cloud Nine Express is the newest lift on the mountain. This 2007 Doppelmayr CTEC high-speed six-pack is 5300 ft long with 1600 ft of vertical, and replaced an old, slow double chair. It is popular during the springtime as it has some excellent spring skiing, but other than that the lift doesn't see too much traffic. It is a six-pack primarily so it can operate in stronger winds. The other chair here is Chair #25 a 1985 Lift Engineering fixed-grip quad with 1100 ft of vertical and a slope length of 4300 ft, is my favorite chair on the Eagle Lodge side of the mountain. The only negative is that this chair is LONG. The ride is almost 10 minutes, and when there is wind or snow, the chair is a miserable ride.


Upper Mountain


The Upper Mountain is the section of Mammoth with the most challenging lift-serviced terrain in California. Although this area is large, it is serviced by only three relatively short lifts. Chair #3-Face Lift Express is the shortest of these three. It is a 1997 Doppelmayr high-speed quad with a length of only 2500 ft, but a vertical rise of 900 ft. It replaced a double chair, just as almost every high-speed chair on the mountain did, and has a unique feature at the top terminal: 90 degree unloading. When the chair decelerates, you do not unload. Instead, the chair makes a turn, and then skiers disembark. This turn is particularly fun if you are on the end of the chair, as you swing around it.


Chair #23 is the other chairlift up here. It is a 1982 Lift Engineering triple, and is a very steep lift. Although it is only 2700 ft long, this lift ascends 1100 ft. Due to the wind on the top of the mountain, this chair ends inside of a building. It is the most popular lift for skiers of Cornice Bowl, and is also the only way to access the challenging Dropout and Wipeout Chutes.


The Upper Panorama Gondola begins inside the McCoy Station and ascends 1400 ft to the summit of the ski area. Although officially labeled as a separate lift, this gondola is physically connected to the Lower Panorama Gondola. It is longer than the lower leg, at 4400 ft, and was installed the year before, but is the same type of lift system. Skiers can board and disembark at any station along the route. Due to the hassle involved in riding a gondola and the lack of any trails from the summit I like to ski, I rarely use this lift.


The Backside


The backside of Mammoth only has two chairs, and they are both old, slow Lift Engineering doubles. Built the same year as Chair #12, these two lifts are labeled Chair #13 and Chair #14. Chair #13 is 2200 ft long with 400 ft of vertical, and is the best chair on the mountain for lower intermediates due to it's relatively low crowd level. Chair #14 is 3300 ft long with 1000 ft of vertical, and is a fun lift as well. I rarely ski on the backside because of the difficulty of accessing it, but have found it to be a fun and relatively uncrowded part of the ski resort.


Retired Chairs


Looking at the map, you may notice that several chair numbers have been retired. The chairs #24 and 27 were already adressed, but here are the others. Chair #18 was a triple chair that started about where Chair #21 is now and ended where Stump Alley Express currently does (the original Chair #2 only went about as high as Thunder Bound Express). Chair 19 started near the top of Discovery Chair and ended near the top of Chair #23. It was a double chair. Finally, Chair #26 was a fixed-grip quad that paralleled Broadway Express but ended at Powder Bowl. This lift almost never ran, and was removed relatively recently after being dormant for years.


Mammoth is a large mountain, and can keep most people busy for quite some time. It really takes 3-4 days to see the whole mountain. It is a little overpriced, at least in my opinion (2010-2011 one day ticket: $92) but it is a great mountain.


Here are the pictures I took. It should be somewhat easy to tell when each one was taken because it was cloudy on Saturday and sunny on Sunday. They are not posted in order.


This is pretty much what it looked like driving up. I think I took this picture just before we reached Big Pine.


The Alpenhof Lodge. We've stayed here a few times.


If you aren't looking for anything too fancy and are just here to ski, this is probably one of the best places to stay.


For those of you who like to drink following a day on the slopes, this is where you'll want to go.


You get a good view from here, but the view is not the main reason to stay at the Alpenhof.


The lodge is right across the street from the Village, and only costs about half as much as the Village hotels do.


In the morning, you just walk right over there and get on the gondola. It's the easiest way to start your day.


Okay, we'll start the tour of the ski area with Chair #8.


I was trying to take a picture of the base area, but unfortunately it was a little too foggy.


There's a view of Cloverleaf, which functions somewhat like a funnel. Almost everyone going to the Canyon Lodge that is not a beginner skis down here.


Chair #22 ascends Lincoln Mountain. At some parts, this lift is really steep.


The top of Chair #22.


Shaft. This is a very steep run, just like everything else on the front of Lincoln Mountain. You have to be an expert in order to ski this terrain.


A view down toward the Canyon Lodge from Chair #22.


Cloud Nine Express, the newest chair on the mountain.


The Mill Cafe.


This is a nice little place to stop for a rest. However, it is small and can get crowded, especially on weekends.


Once you are down here, you have two options out. Gold Rush Express...


...Takes you back over toward Lincoln Mountain and the Canyon Lodge area.


Your other option ascends this slope.


It is Stump Alley Express. If you aren't familiar with Mammoth's terrain, it is a good idea to check the names of all the chairs as the terminals look identical on many of them.


A third option does exist if you are okay with a short hike. This is Chair #21.


Most of this chair's vertical rise occurs on this slope. The lift is almost completely flat before this section.


A view of some of the more advanced terrain in this area.


This is right where Chair #18 used to run. It was retired when Stump Alley Express opened as it was deemed no longer necessary.


This is the view up the hill from the McCoy Station.


See what I mean by all the terminals looking similar.


That hill is where the original Chair #1, which opened in 1955, ended.


Today, Broadway Express has replaced that lift.


There are two ways to reach the top of the mountain. One is the gondola, and the other is Chair #23.


Cornice Bowl is the most popular way down from the top of the mountain.


However, going right from Chair #23 can also lead to some fun terrain, such as this.


Now for the three remaining doubles. This is the base of Chair #12. Unlike most modern lifts, this chair does not load at the bullwheel.


Chair #13. This is a good intermediate lift.


Chair #14. This is the most crowded of the three, and I'm guessing it will probably be upgraded soon. Chair #12 could also use an upgrade, but not as much as Chair #14.


Hemlock Ridge, the only hike terrain inside Mammoth's boundaries.


Finally, a shot of the Minarets. They can be seen best from the backside and upper mountain.

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March 12th-16th, 2011: Cottonwood Canyons Trip


Up until this year, I had never been skiing anywhere outside of California. This year, I got to visit Utah for the first time. My dad and I planned a trip for the first part of my spring break to the Cottonwood Canyons in Utah. Over four days, we skied at Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude. All four of these ski areas were great, and with the exception of Mammoth and a couple other California areas (in Tahoe), they were better than anything out in California. Due to the size of each ski area, I will be breaking this report up into three parts.


March 12th, 2011: Travel Day


Just as when we went to Brian Head, we got up at 6 A.M., got dressed, loaded the car, and took off. We drove out to Baker, where we stopped at the same Ihop for breakfast. We then headed onward, past Buffalo Bill's, past the Las Vegas strip, past...wait. We exited the freeway at Sahara Avenue, drove over to the Sahara hotel, parked, got out, and went inside. Why?


About two days before we left, I saw the news article posted that Speed-The Ride was closing in May, most likely for good. I had told my dad about this the night before, but told him that I had already been on the ride. What I forgot was that he hadn't. Since the Sahara is one of the easiest Vegas hotels to get to, and we had plenty of extra time, we decided to make a slight detour. We went to the Nascar Cafe, got our tickets, and boarded the ride.


Now, for the one roller coaster related review in this report.


Speed-The Ride-I really like Speed. The ride may be short, and it may cost $10, but it is really good. The initial launch and loop aren't all that exciting, but then the ride really kicks it up with a surprise second launch. I knew it was there and it still caught me off guard. In addition, the vertical spike is second only to the new Superman: Escape From Krypton in terms of reverse points. Finally, Speed is very smooth, and has a much more interesting layout than most shuttle coasters. It is the type of ride that I would probably be willing to wait an hour for at any amusement park, provided the dispatch times were more like once every couple minutes instead of once every 15. In conclusion, Speed is great, and if anyone has the opportunity to ride it before it closes (aka you are in Vegas for some other reason), don't pass it up. I'd rather spend $10 on Speed than $8 on Desperado, $7 on Canyon Blaster, or $16 on the Roller Coaster anyday. Also, if you have time to hang around, a day pass is only $15, so you can get several rides in for a good price.


After our detour, we got back on the freeway and drove to Mesquite. Here, we got gas and a light lunch, then continued on our way. We stopped for dinner at some random Carl's Jr. in Utah, then drove the rest of the way to Murray, a town about ten to fifteen minutes south of Salt Lake City. Here, we checked into our hotel (Crystal Inn Midvalley), brought luggage to the room, watched some TV, and went to bed a little before midnight.


March 13th, 2011: Brighton Ski Resort


We got up at 7 A.M. and headed down to the hotel's lobby for the hot breakfast. Since it was a Sunday, breakfast was very crowded. Here, we decided where we were going to ski that day.


Before the trip, I had figured we would do Solitude Sunday, Alta Monday, Snowbird Tuesday, and Brighton Wednesday. However, when we looked at the trail maps, we realized that although Brighton was physically smaller, they appeared to have more trails. For this reason, we decided to switch Solitude and Brighton, as on Wednesday we would only be able to ski for a maximum of about four hours. We also figured that Brighton might be less crowded.


We drove up to Brighton and found that we were able to park right at the base of the ski area. We were literally less than fifty feet from the bottom of the Crest Express chair. We went and got our tickets, explored the lodge a little bit, got dressed, then walked up to the lift and boarded the chair to begin our day.


Brighton Mountain Resort


Brighton is probably the smallest mountain I can call a large resort. At 1,050 acres, it is only slightly larger than some mid-size ski areas. It is the smallest of the four ski areas we visited on this trip, but that doesn't mean it's the worst or it's boring. The mountain has 1,875 ft of vertical, much more than any of the So Cal ski areas. It also has 66 trails, the longest of which is 15,840 ft. These trails are serviced by 7 lifts (5 quads, 1 triple, and 1 carpet). Brighton also holds two claims in the ski industry: it has the largest night skiing area in the United States, and it is the only ski area in the US to be 100 accessable by high-speed detachable quad chairs.


Although the mountain has a relatively simple layout, I think it would be better for me to post a trail map below.



This trail map is a bit outdated (2007-2008 season) but there have been no significant changes to the ski area since that season. Map from skimap.org.


As you can see, the mountain is naturally divided into two sub-areas: Majestic and Millicent.


Majestic side


The Majestic side of Brighton is where I spent most of my day. The area is serviced by five different chairs. Crest Express is the one of these chairs that I liked the best. It is the oldest chair on the mountain, a 1991 Doppelmayr high-speed quad, but that doesn't make it a bad lift. The chair is 5700 ft long with a 1100 ft rise along its length, and from here a number of good intermediate and advanced trails can be accessed. The lower section of this area is also serviced by the Majestic chair. I tried to avoid this lift when I could, as it is a fixed-grip quad and runs slow, but I ended up riding it at two different points during the day. Also out of the base area is the Explorer chair, but at only 800 ft long with 100 ft of vertical, this 1992 CTEC triple is nothing but a beginner lift.


Although it is not obvious from the map, the Great Western Express can also be accessed directly from the base area via a traverse across a flat area. The Great Western Express is a 1992 CTEC high-speed quad, 6600 ft long with 1700 ft of vertical. This is the longest chair at the ski area and is the only one that allows access to true expert terrain without hiking. For intermediate and advanced skiers, there are also other ways down. Due to the length of this lift, I only rode it a couple times. It is a good lift, but in my opinion the runs are a little too long and can tire you out pretty good. Maybe I would have gotten a different experience if I had gone over here earlier in the day.


The only chair that is not directly accessable from the base area at Brighton is the Snake Creek Express. This 2001 Garaventa CTEC high-speed quad is 4600 ft long with 900 ft of vertical. Although most of this lift is not too steep, the top is where most of the vertical is gained. This was a fun lift to ski, but it got crowded in the afternoon. In the morning, however, there was untracked powder on Pioneer and Ziggy as a result of a few inches of snow the day before. This was great, and meant we spent a while here before moving on.


Millicent side


The base of the Millicent side of the mountain is located across the parking lot from the base of the Majestic side. There is a trail between them, but beginner skiers cannot use it. This is probably a good thing as Millicent is significantly steeper than Majestic, and even though there is one green trail, the upper part is just as steep as some of Majestic's blues.


Millicent is serviced by only one chair, Milly Express. This lift is a 2007 Doppelmayr CTEC high-speed quad, and is the newest lift on the mountain. Although it is only 3700 ft long, the lift rises 1100 ft during that length. This results in some expert terrain, some advanced terrain, and some intermediate terrain that would be considered advanced if it wasn't groomed. Even though there is only one lift on this side of the ski area, it doesn't get crowded enough to have much of a line. We did a few runs over here in the morning and, after deciding the Majestic side was better, returned there for the remainder of the day.


Overall Thoughts


I really liked Brighton. It's not my favorite ski area, and was probably my least favorite of the four we tried, but it was still a lot of fun. I can't think of a significant negative, and would definitely ski here again. It is probably the best of the four Cottonwood ski areas for intermediates, as they can ski plenty off any lift. Also, any of the black diamonds that are groomed here could probably be tackled by a strong intermediate. There are some challenging trails, but they require hiking (mostly from the Milly chair).


Best Bet for Beginners: Lost Maid and Mary Back off Majestic Chair

Best Bet for Intermediates: Any blue runs on Great Western or Milly lifts

Best Bet for Advanced: Great Western Express


Apres Ski


After skiing, we went down to the hotel and went swimming in the indoor pool. This was followed by a sit in the hot tub. Once we were done here, we decided to drive up to Park City and check it out. At one point, we had considered adding on a day to ski here, and we have also discussed it as a possibility for our next ski trip, but after seeing how crowded the area was, I doubt will be doing that. The town of Park City was very crowded and congested, and although the historic main street may have some old buildings most of the shops and restaurants seemed fairly modern. We decided that unless you could stay right next to the town chair it would probably be more hassle than it is worth. That being said, if TPR ever does an official winter trip to this area, I'd strongly consider going provided that it would include at least two or three days of skiing. Nevertheless, it was nice to see Park City ski area (from the parking lot), Deer Valley and the Canyons (from a distance), and Olympic Park (from the entrance road).


After finishing in Park City, we drove down the mountain and went to a random Wendy's for dinner. For whatever reason, they are all over Utah. After dinner, we went and drove around downtown Salt Lake City. We went past the Capitol building, the Mormon temple, and the Energy Solutions Arena, as well as down a few other random streets, then got back on the freeway and headed back to the hotel for the night.




This place looks familiar.


Time for a little detour. Let's go get a farewell ride on Speed.


This is the best coaster in Las Vegas, at least for a few more months.


For those who don't know much about Speed, it is a LIM Shuttle Loop Coaster. The ride launches out of the building, then goes around a turn and dives under ground.


The ride emerges into this weird vertical loop, the ride's only inversion. It then launches again, goes around a couple turns...


And ascends this spike. You then do the entire thing in reverse. I enjoyed my final ride on Speed, and it is sad to see it go.


Onward. Most of the drive through Utah looked something like this.


The Wasatch Mountains. This must mean we are getting close.


At this point, we were only a little over an hour from our hotel.


The next day, it was time to go skiing. This is the view from our car. We were literally twenty feet from the base of the chairlift.


Here's the base lodge. This building only contains a restaurant, while the other building had other facilities.


Brighton is divided up into two separate sub-areas. This is the Majestic side.


And there is the Millicent side.


Between the two is Mt. Millicent.


This area features some good hike terrain, but you can't get to the top with a lift.


Let's start off our day with Crest Express.


It would be nice to own one of these houses. They were scattered all over the lower part of the ski area.


Lower Majestic, the main trail back to the base area.


The top of the Majestic chair. This lift really isn't that long and is primarily a beginner chair.


Upper Crest Express. This was my favorite lift, as well as the one we skied the most.


There's another house.


The view from the top was great.


According to a sign, you could see Sundance from here on a clear day.


Time to head over to this lift. Which one do you suppose it is?


Milly Express. That's correct.


Even though this lift is somewhat isolated, it has its own restaurant at the base. I'm guessing people with season passes probably just go right over here in the morning.


In case you've ever wondered what a Doppelmayr CTEC chair looks like, here it is. If you know who Doppelmayr CTEC is, you win bonus points.


The bottom of Milly Express. This is much steeper than any other lift on the mountain.


You get a good view of the Great Western Express from over here.


Riding up Milly Express. I put my camera away after this because it began to get a little chilly.


After we finished skiing, we drove up to Park City just to see it.


Historic Main Street. This area was quite busy.


Of course, we also went to check out the ski area.


For whatever reason, they don't use the Eagle Chair at night even though there are lights under it.


Even though this isn't a credit, I want to ride it. Unfortunately, it only ran from noon until 4 P.M., so I didn't get a chance. Maybe next time.


Olympic Park. If TPR ever does a winter trip, I hope they go here to ride the bobsled.


We then headed to downtown Salt Lake City.


I have no clue what significance this arch has, but I took a picture of it anyway.


The Capitol Building. After we got here, we headed back to the hotel as it was starting to get late.

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^I'm glad you enjoyed it. When I write reports, especially in this thread, I try to be as detailes as I can, since I know a lot of people will not get a chance to visit the places I describe. It takes a long time, but I feel that if anyone actually takes the time to read what I write, it is worth it. I love Mammoth, and I am sure you will have an excellent time there.


It now appears I may have one more day of skiing this year. Last weekend, So Cal got tons of snow at all the local mountains. If it is still good in two weeks, I may go skiing somewhere (probably Baldy or Waterman). I want to get this up to date before then, so without further ado, time for another update.


March 14th, 2011: Alta Ski Area


Just as we did the day before, we got up at 7 A.M., had breakfast, got partially dressed, then headed up to Alta. We got there and parked at the Albion Lodge before they even started selling tickets, so we had to wait around. Surprisingly, there were very few cars in the parking lot when we arrived. After we purchased tickets and got our ski equipment on, we headed over to the lift to find a significant crowd lined up for the Sunnyside Chair. Fortunately, once they opened the lift, the line moved swiftly. Within about five minutes of the first chair up, we were on the lift and headed up the mountain.


This day ended up being the only one of our four days that was relatively stormy. The mountain kept everything open, but there were areas of whiteout, a condition where it is impossible to see. At some points, visibility was about one lift tower (~400 ft). In addition, it was light snowfall for most of the afternoon. This was fun, and didn't really have a negative impact on the day. In fact, it probably kept crowds away.


Alta Ski Area


For a large ski area, Alta really doesn't look that large. On the trail map, it is hard to tell how much open space Alta really has since the whole thing isn't drawn to scale. However, the mountain is big. Alta offers 2,200 acres of terrain with a total vertical drop of 2,020 ft. On this mountain, there are 116 trails, some as long as 16,800 ft. This terrain is serviced by a relatively simple network of 11 lifts (2 High-speed quads, 3 triples, 3 doubles, and 3 surface lifts).


Another thing the trail map doesn't really depict is the style of mountain Alta is. There are marked runs all over the place, but Alta is a type of mountain known as "See it, Ski it." In other words, whatever you can see and access from a chairlift (with or without hiking), you can ski. If there is an area clearly designated as closed, then of course that is off limits. Otherwise, there are no restrictions as to where you can make your tracks.



This is a 2007-2008 map, but the ski area has not changed since then. Map from skimap.org.


As the above map shows, Alta is naturally divided into three sub-areas. On the left side of Alta is Albion Basin. This is the largest area of the resort, and features terrain suitable for all ability levels. We spent most of our time here. The right hand side of the ski resort is called Collins Gulch, and is for more advanced skiers. Although there are a few intermediate trails, they are more difficult than what can be accessed on the Albion side of the mountain. Finally, both sides are connected by an unnamed flat area. I will refer to this as the Lodge Zone, as this is where most of the on-site lodging is based.


Albion Basin


The Albion Base lodge is the less popular of the two starting points, but it is where we chose to begin our day. At this base, there are two lifts up onto the mountain. The Albion chair is 5100 ft long with 800 ft of vertical. However, it is an old Lift Engineering double from 1976 (the oldest chair on the mountain) and only runs on the most crowded days. Nearly parallel to this lift is the Sunnyside chair. This Garaventa CTEC high-speed triple is only 4700 ft long, but has the same amount of vertical as the Albion chair. The lift was added in 1999 to increase the uphill lift capacity to this side of the mountain. Both the Albion and Sunnyside chairs service the same terrain: primarily beginner, with a little intermediate. This is an excellent beginner area, possibly one of the best in Utah. In addition, it can be skied for free after 3 P.M. for those who only want to ski for a couple hours.


At the top of the Albion and Sunnyside chairs is Alf's Restaurant, a mid-mountain dining location. From here, there are two additional lifts that can be accessed. The Cecret chair is another old double from 1981 that is 2600 ft. long with 300 ft. of vertical. Just like the Albion and Sunnyside chairs, this lift accesses beginner terrain. It is also free to ski, although unofficially. While most chairs have gates that scan your ticket and bar access if it can't be read, they were not installed on this chair. For intermediate and advanced skiers, the Sugarloaf high-speed quad provides plenty of terrain. At 5000 ft long with 1300 ft of vertical, this chair accesses some excellent terrain and was one of my favorite lifts.


There is one more lift on the Albion side of the mountain. In the far right, accessable by either the Cecret or Sugarloaf chairs, lies the Supreme chair. This triple chair is not for beginners, and was one of my favorite areas to ski as well. Not only is the ride up great, but the terrain is excellent. There are intermediate trails down for the less skilled, but there are also black diamonds that are skiable by competent skiers, as well as an entire area devoted to experts only terrain. In addition, this lift is one of the easiest to load. when skiers reach the loading area, they come to a set of gates not unlike those found on a roller coaster. As the chair passes in front of them, the gates open, and skiers push out onto a conveyor belt. This conveyor moves at close to, but slightly slower than, the chair does, so when it arrives everyone just sits down and they are on their way.


Collins Gulch


Collins Gulch is the more advanced area of Alta. This side of the mountain has no beginner terrain, and very little intermediate terrain as well. It is serviced by only two chairs, Collins and Wildcat. Collins is a two-part high-speed quad installed in 2004 by Doppelmayr CTEC. The chair begins at the base area and ascends 700 ft over a length of 2700 feet. At this point, the lift detaches from the cable, slows down, and passes by a mid-loading station. To allow for loading, one out of every ten chairs is left empty, in addition to normally empty chairs. This allows skiers to board here, but at a rate of only 4 per minute, the line moves very slowly. Since it wasn't very busy the day we were there, approximately one out of every four chairs was empty. After the turn the line makes here, the chair continues for another 3500 ft, gaining another 1000 ft, before it reaches the top terminal.


The other lift on this side of the mountain, Wildcat, is a 1980 Lift Engineering double. The chair is 4200 ft long with 1200 ft of vertical, and it ascends quite steeply. From up here, there is only one way down that is not rated black diamond. It seemed to get very few riders, but on a more crowded day it may be a more popular chair.


Due to the limited terrain, we spent much less time on this side of the mountain. After three rides on Collins and two on Wildcat, we were ready to return to the Albion side of the mountain. We did so using the third area.


Lodge Zone


The lodge zone is completely flat. Well, not completely, but almost. There is only about 100 ft of elevation change between the Wildcat Base and the Albion Base. Along one side of this area is the nordic trail, along with the runout for the trails coming off of High Rustler. The other is home to a few lodges, the only places to stay at Alta, on top of a small incline. A rope tow, handle tow, and triple chairlift ascend this small incline at various points. Along the bottom, connecting the two base lodges, is the Transfer Tow.


The Transfer Tow is a custom built rope tow, created by Lift Engineering in 1992 as an easy way to ski between the two base lodges. On a normal rope tow, there is a single rope that is strung between the two end points. This rope drags along the ground, or near to the ground, in one direction, and returns on top of towers coming back. To ride the rope tow, riders simply grab onto the rope and hold on as they are pulled up the hill. This setup works great for short rope tows, but the Transfer Tow is 2400 ft long. To keep from having a superheavy rope, this rope tow is built much similar to a platter lift. A cable is suspended from towers in both directions, and hanging from the cable at about sixty foot intervals are hangers. Between two hangers, there is a section of rope. Skiers may board this tow at any point and ride it to the end. Also, it is free to ride. Below, one of the pictures shows off the Transfer Tow, in case my description is not easy enough to understand.


Despite the number of places I've skied at, I'd never ridden a rope tow before. I quickly found out the do's and dont's of rope tows, as well as why they aren't really around anymore. They SUCK! Holding onto the rope is difficult, especially over a long distance. I don't recommend trying this, but if you want a similar experience have a friend tie a rope to the back of their car, get on a skateboard, and hold on to the rope while they tow you up a hill for half of a mile at about eight miles per hour. They other thing I found was that you shouldn't grab onto the rope all at once. Instead, you must use your hand as a clutch. Put your hand around the rope and slowly tighten your grip until you are moving along. If you grab all at once, you will get a good jerk and likely be pulled over. Finally, and this only applies for this one, don't straddle the rope. What happens when you do? See this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-6pQwo_9r4.


Overall Thoughts


Alta was really good. It may be my favorite ski area on the trip, although thinking back on it Snowbird may have been slightly better. One thing I really enjoyed about Alta was...No Snowboarders! Alta is one of three remaining ski areas in the United States that does not allow snowboarders. While I have nothing against the majority of snowboarders, I will admit that they unnerve me a bit. The worst are the ones that speed down the trail way faster than I'm going, and go by so close that it is necessary to nearly stop or turn to avoid them. I also hate it when they are either A. sideslipping down the trail because it is too difficult for them or B. sitting in the middle of the run, not off to the side. Again, I don't hate snowboarders, but it is nice to experience skiing as it was thirty years ago.


Alta is definitely a very nice area. They have more than enough terrain for skiers of any ability level, and on weekdays crowds are not an issue. The biggest downside is that if you have beginners in your group, they will be off on their own for the day, as none of the intermediate or advanced chairs have easy ways down. There is a bit of a large step from beginner to intermediate here, but other than that Alta is excellent.


Best Bet for Beginners: Sunnyside and Cecret chairs (no other suitable options)

Best Bet for Intermediates: Any blue runs on Collins or Sugarloaf chairs

Best Bet for Advanced: Collins Express


Apres Ski


After we were done skiing for the day, we went back to the hotel and showered, then headed to the nearest light-rail station. Why? We had decided to go see a basketball game. The Utah Jazz were playing the Philadelphia 76ers and we decided it would be something different to do for a night. Neither of us are really basketball fans, so this was more just because we wanted something to do. Since our super passes included the TRAX, we took that to Energy Solutions Arena in downtown Salt Lake City, then purchased tickets, got hot dogs, and went to our seats.


It was fun, but I prefer baseball games instead of basketball games. As for the game itself, it was an exciting game, but pretty poor basketball. The Utah Jazz got ahead early, and at some point during the third quarter they were ahead by 21 points. In the fourth quarter, they lost the lead, and nearly lost the game. However, they ended up tying and going into overtime, in which they won by 4 points.


After the game, we got back on the TRAX and took it back to where we boarded, then drove back to our hotel and watched TV until we decided to go to bed.




Due to the weather, I did not take that many pictures of Alta. Here are the few that I did take.


Here we are at Alta. This is High Rustler, the most famous terrain at the ski area.


The Albion Lodge. This is where you purchase tickets, do rentals, etc. The only thing that was in the other building was the restaurant.


Transfer Tow. This connects the two base lodges. We didn't ride it until later in the day.


Here's the first lift of the day. Weird that they chose a high-speed triple instead of a high-speed quad.


The chair heads up this way. The lift you can see is the Albion chair, but the Sunnyside chair is pretty much parallel.


Time for this chair...the Supreme lift.


On Supreme. This chair starts out flat, then gets really steep really quickly.


Here's what the ski area looks like from Supreme. As you can see, the fog is moving in.


At this point, I put my camera away for the rest of the day since it started to snow. Here is what it looked like from our car as we were getting ready to leave.


Fortunately, it cleared up as we drove back down the mountain.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, I have officially put my skis away until next November, but I have two more updates to finish off this thread for this season.


March 15th, 2011: Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort


This day began no different than any other day on the Cottonwood Canyons trip. We got up at 7 A.M., got breakfast, got dressed, then got in the car. A half hour later, we pulled into the parking lot at the Creekside lodge of Snowbird. It was nearly deserted. I believe there were only about ten cars total in the lot when we arrived. We went and got our tickets, then explored the lodge a bit before returning to the car and getting changed. We then headed out to the slopes.


Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort


Of the four Cottonwood Canyon resorts, Snowbird is the only one that is really a full destination resort. While the other areas do have their own hotels, Snowbird is the one most stay at. It is also the largest of the four, as well as being the most well known. The mountian itself is 2,500 acres, and has an impressive vertical drop of over 3,000 ft (3,420 ft to be precise). 85 trails cover this expanse of terrain, serviced by a network of 13 lifts (1 Tram, 4 High-speed quads, 6 doubles, and 2 surface lifts).


Just like Alta, Snowbird welcomes visitors to ski anywhere they can see. However, most of the terrain is marked, often with a black diamond. Over a third of Snowbird's terrain is for advanced skiers, and even some of the intermediate terrain is a little on the steep side. However, the ski area does have some beginner terrain (although it is on the steep side for beginners), so it can be enjoyed by those of any ability level.


I have had quite a bit of difficulty in finding a good Snowbird trail map that could be uploaded here, so this is a link to one. http://www.skimap.org/data/226/7/1268507732.pdf As you can see from this map, Snowbird is naturally divided into three different areas. The front side is split down the Cirque into Peruvian Gulch on the left and Gad Valley on the right. Additionally, there is a backside area, named Mineral Basin.


Gad Valley


Gad Valley is probably the area of Snowbird I spent the most time in. This is where we began our day, and it is also where we ended. I liked Gad Valley quite a bit, and thought that on its own it would make a great ski area.


The base of Gad Valley, Creekside lodge, has two chairlifts out of it. The main one of these two is the Gadzoom chair. This lift, built by Garaventa CTEC in 1997, was Snowbird's first high-speed quad. I can't imagine what this lift would be like before it was high-speed, as the chair is long. A 6400 ft ride brings you up 1800 ft, and allows you to access any other lift on the front side of Snowbird. Parallel to Gadzoom runs Mid-Gad, an ancient Doppelmayr double. It is only 4200 ft long, but still gains 1300 ft of vertical. Naturally, I never rode this because the ride time is twice that of Gadzoom and it accesses most of the same terrain.


Also at the bottom of Gad Valley is the Baby Thunder chair. It is an excessively short and semi-pointless lift, as it is only 1900 ft long. It does, however, gain 600 ft of vertical, making it quite steep. This is where we went first, and managed to get on the first chair of the day. We were also on the second chair of the day, and we soon figured out why: this area is very icy in the morning. Add in the fact that this lift is an old, slow double, and you'll probably figure out why we only did it twice.


On the upper part of Gad Valley are two additional lifts. Gad 2 is one of the ski area's original chairs. The ancient double lift is 4000 ft long with 1200 ft of vertical. This proved to be the best intermediate lift on the mountain, and was one we did several times. However, it was a bit of a ride, and if it didn't have footrests I doubt I would have done it more than twice. Also on the upper mountain is Little Cloud, a 3400 ft double chair with 1300 ft vertical feet. This lift accessed some great terrain, but even the easiest way down was a bit steep. If you are not an advanced skier, I'd recommend staying away from this chair.


One additional lift is located in Gad Valley, although it is actually more in the middle of the ski area. This chair is the Wilbere chair. Other than allowing for easy access between both sides of the mountain, this Doppelmayr double didn't have much of a point. It has nearly identical statistics to the Baby Thunder chair, but is significantly older.


Peruvian Gulch


Peruvian Gulch is the true advanced skiers' section of the mountain. With the exception of Chip's Run and a couple variations, every trail is a black or double black. These are all accessed by one of the longest chairs I've been on: Peruvian Express. This is Snowbird's newest chair, opening in 2006. It is 8000 ft long with 2400 ft of vertical, and ascends all the way up in just over 8 minutes. The only chair in addition to this in Peruvian Gulch is the Chickadee chair, Snowbird's beginner lift. It may be only 800 ft long with 100 ft of vertical, but that is all beginners really need. Plus, it is free if you are staying on-site.


Peruvian Gulch may not have any other chair lifts, but it does have another lift, Snowbird's most famous. This lift is the Aerial Tram. This lift is 8300 ft long, and rises 2900 ft to the Summit of Hidden Peak. Although Snowbird claims that the tram is an 8 minute ride, to me it felt more like 5. It also has the most efficient loading cycle I've ever seen on a tram. There is a line set up, but one tram worth of people is gathered in the boarding area. When the tram arrives, the door opens, and over 100 people proceed to fill the tram cabin. As soon as the last one is in, the operator shuts the door and presses the ready button. This entire process takes no more than three minutes (possibly as little as two), allowing this tram to achieve its maximum capacity easily. It is the easiest way to access the summit of Snowbird. Due to the hassle involved, I only rode this lift once.


Mineral Basin


Mineral Basin is the backside of Snowbird, and features a variety of terrain. Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced trails can be found in different areas of the bowl back here. These trails are serviced by a pair of High-Speed Quads: Mineral Basin Express and Baldy Express. Both are about the same length, but Mineral Basin Express has more vertical rise.


To access Mineral Basin, there are three ways in. The first, and easiest, is to ride the tram to the top and ski down. You can do this as long as you are at least an intermediate skier. The second way is to get to the top of Little Cloud and ski in from there. This trail is more challenging, but a strong intermediate should be able to handle it. Finally, the beginner's option: ride up to the top of Peruvian Express, then TAKE THE TUNNEL! Yes, there is a ski tunnel under the mountain that goes from the top of Peruvian Express into Mineral Basin, emerging at the top of Lupine Loop. From here, it is an easy winding trail down to the base of the lifts.


Overall Thoughts


Snowbird is awesome. It is very hard to pick a favorite between Alta and Snowbird, but I think I might have to say Snowbird. Other than the archaic lifts, there were really no negatives. The ski area is great for those of nearly any ability level, and the mountain is easily large enough to spend two or three days at without getting bored. It is a bit on the steep side, but this isn't a huge problem for skiers who are confident in their abilities.


Best Bet for Beginners: Big Emma and School Lane off Wilbere Chair

Best Bet for Intermediates: Bananas and Election off Gad 2 Chair

Best Bet for Advanced: Everything off the Tram


Apres Ski


Once we were done, we went back to the hotel and hung out in the hot tub for a little bit. Then, we went out to dinner at Red Robin, a restaurant I like but rarely visit since the nearest one is a bit of a drive and my brother doesn't really like it. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and watched the Blind Side (very good movie) and some other TV until it was time to go to bed.




The parking lot when we hit the slopes. It did get more crowded, but there weren't any lift lines.


Baby Thunder...it wasn't worth it.


Gad Valley from where we parked. Time to head up.


Fast forward a few hours. This is the view from our lunch table at the Snowbird Center (aka Tram base).


180 degrees from that last picture. You can tell that Little Cottonwood Canyon is quite narrow.


Ever wonder how an Aerial Tram works? Snowbird has a display showing the drive unit of their tram. We weren't down here for very long because it started moving just after we got here. We promptly headed back upstairs so we could catch the next one.


They can fit 125 people into one of these cabins. Based on my tram experience, I'm going to estimate our cabin was filled to about 100.


According to a guy in the hot tub at the hotel, the view from Hidden Peak is the best in Utah. I'm tempted to agree with him.


Salt Lake City is down there somewhere.


Other than the tram, the only way to the top is via Mineral Basin Express.


Obligatory picture of me standing on top of Hidden Peak. It's not everyday that you are at 11,000 ft above sea level.


I'll include my dad's picture as well.


Okay, it is time to TAKE THE TUNNEL! This tunnel is a 600 ft long tunnel under the mountain. It has a conveyor belt running through it, but it is faster to walk. I apologize for the quality of this image, but my camera was having difficulty focusing in the tunnel's low-light conditions.


Along the conveyor, they have a number of signs telling you interesting, but otherwise useless facts.


Almost at the end. The ride takes 3-4 minutes, but it was fun to do once.


When you emerge, you are treated with an outstanding view of Mineral Basin in all its glory.


This is really a pretty large area back here.


Time for Baldy Express.


To the right, the valley drops down below the ski area.


To the left, a slope rises up for advanced skiers to have fun on what would otherwise be beginner terrain.


In front of you lies Baldy Express's most interesting feature...a line turn. It is difficult to see if you don't know what to look for, as it is very slight. Notice how the wheels on this tower are vertical.


Now look at this tower. The wheels are bent. A series of three towers with bent wheels bend the line approximately five degrees. It doesn't look like much, but you can actually feel it when you are on the chair.


The top of Baldy Express is very close to Alta.


This is the location of the Alta-Snowbird Interconnect. Our tickets were one resort, so I couldn't use it, but it seems like it would be good for people who want to ski both resorts and have only one day.


Time to move over to Mineral Basin Express. We skied this lift several times before heading back to the bottom.


There is where the tunnel ends.


Back where we started. Time to end our day. Snowbird was great, and I doubt it would be possible to have a bad day here.

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The conveyor belt crawls. It is the same as the magic carpets used in the beginner area, so it probably moves at the same 200 feet per minute. There's a reason we only used the tunnel once, and that conveyor belt was it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am way behind on this, but now that it is past Easter and very few ski areas are still in operation, it's time to finish the 2010 season.


March 16th, 2011: Solitude Mountain Resort


As the last day of our Utah trip, we began with breakfast, then packed the car for the drive home. Once we had checked out of the hotel we drove up to Solitude Mountain Resort, the last resort of our trip. When we got there, the parking lot was completely empty. Even though a few more peopel showed up, this was the least crowded day. We got tickets, then sat in the car to escape the light rain until it was time to ski.


Solitude Mountain Resort


Solitude Mountain Resort Trail Map: http://www.skimap.org/data/225/7/1287092687.pdf


Based on the statistics, Solitude sounds like a relatively decent ski area. It is 1,200 acres, and has a vertical drop of 2,047 ft. There are 64 trails of varying difficulty levels, serviced by a network of 8 lifts (3 high-speed quads, 2 fixed-grip quads, 1 triple and 2 doubles). In fact, out of the four places I skied at on this trip, Solitude probably had the most user-friendly lift system. Finally, Solitude has its own village at the base, allowing for ski in, ski out accomodations.


Unfortunately, the ski area isn't quite the perfect ski area. First, although it is a decent size, nearly half of the skiable terrain is in a backcountry area called Honeycomb Canyon that is unskiable by those that aren't advanced (or at least a very strong intermediate). This whole area is also no good unless there has been recent snowfall. On my visit, it was pretty bad quality back here, so I only skied down once. The layout of the ski area isn't bad, but the trail ratings aren't exactly ideal. Most of the intermediate terrain at this resort, particularly the trails off Eagle Express, are significantly steeper than similar terrain on other mountains. Finally, most of the runs are short. The longest run is said to be over three miles, but it takes three lift rides to ski it.


Unlike some other ski areas, Solitude cannot be easily split up into smaller sub-areas. You could split the mountain into Moonbeam and Apex, but I'll leave it as one. Basically, the Moonbeam Lodge is the main area for people to begin. You have a choice of two chairs out of here: Link or Moonbeam Express. Link is a very short, absolute beginner's lift, and functions primarily to get people directly to the Apex base while Moonbeam is about 2800 ft long with 600 ft of vertical. While it services primarily beginner terrain as well, there are intermediate trails off this lift, and it allows access to almost every other lift on the front side. The other base lodge is the Apex Lodge, which has two lifts as well: Apex Express and Sunrise. Apex Express is only slightly longer than Moonbeam, but due to it's location it accesses slightly more challenging terrain. Sunrise is a Thiokol triple, the oldest chair on the mountain. Although it is 2800 ft long, the lift has only 400 ft of vertical and acts primarily as an access lift for the Summit chair.


Three mid-mountain lifts are located on the front side. Eagle Express is the most popular of these. This 1989 Von Roll high speed quad was the first detachable chairlift in Utah. At 4700 ft long with 1300 ft of vertical, it is a great lift and was one of my favorites at Solitude. The other area I really enjoyed was the Powderhorn II chair. This lift replaced a double chair a couple years ago and accesses several various advanced trails. Finally, Summit is an old, slow, and long double chair. The lift is 4200 ft long with 1200 ft of vertical, but with a ride time of over eight minutes, it was a wet ride in the rain. In addition, the ski area also has the Honeycomb Return quad, but this lift is exceptionally short and functions solely as a return lift from Honeycomb Canyon. It does not access any unique trails on its own.


Solitude is not a bad ski area at all. It just isn't the best out there. We knew what to expect, and that is why we only planned a half-day for this ski area. I would definitely return, especially in better conditions, but Solitude is not somewhere I would want to visit for a whole vacation.


Best Bet for Beginners: Moonbeam Express

Best Bet for Intermediates: Anything off Eagle Express

Best Bet for Advanced: Anything off Powderhorn II


After we quit at about 1 P.M., we drove down the mountain. We stopped at a McDonalds for lunch, then drove south and kept driving. We stopped for gas in St. George, then drove to Baker before we got dinner at Taco Bell. One final stop for gas in Hesperia later, we made it home a little after 10 P.M.


Overall Thoughts


Utah is great. I only got a chance to visit four ski areas, but I would rank all four among the best I have ever visited. I prefer only Mammoth and possibly Northstar-At-Tahoe to Snowbird, and even Brighton is better than all but the top quarter of Tahoe's resorts. I really hope to return to Utah within a few years for another ski trip, and possibly next time I'll try out Deer Valley, Park City and the Canyons. Even better, if TPR's Winter Trip ever ends up happening, I'll be sure to sign up for that.


As for this thread, there will be no more updates for now. Next winter, I may bring it back if I visit any ski areas not already featured. As my plans that far out are not certain yet, I cannot say what will happen.




It was raining lightly for a decent part of my day at Solitude, so I didn't bring my camera with me onto the mountain. I did, however, take two pictures from the car.


This is the Moonbeam Lodge. The exterior of this ski area's buildings appear to be very European in style.


And here is the Moonbeam Express. You can't see it here, but this is anothe bizarre 90 degree loading lift.

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  • 8 months later...

Since it is now the 2011/2012 ski season, I think it is time to revive this. Due to this being the driest winter on record, I will probably not be making as many updates as last season, and I will also (in general) not be repeating anywhere covered last year. So, without further ado, here is my schedule for this winter.


December 10th, 2011-Big Bear Mountain Resorts (no update, covered last year)

January 1st-6th, 2012-Park City Ski Trip

-January 2nd: Deer Valley Resort

-January 3rd: Park City Mountain Resort

-January 4th: Canyons Resort

-January 5th: Sundance Resort

-January 6th: Brian Head Resort

Late March-Mammoth Weekend Trip (conditions permitting)


Not as much as last year, but still a decent amount. Of course, we usually don't plan local ski trips very far in advance, so if So Cal gets a couple good storms one of those might get added as well.


Now, we begin...


Park City Ski Trip


January 1st, 2012-Drive to Utah


Like both previous ski trips to Utah, we began at 6:30 A.M. We stopped at the same Ihop in Baker for breakfast, then headed on, past Las Vegas and through Arizona, only stopping for gas. Once we got to Utah, we got a snack and I took a turn at driving (my dad drove most of it, but he needed a rest). We stopped at a Carl's, Jr. for dinner (the same one we stopped at on our Cottonwood Canyons ski trip last year), then drove onward to our hotel in Park City. I forget what time it was when we got there (I think around 8 P.M.), but we were tired from getting up early. As a result, we checked out the hotel, then relaxed in our room and went to bed early.


January 2nd, 2012-Deer Valley Resort


As was the case everyday on this trip, the alarm was set for 7:30 A.M. We got up, grabbed breakfast, changed into our ski clothes, and drove to the Jordanelle Ticket Office at Deer Valley Resort for our first day of skiing.


Deer Valley Resort


Deer Valley has been rated as the best ski area in North America for a number of years. It certainly is a decent mountain, with 100 trails spread over 2,026 acres and a vertical drop of 3,000 ft. The ski area is serviced my 21 lifts (2 Doubles, 5 Triples, 2 Fixed-Grip Quads, 11 High-Speed Quads, and 1 High-Speed Gondola). The terrain is definitely geared toward intermediates, although there are a number of black diamond trails as well. In addition, there are two learning areas, each with a couple conveyors for beginners, as well as a handful of beginner runs scattered over four of the resort's six peaks. However, it is not only the mountain that is well-known here. Deer Valley is often said to be a very upscale ski area, with $100 lift tickets, high-speed lifts all over the place, and fine dining establishments right on the slopes. In addition, they reportedly have the best grooming in the United States.




Trail Map: http://skimap.org/data/223/607/1322852985.pdf


Deer Valley is divided up into six different areas: Bald Eagle Mountain, Bad Mountain, Deer Crest, Empire Canyon, Flagstaff Mountain, and Lady Morgan. Due to the conditions on my visit, the entire Empire Canyon area and about 50% of Bald Mountain was closed. Most of the remaining trails were open, although conditions weren't very good on most of the advanced runs (fine on the beginner and intermediate trails).


Bald Eagle Mountain


For most visitors to Deer Valley, Bald Eagle Mountain is their starting point. This is the location of the only base lodge on the mountain (Snow Park Lodge), and is also where the primary learning area is located. Burns and Snowflake, two short beginner chairs offer access to an isolated area free from others racing down the mountain. Burns is the public lift, while Snowflake appears to be reserved for ski school (or is at least primarily for them). For everyone else, it is necessary to take either the Carpenter Express or the Silver Lake Express in order to reach the remaining runs.


Two additional comments about Bald Eagle Mountain before I move on. First, due to the topography, it is necessary to take either the Crown Point or [/b]Homestake[/b] chairs to return to the base. Beginners should not choose Crown Point, as there are no easy trails down from this lift. Secondly, Bald Eagle Mountain, despite having a large number of trails, is really not that interesting of an area to ski. Even though some runs are rated black diamond, a strong intermediate could handle every run here (especially if they are all groomed). Besides, they are really a bit long to do laps on, so this is the type of area would probably ski once or twice before moving on. This was my least favorite area of Deer Valley.


Deer Crest


Technically, this is called Little Baldy Peak, but most people refer to it as Deer Crest due to the housing developments on the gondola face. We began our day here at the Jordanelle base (just the gondola loading station and a ticket office). The run down to the Jordanelle Express Gondola is actually one of the best intermediate trails on the mountain, and it is quite steep at a couple points. The other lift on this peak, Deer Crest, has some decent, but relatively short, advanced trails on it. Although there is a beginner trail here, beginners should probably avoid this part of the mountain as it is a steeper than average beginner run.


Bald Mountain


Bald Mountain is probably the most challenging of the four peaks. Although there are a number of blue trails, the terrain in this area is is rated advanced is true advanced terrain. Intermediates looking to move up should restrict themselves to the Wasatch Express and Sterling Express, as even the blue runs down to the Sultan Express are quite steep compared to the rest of the ski area (if ungroomed, Perseverance would definitely be a black run). Advanced skiers could spend half a day on the Sultan and Mayflower chairs, and intermediates have a number of good trails on Sterling and Wasatch. Although there is a beginner trail down from the top, beginners should avoid this area. There are better places from them at Deer Valley.


Bald Mountain was probably my favorite area of Deer Valley simply because it's got a number of good trails and they are just the right length to do laps on. In addition, no matter which way you come down, everyone can meet up at one location. This allows a group to split up at the top, go down trails of their preferred ability, and meet for the lift ride back up. This area also didn't feel as crowded as the other two main areas, which is always a good thing.


Flagstaff Mountain


Flagstaff Mountain is the largest area of Deer Valley, and the best one for a group of mixed ability level. For beginners, almost every trail down to the Silver Strike Express is suitable, and there are routes down to every chair except Northside Expressthat a beginner could handle. Intermediates pretty much have reign of this entire mountain, and could spend a couple hours on Northside Express alone. Finally, for advanced skiers, there are only a couple of runs off Red Cloud, but they are typically ungroomed and are challenging enough to be fun. Four additional things to note about this area: 1. The trails down to Quincy Express are longer than they appear on the map, 2. The trails down to Ruby Express are steeper than the other beginner trails in this area, 3. The top of Flagstaff Mountain can get very crowded due to four High-Speed Quads ending at the same spot, and 4. When returning to another part of the mountain, use Judge instead of Viking unless you are going straight to Silver Lake Lodge, as there is a giant flat spot you'll have to traverse otherwise.


Empire Canyon


This area was closed when I visited (it opened a few days later), but it appears to be a good intermediate/advanced area. Nothing looked particularly challenging (especially if it was all groomed), but it could be fun for an hour or so.


Lady Morgan


Lady Morgan is not that large of an area, so it makes a big impact when three trails are closed. However, unless you are an advanced skier or are looking to challenge yourself (if you're an intermediate), I'd avoid this area. There is one intermediate trail and a cat track, but everything else here is a bump run. If I come back in better conditions, I might try some of this terrain, but with minimal snowfall the non-groomed trails have weeds all over the place.


Overall Thoughts


Deer Valley Resort is a good ski area. If you want all the luxuries of a five-star hotel at a ski area, this is the place to go. If you want groomed cruising runs that don't present too much of a challenge, you'll enjoy it here. If you hate snowboarders, you're in luck, because they aren't welcome at Deer Valley. However, if you are a serious skier who is there for skiing and nothing else, or you are looking for expert terrain, this probably isn't your mountain. I enjoyed Deer Valley, but I don't think it is the best out there. I'm sure some people rate it as such simply because of all the upscale features, but when you aren't looking at those you have to rate based on how the mountain itself is. Similar to a lot of the Lake Tahoe ski areas, this is a place that I enjoyed and would visit again but don't have any specific desire to return to. Even though only two-thirds of the trails were open, it felt like I saw the whole mountain, and other than an additional hour or two on Empire Express and Mayflower, there isn't that much more to explore. For someone visiting, I could see skiing 2 to 2.5 days here, but not more. It is the smallest of the three Park City resorts, but it did seem to have the best conditions of the three (possibly the result of having the best snowmaking system).


Best Bet for Beginners: Green trails on Flagstaff Mountain

Best Bet for Intermediates: Empire, Northside, Sterling, and Wasatch chairs

Best Bet for Advanced: Mayflower and Sultan chairs


After Skiing


That evening, we went over to Utah Olympic Park and checked it out. They've got a small museum there, but it was much better seeing the actual ski jumps and bobsled track used in the competition. The bobsled looks like it would be one wild ride. It's just a shame that it is so expensive. We also got to watch some kids practicing on the practice slope. I guess they've got a junior athlete's program or something.


Once we were done here, we went and got dinner at the Loco Lizard Cantina, a Mexican restaurant. Not my favorite Mexican food, but it was still good. Service was also very fast. When we were done here, we just went back to the hotel and watched TV, then went to bed.




Our day begins at the base of the Jordanelle Gondola. It's really nice when you are parked only 100 ft. from the lift.


From the top, you get a decent overview of the ski area.


Snow Park Lodge and some slopeside condos.


There's also a fancy hotel with a funicular up to it. I can't remember what the name of the hotel is, however.


We decided to start our day on Flagstaff Mountain.


Red Cloud terrain.


I liked how Deer Valley had signs on lift towers telling you which runs where which as you rode up the chair.


Looking back down at the Silver Lake Lodge area. This is where we had lunch.


We went and skied Lady Morgan before lunch as well (right side of picture). It's a shame Empire Canyon was closed.


After lunch, we moved over to Bald Mountain.


The Sultan Express had two main trails down to it that were open. This one was Perseverance.


The other was called Tycoon.


Here I am on top of Bald Mountain.


Here's my dad. I rarely go skiing without him.


There's a little snack stand on top of Bald Mountain.


Warning: The following photos of Wasatch Express contain lens flare.


Half the run was groomed, and the other half was left moguled.


Artsy shot of Wasatch's upper terminal.


Once you are ready to return to Bald Eagle Mountain, you can use Crown Point to get there.


Wizard Tycoon: It's like RCT for Potterheads.


On the upper mountain, the ungroomed/closed trails usually looked something like this.


However, lower on the mountain we got conditions like this.


Fortunately, the groomed runs all had excellent coverage.


Before heading down for the day, we skied the Deer Crest chair a couple times.


From over here, you've got a good view of downtown Park City.


You can also see Park City Mountain Resort. The two ski areas are so close that at points only a rope separates them.


Skiing down to the parking lot, I noticed this.


Turns out the Deer Crest houses have their own access trails that aren't on the trail map.


They've also got a real estate office next to the top of the gondola.


Back at the car after a full day of skiing, with a last look at the gondola to end the day.

Edited by rcdude
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Beautiful... looks awesome! I am a snowboarder, but "ride" more like a skiier in the fact that "tricks" scare the hell out of me, but I am constantly on the lookout for a fun challenge. I love places that groom correctly though. As a snowboarder moguls are VERY hard, but I can (in general) do steep relatively advanced runs, so it is cool to see a place where half of more advanced runs are snowboard friendly.

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