Powder Mountain Ski and Snowboard Terrain
As the name suggests, Powder Mountain
is a superb powderhound mountain. This is a great place to learn to ski powder and it is also challenging enough for those who have already mastered the art. There are a plethora of potential off-piste lines of varying pitches, so you can basically pick any line that suits your needs and fancies. And one of the best things about Powder Mountain is that you only have to share the powder with a few others.
This is a massive resort spread over more than 5,500 acres (2,227 hectares). There are three main “base” areas. Two are theoretically not “bases” because they are at the top of the mountain. These hubs are the Powder Mountain village, Sundown Lodge, and Hidden Valley, and all three have car parking and a day lodge.
The terrain can be divided according to its access. The terrain serviced by the lifts is large at 2,800 acres. Except for runs off the Paradise lift, much of this terrain is rated as green and blue. There are generally two or three groomed runs off each of the chair lifts, and an infinite number of gentle off-piste lines. More challenging terrain (1,200 acres) is on the “back-side” of the mountain in The Powder Country areas which empty out onto the Powder Mountain road. These areas are serviced by an old school bus. The Lightning Ridge area is serviced by a snow cat, and the Cobabe Canyon is accessed by hiking.
It can take a little time to get oriented to Pow Mow considering the enormity of it, so it may be worthwhile to take a tour. Complimentary tours depart the Timberline Sports Shop daily at 10am, and provide a general orientation to the groomed runs for one to two hours.
Advanced and expert riders should take a guided tour of the more challenging terrain which includes Powder Country and Lightning Ridge. A half day tour for up to 6 people costs $120, and a full day for up to 6 people is $180 (08-09 prices) which includes the first cat ride for each person. This is highly recommended, particularly if you’re only at Powder Mountain for a couple of days.
Pow Mow Lifts
The school bus is no longer the fastest lift at Powder Mountain! Now that they’ve done a lift upgrade, the Hidden Lake detachable quad is the speed winner. The other three chair lifts and surface lifts are slow, so unless you remain in the Hidden Lake area, you won’t clock up tonnes of vertical.
The bus is a very effective mode of transport, but it’s obvious that these old school buses were made for the little people as it’s a very tight squash.
The inexpensive lift tickets include the shuttle bus service but not the snowcat rides. Passes for the single ride cat skiing cost $12 and have to be purchased at the ticket window, but they don’t necessarily have to be used on the day. Night skiing tickets for the Sundown Lift cost only $15 for adults and $12 for children (08-09 prices).
Discounted lift tickets are available at ski shops such as Alpine Sports in Ogden (1165 Patterson St, between 30th and 31st Street), Diamond Peaks in Eden (about an $8 discount), and Canyon Sports
in SLC (about a $5 discount).
Snow and Weather Conditions
Powder Mountain enjoys bountiful snowfall, and sometimes it absolutely “goes off”. With so few riders spread over so much terrain, you’ll be guaranteed to get lots of freshies on a powder day. However, sometimes the snow quality is only good for a day or two at the most. The elevation of Powder Mountain is quite low compared to other Utah resorts, and when the temps increase a little, the snow turns to sloppy thick powder. The jury is still out on the quality of the snow.
Powder Mountain can get windy when compared with other Utah resorts, and during white-outs the visibility in the lightly treed areas is dreadful.
For the Beginner
There are truckloads of groomed beginners’ runs at Powder Mountain across all lifts. Some of the trails are incredibly long, so those still perfecting the snow-plow will want to remain on the trails near Powder Mountain Lodge. The trails off the Sundown lift are also a good place to start.
Intermediate Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Intermediates have lots of terrain to choose from. The groomed runs off the Hidden Lake Express chair and Sundown are great, but one of the best things about Powder Mountain is the abundance of powder terrain for intermediates. There are lots of shortcuts between groomed runs to have an off-piste experiment, and much of the tree skiing is on a very mellow gradient. The trail map has marked intermediate powder runs in Cobabe Canyon, but these are probably more suited to advanced riders. The “runs” are not sign-posted, so it would be easy to start meandering down a black run, blissfully unaware. The associated fatigue after the decent hike to get there may also make the runs seem more like black runs.
For the Family/Kids
The Sundown lift is probably the best place for families to hang out. This area has ski school, a terrain park, and mellow groomed runs.
Parks and Pipes
Powder Mountain has two terrain parks. The Sundown terrain park on the Confidence run has features for all levels of park riders, including box top rails, handrails and a table-top. The park is open for night skiing. The Hidden Lake terrain park is generally for more advanced riders and has handrails, tabletops, and a quarter pipe.
Advanced and Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The Paradise lift provides the majority of lift serviced advanced ski and snowboard terrain. A couple of the runs are marked, but most runs on the trail map are not sign-posted. Basically pick any line you like through the trees. Advanced riders will be sweet so long as they are not too inventive right under the lift where the cliff drops are located. Experts and crazy people can huck all they like.
Powder Country runs that come off the top of Sundown lift and empty onto the Powder Mountain road are all appropriate for advanced skiers and boarders. For the Hidden Lake Powder Country runs on the other side of the road, the single blacks are to the skiers right, whilst the steeper runs are to the skiers left. The Powder Country runs are fabulous. The gradient is steep and the trees are not tight, so you can try and get that elusive “face shot”. Follow the trail along the road to the bus stop. The bus does continuous loops so you won’t have a long wait.
The Lightning Ridge snowcat terrain is definitely the highlight of the resort, and the small amount of cash required for a ride is very much worth it. There are a multitude of different options for descents here, but take a guided tour for assistance in finding some of the sweetest spots. Keen hikers can go up to James Peak. Here they can leave some great lines and tease those who don’t have the energy to make the 20-30 minute trek.
For the Powderhound
This ski area has an incredibly small ratio of skiers/boarders per acre, and considering the size of Powder Mountain, it is powderhound heaven. In addition to the above-mentioned terrain, the vast areas not serviced by the lifts are the real prize for those prepared to make an effort. One example is Cobabe Canyon that can be hiked to from Sunrise Ridge.
Keen powderhounds who can’t be bothered hiking can go on a full day Snowcat Powder Safari, or alternatively go heli skiing with Diamond Peaks.