Planning a mid-April ski trip is a roll of the dice.
It’s a time of year when most ski resorts have shut down entirely, and the few that remain open are usually subject to warm spring weather, melting snow, or at least wild freeze/thaw cycles.
But sometimes… just sometimes… you hit the jackpot.
Deciding on Snowbird for Mid-April
Going into this year’s late spring ski trip, I knew that Snowbird proudly boasts “The Longest Ski Season in Utah.” (For real, that’s a marketing line they use, and it is factually true!)
But I also knew that the year 2022 was not kind to Utah ski resorts, most of of which received just 50% of their average annual snow totals.
Snowbird was no exception.
By the time I rolled those dice and booked that April flight to SLC, Snowbird was sitting at just 300 inches of snowfall this winter – a far cry from their usual 500+ inches per year.
But, what can I say? I’m a sucker for a good deal, and Snowbird’s “Ski and Stay” spring special was as good of a deal as I could find on any mountain. For the price of one night’s lodging, mid-April guests would receive one completely free lift ticket for each night stayed.
That’s an offer that put Snowbird’s legendary, luxurious, ski in/out (or at least, a short walk to the lift) ski lodges right in line with budget motels at lesser ski resorts all over the country.
Deal booked. Now we do our snow dance!
The snow gods must have heard my prayers.
Come travel time, the entire United States was covered under a blanket of storms, and I barely made it out of MSP amidst winter storm / tornado warnings. (I didn’t know those two things could go together, but here we are.)
I made it to SLC around 9 PM, and I was immediately impressed with Canyon Transport. My “shared ride” shuttle was waiting curbside long before I got my bags, and that shared ride ended up being a private ride in their well-equiped (and well-piloted) van.
As we (meaning, me and my private driver, apparently) drove up the Canyon road, the snow began to fall. I did a quick check on the official Snowbird snowstake to see somewhere around 10 inches had already fallen on the day.
The Lodge at Snowbird
I’m always surprised at the shortness of the 40 minute ride from SLC to Little Cottonwood Canyon. Before I knew it, I was awoken from my powder-skiing daydreams in the back of the shuttle by the beep-beep-beep of the van reversing, just feet from the front doors of The Lodge at Snowbird.
From the heavy snow falling outside, the inside of the lodge greeted me with a warm, toasty fireplace and a distinctly upscale ski-lodge vibe.
(You can read my full Lodge at Snowbird review here.)
It was nearly 12:00 AM before I called it a night, a decision I’d come to regret later…
Day 1 – Powder Wednesday!
After an restless night of sleep (I blame the altitude – my bed was fantastic) I woke up around 4:00 AM and struggled to catch another minute.
Eventually, the sun came out, and I peeled back the curtain of my mountain-view balcony to reveal powder covered trees and active snowfall up the mountain.
The snowbird website reported another 5 inches overnight, which meant today was looking like a classic Snowbird powder day – steep and deep!
With the tram out of service for the season (they were retiring the original cabins and upgrading to newer models), I started my day off Peruvian Express. After maybe a 15 minute wait for first chair, I dropped into Chip Run’s to find… silence.
Turn after turn of soft, quiet powder.
This is why I come to Snowbird… I thought. It was hard to believe we were nearly halfway through April!
With lift lines now totaling maybe 5 minutes on Peruvian Express, I kept running laps down Chip’s Run before veering off into any number of the frontside black diamonds. The bumps on Chip’s Face, Lower Primrose Path, and Lower Silver Fox were all nice and covered by the snow, so all these were skiing even softer than Chip’s Run.
With the snow skiing wonderfully, the biggest challenge was… the light?
The light was certainly flat, and I found myself struggling with it. On a few occasions, I even found myself getting a little… dizzy?
It wasn’t until I ventured towards the other side of the mountain and to the 11,000 ft. peak of Little Cloud/Hidden Peak that I felt the shortness of breath, queasiness, and undeniable exhaustion of… altitude sickness?
Apparently, getting 4 hours of sleep at 8,000 ft. after a long travel day and then forgetting to eat breakfast, is not the best thing for your health.
I quickly descended down the mountain, a little jealous all the way because the conditions seemed so nice up top, before gutting it out for another hour or two on the beautiful soft bumps of Gadzooks, Carbonate, and Gad Gully. Over and over.
By just 2:00 PM, I felt completely exhausted, so I unfortunately called this powder day a wrap, much earlier than I’d have liked to.
A Quiet Evening at the Bird
Just before 5:00 PM, I strolled over to The Cliff Lodge for dinner reservations at SeventyOne.
The restaurant itself resembled more of a ghost town than a bustling ski resort, but the French Onion Soup and Ahi Tuna Nachos sure hit the spot.
I walked back to The Lodge, before deciding that this clear night was becoming so nice I should spend some time enjoying it. (Wanting to spend time outdoors in a snowy ski resort? Chalk it up to another benefit of spring skiing!)
I spent the next hour taking in absolutely beautiful views of sun lighting up the top of The Cirque from a sleepy Snowbird Center:
Before walking further down the road and catching the final sunset:
Day 2 – More snow!
Day two awoke to another inch or two, with what looked like ongoing snow throughout the day. And even more interesting, almost nobody on the mountain.
Without a lift line in sight, I got in a quick hot lap or two off Peruvian Express, which was still skiing plenty powdery, before heading over to the often overlooked Wilbere Lift.
The Wilbere area had been groomed, but it was skiing surprisingly icy, so I quickly returned to yesterday’s favorite – Gadzooks – to scope it out.
And the verdict on Gadzooks? Still great!
That said, I was still feeling a little robbed by the altitude symptoms yesterday, so I headed up Little Cloud to check out Regulator Johnson. Not surprisingly, the whole bowl around Regulator was skiing incredibly deep, but maybe a little surprisingly, I still felt totally out of place.
It seems the dizziness/fatigue of the elevation was still winning the battle, and again I reluctantly descended.
This time, I thought food might be the cure, so I grabbed a simple yet decent slide of pizza off Tram Car Pizza in the Snowbird Center. As I ate the pizza, I read about altitude sickness treatments, one of which claimed that carbs are your best friend at high elevation.
Not one to ever need an excuse to carbo-load, I hit the vending machine for anything and everything I could get my hands on. Peanut butter crackers, pretzels, and a ton of fruit snacks…
I spent an hour in the Snowbird Center crossing my fingers that I’d start feeling a little better.
Eventually, I headed up the mountain again, this time to be greeted with the opening of Road to Provo. I traversed all the way to Bonnar’s Pass (endangering my skis over some rocks in the process) before skiing at least 20 inches of totally untracked powder.
I don’t know if it was the powder run or the carbs that gave me my second wind, but I was feeling great!
I then spent the next 3+ hours getting my revenge on Regulator Johnson. It was ungroomed, deep, and oh-so-soft. I lapped it consistently, getting “just one more run” for hours upon hours to end my day.
What started as a touch and go morning had finished as one of my best afternoons of bowl skiing ever!
Day 3 – Finally Back in Business
Friday saw another inch or two falling, and again, Regulator Johnson just couldn’t keep me away.
I started the day with several beautiful laps in this soft terrain, often venturing over to the even better Pucker Bush, which Mother Nature had blessed with tons of new, wind swept snow.
Eventually though, I realized I was the only person skiing this side of the mountain; it seemed everyone else was enjoying Mineral Basin without me.
So, I peered over the edge to find an even more wide open bowl that was skiing even deeper than the frontside.
For the next few hours, I spent lap after lap enjoying Junior’s Powder Paradise, Blue By You, White Diamonds, and even some seriously underrated stuff off the Baldy Chairlift.
By about 12:30, I realized I better get going if I was ever going to catch my flight, so I made one final swan song on Regulator Johnson before skiing down to The Lodge, packing my bags, showering up, and catching my 2:00 PM shuttle back to the airport.
Mid-April might be the latest-season ski trip I’ve ever taken, but the snow gods rewarded my rolling of the dice with the most classic mid-winter Snowbird conditions that any skier could ever hope for.
A total of 20+ inches had fallen over my two and a half days of skiing, and I couldn’t count myself luckier.
Per usual, I left Little Cottonwood Canyon asking myself, “Why I do even ski anywhere else?”
But alas, the SlopeLab experiment must continue! So stay tuned for future updates on more mountains!