SlopeLab’s Review of Snowbird

SlopeLab Ratings


Detailed Scores:

Beginner Terrain
Intermediate Terrain
Advanced Terrain
Expert Terrain
Tree Skiing
Bowl Skiing
Snow Rating
Ski Town

Snowbird Mountain Stats

Photo Gallery

Snowbird Overview

Imagine a mountain that’s crazy steep, receives more snowfall than nearly any other place on earth, and has invested million of dollars putting high speed lifts all over its legendary terrain?

Welcome to Snowbird, my personal pick for the most world-class ski resort in Utah.

Put simply, if you’re wanting to rack up maximum vertical while skiing or riding some steep pow, you’ve come to the right spot.

All of this is offered in a unique mountain retreat atmosphere, nestled in Utah’s legendary Little Cottonwood Canyon.

How is the snow at Snowbird?

Average Inches of Annual Snowfall

Usually, this section sits near the end of the review, but Snowbird’s weather is such a defining characteristic of this mountain that I had to make an exception.

As a rule of thumb, ski resorts are snowy places. But even among ski resorts, Snowbird is an off-the-charts outlier.

While most mountains bicker among themselves, fighting for bragging rights about who receives 250 versus 300 inches of snow per year, Snowbird perches well above nearly every other mountain, regularly racking up over 500 inches of snow per year. 

That’s a total which almost no other ski resort can compete with, and it legitimately makes Snowbird one of the snowiest places in the world.

Meaning, if you plan a trip to Snowbird, you’re not necessarily guaranteed to ski powder, but you sure are putting the odds more in your favor than just about any other ski resort. (Except for maybe its next door neighbor, Alta.)

There’s something else about Snowbird’s snow worth mentioning. As Utah’s license plates proudly boasts, they get “the greatest snow on earth.” And this is one instance where it’s not just marketing B.S.

The snow here really is some of the lightest, driest powder you’ll find anywhere. If you’re dreaming of those highlight-worthy face shots, you’ve found your spot!

Oh, and one last thing! (Obviously, there’s a lot to rave about when it comes to Snowbird’s snow…) The Bird’s unique terrain layout, which mostly consists of wide open bowls, creates endless paths for powder hounds looking to sniff out some pow. The general motto here says it all – if you can see it, you can ski it!

Snowbird Trail Maps

Snowbird Trail Map
Snowbird Trail Map (click for full size)
Snowbird Mineral Basin Trail Map
Mineral Basin Trail Map (click for full size)

Snowbird Lift Info

wdt_ID Lift High Speed? Vertical Rise (ft.)
1 Aerial Tram Yes, Tram 2,863
2 Baby Thunder No 633
3 Baldy Express Yes 962
4 Chickadee No 134
5 Gad 2 Express Yes 1,236
6 Little Cloud Express Yes 1,291
7 Mid Gad No 1,309
8 Mineral Basin Express Yes 1,367
9 Peruvian Express Yes 2,421
10 Wilbere No 679

Snowbird Terrain Overview

Aside from the snow, terrain is the second major reason skiers flock to this mountain.

And like the snow, Snowbird’s terrain is pretty unusual.

In general, many of the most popular sections of this mountain completely abandon the usual cut ski run in favor of totally wide open features that are ripe for exploring. (And holding snow!)

Put simply – Snowbird is bowl-skiing-galore, making it a dream come true for advanced and expert skiers, although this may leave beginner and intermediate skiers feeling a little left out.

Oh, and there’s another interesting feature about Snowbird’s terrain… Alta. Snowbird and Alta sit directly next door to each other, and you can even buy an upgraded lift ticket that allows you to ski between the two.

As two of my personal favorite mountains in the world, that’s an awesome selling point. Although admittedly, I find it a little unnecessary, since each place has more than enough amazing terrain to keep you entertained for days on end by themselves.

See also… Alta vs. Snowbird: An Honest Comparison

Lastly, the discussion about Snowbird’s terrain wouldn’t be complete without a hat tip to all of its world class lifts to get you there. Basically every major area on the mountain is easily accessed by a high speed lift, and then Snowbird ramped things up even further by installing one of the biggest trams in North America (the Aerial Tram), one of the tallest chairlifts in the country (Peruvian Express) and even an underground tunnel to easily reach the backside. (Peruvian Tunnel)

Snowbird is glamorous skiing, except the pampered audience here has nothing to do with fur coats and everything to do with hardcore powder shredders.

Snowbird for Beginners

I’ll be honest. Snowbird isn’t really a beginners mountain.

They actually pride themselves on it. Once upon a time, they ran a viral marketing campaign, highlighting negative reviews of the resort which claimed the mountain was “too advanced.”

Snowbird Too Advanced Ad
Snowbird's "one-star" advertising campaign

And it’s true. There’s basically just one green run on the entire mountain (Middle/Lower Emma, and it’s a great, wide open groomer) while the rest of the mountain’s greens are just narrow cat-tracks really meant for transporting people across the mountain.

Even more, Emma is accessed by an old, slow chair lift, and it’s located pretty low on the mountain, so beginners don’t get the full “mountain experience.”

(Okay, technically there’s a few more greens under Baby Thunder and Chickadee, but the same criticisms apply. They’re low on the mountain and/or accessed via  slow lifts with multiple cat-tracks.)

Snowbird for Intermediates

I remember early on in my skiing days, I took one look at Snowbird’s trial map and was immediately scared off. Nearly the entire thing is black diamonds!

These days, I’ve progressed enough to love Snowbird, but I still wouldn’t classify it as an intermediate’s mountain, either.

The trail map isn’t lying – most everything is black diamond or harder. You won’t really find the long blue groomers of other intermediate paradise mountains like Aspen, Whistler, or even nearby Deer Valley.

Instead, most of Snowbird’s blue runs are cut up by random traverses, periodic flat spots, and other obstacles.

And to complicate things further, this place gets so much snow that more often than not, the groomers turn into deep, challenging powder runs that get chopped up into moguls by lunch time.

Advanced Terrain at Snowbird

At this level, Snowbird really starts to separate itself as a world-class mountain.

Those endless black diamonds on the trail map are the real deal. They’re steep, they’re deep, and they’re everywhere you look.

But maybe my favorite part about Snowbird’s advanced terrain is how it caters well to both the lower-advanced to higher-advanced skiers and riders.

On the lower rend, many of Snowbird’s blue runs feature easy to access side excursions where adventurous skiers can quickly dabble in black bumps or steeps, while keeping an escape hatch back to the easier terrain, just in case. (Perfect examples of this would be the entire Peruvian Express area and most of Mineral Basin.)

On the higher end of advanced, Snowbird has tons of steep black terrain that most less extreme mountains would probably classify as double black diamond difficulty. Not to name names, but I’m pretty sure most all of Mineral Basin would be rated double black at Breckenridge…

Expert Terrain at Snowbird

I’m just saying… Snowbird might have more lifts with “Experts Only” warning signs plastered about than anywhere I’ve ever been.

And those signs are onto something. Snowbird is steep. Snowbird has endless bowls. And Snowbird has plenty of crazy rock features that toss aside the traditional “ski run” and replace it with gnarly explorations.

All in all, there’s only a small handful of mountains that can even pretend to compete with Snowbird’s expert terrain. And even still, many of those places don’t have the sort of direct access to the gnar that you’ll find at The Bird.

The crown jewel of this is The Cirque. This steep ridge slices through the entire front side of the mountain, and it’s easily accessed by a traverse right off the Aerial Tram. From there it offers expert skiers and riders an endless choice of chutes and steeps, all funneling right back down to the Tram for maximum lap-ability.

Where is Snowbird?

Snowbird sits less than 30 minutes from Salt Lake City, Utah, and just 40 minutes from the SLC airport.

In good weather, it’s one of the most convenient ski resorts in the country. That said, it snows here, a lot, which can add some logistical challenges to your trip plans.

For more info, check out SlopeLab’s detailed guided for how to get to Snowbird.

Snowbird as Ski town

Admittedly, Snowbird doesn’t bring the apres party like many other brand-name ski resorts, but you’re here to ski powder, rest up, and do it again tomorrow, remember?

Snowbird isn’t really a “ski town.” After all, it sits in Little Cottonwood Canyon, a narrow slot-like feature that also happens to be one of the most avalanche prone places in the country.

The result is that aside from the resort hotels and amenities, which are built like concrete bunkers for obvious reasons, there’s not much room for anything else.

Overall, the vibe here is “world-class mountain resort.” You won’t find the endless shopping and partying available at other famous ski towns. Instead, you ski all day, maybe make a reservation at your lodge’s fine dining restaurant in the evening, and then spend the night soaking in The Cliff Spa’s hot tub, as you overlook the mountains and plan tomorrow’s runs.

That’s mostly all there is to do. But I’d counter with, what more could you want?

(I should mention that The Tram Club, located right next to the Aerial Tram, is a sports-bar spot that can get pretty wild on busier days.)

Alternatively, many budget travelers will stay just outside of the Canyon in nearby Salt Lake City or the Sandy / Cottonwood Heights suburbs. This grants you access to all the familiar amenities and chain locations of a familiar metro area, although it does add a potentially white-knuckle drive to your 30+ minute commute each day.

When is the best time to visit Snowbird?

January - April

Once the storms start brewing, Snowbird is one of the safest bets for good conditions all season long.

Typically, those storms fire up in November and December, and once the mountain has a big enough base to cover the steeps, it’s off to the races.

Usually, this happens in January, and visiting the mountain any time through April is a nice, safe window. Snowbird is also unique in offering spring skiing all the way through May; all that snow helps build a nice, big base that provides a strong buffer against the Spring season’s melt.

Snowbird proudly boasts “Utah’s longest ski season” and the claim checks out!

How are the crowds at Snowbird?

Snowbird is a world-renown destination for powder seekers, and with that comes some crowds.

The real madness happens on big powder days, when it seems like all of Salt Lake City drives up to cash in on the goods. If it’s snowing, you can expect 5-10+ minute lift lines, as well as fierce competition for the fresh lines.

That said, non-powder days can be relatively tame, with almost no lines at all. (And in my opinion, Snowbird is a seriously underrated place on a bluebird day!)

Further reading