SALT LAKE CITY -- From posh Snow Basin in Utah to Powder Mountain is only 18 miles, but it's 30 or more years in time.
Powder Mountain is every powder skier's dream. The vast bowl, 5,500 acres of skiable terrain, is up the Ogden Canyon north of Salt Lake City, a drive that borders a rushing mountain stream and endless rows of cottages and bungalows.
And it isn't everything that Snow Basin is. The lodge is small, parking is about one-third of say Squaw Valley's vast lot. There are only four chairlifts, plus two Poma surface tows. And all-day lift ticket is $37, kids are $20 and seniors $30. If you're 80, then it's free.
Hamburgers are $6 compared to $9 at Snow Basin where lift tickets are $54.
And there are no Olympic events sceduled at Powder Mountain. "We'll get the overflow crowds," says Erin Dauby, director of the
Mountain Host program at Powder.
And what a program it is. At 10:30 a.m. the mountain hosts line up a few yards from the main lodge. For myself and David
Rittenhouse of South Lake Tahoe, Erin did the honors.
Erin grew up on skis and delights in skiing the fresh powder, while her 5-year-old daughter sticks to the racing circuit. She's affable, able and fun to ski with.
We started out on the Paradise chair, a fixed four-seater. And from there it was trails and powder, trails and powder. Rittenhouse, an expert powder skier, took off with another host while I stuck with Erin.
"We found this powder stash Teusday," she said. "Let's try it."
The powder was at least two feet deep and we ran through trees. I hit a bump and sat back and fell into powder that left me thrashing about trying to get up. I finally did, but after a morning in the powder and on the cat tracks, it was groomed runs for me.
But not for Rittenhouse. I quit about 3 p.m. while he went in search of more powder worlds to defeat. And that he did, running out of the actual ski boundries to the highway where he waited for 15 minutes for a shuttle bus to bring him back to the lodge.
Powder Mountain is like the ski resorts of the 1960s and '70s. The lodge is a two-story affair, upstairs for the cafeteria, downstairs for the bar room and the offices. The upstairs room is a collection of wooden benches, no fireplace, no pictures adorn the walls.
There's another lodge at the top of a two-seater chairlift that probably is in its third or fourth life. This lodge is smaller than the main lodge. This is skiing naturale, like it was before detachable quads and six-packs came in. This is the kind of skiing that I learned back at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado.
The surprise was that there were no 10th Mountain Division skiers on old wooden GI skis and leather boots.
But all that aside, the reason for skiing Powder Mountain is in the name. There are powder slopes surrounding the resort, there are powder patches in the trees, on the open slopes, everywhere. We were there on a Saturday, no lift lines, the cat skiing was down and snowboarders outnumber skiers.
There is helicopter skiing over Sunsset Ridge, the cats prowl the bowl and the crowd loves it. And so did I.
If powder's your game, give Erin a call. She's at (800) 745-1414. Tell her Sam sent you.