Snowbird Kicks Off 50th Year Amid Rough Start to Utah Ski Season

It’s a little drier and warmer out there than Utahns are used to at the beginning of December. Instead of gazing at majestic mountains bathed in a fresh coating of powder, people along the Wasatch Front and Back are staring up at a scoured patchwork craggy rocks and paltry snowfields in the peaks. But old man winter’s lackluster effort hasn’t stopped resorts in the Wasatch from firing up the lifts, and Snowbird joined the action on Dec. 1, throwing a Birdstock party to celebrate the beginning of their 50th season.

While conditions weren’t the famed deep powder of Little Cottonwood Canyon, the Bird did serve up some 3,000-vertical-feet of top-to-bottom skiing via the Tram as well as the Gadzoom and Little Cloud chairlifts. That’s nothing to sneeze at after a snowy October gave way to a heinously warm and dry November leaving little natural snow of note anywhere but the highest elevations. The resort supplemented the skiing with good vibes courtesy of DJ supplied tunes, swag giveaways, contests and a retro 70s theme that’s a throwback to the mountain’s early days.

Powder? Not so much. Smiles? Plenty. Photo courtesy of Snowbird.

Of course, Snowbird isn’t the only show in town as resorts throughout the Wasatch have had the snow guns going full blast whenever it’s been cold enough. Park City Mountain now has both base areas open, though each offers a single ribbon of snow for skiable terrain at this point. Snowbird’s Little Cottonwood neighbor Alta has been going strong for a week with surprisingly good skiing conditions considering the meager season totals, while Big Cottonwood mainstays Solitude and Brighton are also open for business. Further south, Brian Head hasn’t skipped a beat either.

Models show winter may finally be arriving early next week to ward off the dastardly high-pressure ridge that’s skunked much of the early ski season. That’s good news, but instead of sitting home with our fingers crossed, we might as well head to the mountains to warm up the legs so we’re ready when the snow starts falling. I snuck out for a few decidedly mediocre turns this morning and was quickly reminded any time spent skiing is better than time spent sitting inside.

If drought conditions persist further into the winter, we’ll consult our meteorologist friends for a more thorough analysis, but I’ve been assured by trusted University of Utah trained weather nerds we don’t have anything to panic about. Yet. In the meantime, get out there and enjoy what little snow there is. Birdstock is a great example of how we can enjoy skiing without turning to jaded powder snobbery when the conditions aren’t ideal. I’ll see you on the slopes.  

Read more about getting outdoors in Utah.

Tony Gill
Tony Gill
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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