The approach road to the mountain from the highway can be treacherous in bad weather and the drive up to the mountain is always slow.
Mountain amenities are slim to nonexistent.
The restaurant at the Hidden Lake summit is tiny and cramped and the deck has a great view but exactly two tables. It reminds me of the steamy summit house at the top of the famed but long discarded Mt Cranmore skimobile in North Conway NH and the Cantina bar in the first Star Wars movie.
There is no lodge anywhere. No hotel. No restaurant ... at the mountain or anywhere near it.
The après ski scene is so après it doesn’t exist, except for a steamy basement bar next to the ski shop at Timberline.
The lifts are painfully slow. Lots of old chairlifts. Even the high speed at Hidden Lake plods along. You can have a short nap on the Paradise chair and still wake up with minutes to spare.
But here’s the thing. None of this matters. Skiers come to Powder to ski ... powder. And the mountain does not disappoint. I’ve visited twice in recent years, with in between stops at places as far afield as Chamonix, Whistler, and Zermatt. For reliable and long lasting fluffy stuff, none of them compares to my ski days at Powder.
"Skiers come to Powder to ski...powder. And the mountain does not disappoint"
The powers that be have evidently decided that there is still a niche in the ski vacation world for a bare bones outfit that promises only one thing – great skiing, along with empty parking lots and nonexistent lift lines. True, there is not much steep and challenging terrain, even in the trees. But there is nothing like the exhilaration of bouncing through untracked meadows, accessible only by the 20-person Rain Tree and Lightning Ridge Snowcats generously offered for a few dollars extra, or the Powder Country and Woody’s World glades, even two and three days after a heavy snowfall.
That’s not so say that cruisers and intermediates are not welcome. Quite the opposite. There is plenty of easy and intermediate terrain all over the mountain. And when the snow is all tracked out or you just tire of whooshing through the trees, there is no shortage of fast groomer terrain.
A word of caution. To keep friends and lovers new to the sport happy, it’s important that you scope out beginner trails before sending them onto the slopes. Local knowledge is far better than a simple green line on map when choosing a route.
Another important point in Powder’s favor. Flying in winter from the East Coast to the West can be a crap shoot. An itinerary that includes changing planes in Denver, Chicago or Minneapolis – even Dallas-- adds to the uncertainty, both outbound and on the return. Trust me on this. Fly direct.
A direct connection to the full service airport at Salt Lake, followed by an hour’s highway drive to the mountain minimizes the stress associated with traveling by car and plane in winter.
Since there is virtually no accommodation on the mountain, we rented a large home at Moose Hollow (spoiler alert – no moose in sight), only twenty minutes from from the base at Timberline. If you prefer not to drive, a shuttle bus is available to the mountain. The access road is kept in great shape. Our two wheel drive vehicles, Including an rear wheel drive Dodge Ram, had no trouble negotiating the road, but I’d still prefer all four wheels spinning.
The house worked very well for us – a rather large group of 8 including my twenty-something son and his colleagues from work, my cousin and his college aged daughter. The local market and take out pizza kept us at home for dinner, along with the hot tub and comfy movie theatre in the basement where it proved very easy to pass out during the show.
Like all true skiers, we were in bed early and on the mountain much earlier than my usual, more casual late morning arrival. But no matter what time you arrive, you can exhaust yourself skiing. Powder limits the number of tickets sold, so plan ahead. In three days of skiing the only line I saw was the one to order burritos at the Hidden Lake restaurant. So if its lots of vertical you want, your stamina – and not twenty minute lift lines -- is your only obstacle.
For our third and last day skiing, we decided to give Snowbasin a try. Only 30 minutes from Eden, just south of the Pineview Reservoir, Showbasin is Powder’s rich and a bit overweight cousin.
Earl’s Lodge and mid-mountain restaurants like the one at John Paul’s Lodge are much more Deer Valley than Powder’s Hidden Lake and Timberline. On our way to the mountain we passed a number of satellite and thankfully empty parking areas serviced by a shuttle bus. I wouldn’t want to be here when the lots are full. On the gondola a local noted that after a snowfall lines begin to form at the lifts at 8am ...and by 10 its all but impossible to get fresh tracks through the new snow. Powder it’s not. I’d even say it is the Un-Powder.
Walking into the massive Earl’s Lodge at the base, I felt like a refugee who had just entered the Promised Land. Stuffed chairs, big windows and fantastic post and beam construction make for a very civilized ski experience. And for those who prefer to look like skiers rather than risk skiing itself, massive fireplaces and a glass of wine are at the ready.
Visibility at the top was close to zero. Thankfully trail markers every few meters kept us safely on the trail. Well I lost it for a moment but that’s another story. To beat the poor, flat visibility on top some of us skied the lower mountain while others tried their luck up top. There’s plenty of space to cruise and packed no was fine and perfectly enjoyable. So too was the welcoming firepit at the bottom. Powder hounds eat your heart out!
Before you go:
Tickets: 1,500 tickets available daily. Best to check availability and purchase online. https://www.powdermountain.com/resort/tickets-passes/day-night-tickets
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