Aerial tram (left) and resort in July 2007
|Location||Wasatch National Forest
Little Cottonwood Canyon
Salt Lake County, Utah
|Nearest city||Sandy: 4 miles (6 km)
Salt Lake City: 29 mi (47 km)
|Vertical||3,240 ft (988 m)
|Top elevation||11,000 ft (3,353 m)|
|Base elevation||7,760 ft (2,365 m)
8,100 feet (2,469 m)
main base area
|Skiable area||2,500 acres (10.1 km2)|
38% more difficult
35% most difficult
|Longest run||2.5 miles (4.0 km)
|Lift system||13 lifts:
- 1 tram
- 4 hi-speed quad chairs
- 6 double chairs
- 2 surface lifts
|Lift capacity||17,400 / hr|
|Snowfall||500 in (1,270 cm), average
record: 783 in (1,990 cm), (2011)
Snowbird is an unincorporated area based in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains in Salt Lake County, Utah, U.S. It is most famous for Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, an alpine skiing and snowboarding area, which opened in December 1971.
Snowbird is a multi-facility winter and summer resort located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. Primarily known for its winter powder skiing and snowboarding, Snowbird also hosts hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen, sightseers, and mountain vacationers in other seasons. Set among spectacular crenelated granite mountain peaks, facilities include ski lifts, hotels, condominiums, spa facilities, restaurants, skiing and mountain-resort-related retail businesses, medical services and others.
Snowbird was imagined, named, and developed by Ted Johnson. For nearly a decade, Johnson managed the Alta Lodge in the town of Alta at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon. During that period he explored the terrain below Alta in the Peruvian Gulch and Emma Mine/Gad Valley watersheds that later became Snowbird. Vision, drive, and fortuitous acquaintances made at the Alta Lodge made it possible for Johnson to begin development of the Snowbird Resort. Johnson, who was well suited to managing rapid development cycles, was also fixated on the central theme of the project, having fun on the mountain. During the development cycle, he, together with a number of the area's more adventurous skiers including Junior Bounous, Eddie Morris, snow ranger Peter Lev and others scored first descents on pitches that were to become essential to the Snowbird legend.
Johnson met Dick Bass, a Texas oilman, in 1969, and the two of them opened Snowbird in 1971. In 1974, Johnson sold his interest in Snowbird to Bass. Bass's achievement is remarkable in that Snowbird, which operates almost entirely on National Forest Service land and has ownership rights to a very small holding, relies for revenue on skiers, snowboarders and other visitors, unlike so many ski resorts that are little more than real estate developments.
Before Little Cottonwood Canyon became popular with skiers, miners discovered deposits of silver ore within the glacial canyon. The history of Little Cottonwood Canyon and the town of Alta dates back to the 19th Century, when a U.S. Army soldier first prospected for silver in 1869. The tiny minerals he stumbled upon soon supported a massive industry. Little Cottonwood Canyon became one of the largest producers of silver ore in the Wasatch Mountains. Known as the Emma Mine and the namesake for the Big Emma run in Snowbird’s Gad Valley, the soldier’s find eventually produced more than $3.8 million in silver.
At its peak, 8,000 people lived and worked in the narrow canyon, which held two smelters, 138 homes, hotels, boarding houses, stores and even a railroad. The entire town was later destroyed by a series of avalanches.
Snowbird resort is a year-round ski and summer resort located in the heart of the Wasatch National Forest on the eastern border of the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy. It is 29 miles (47 km) from Salt Lake City International Airport, 24 miles (39 km) from downtown Salt Lake City and 4 miles (6 km) east of the suburb of Sandy. The resort first opened in December 1971.
Snowbird shares the canyon with Alta Ski Area to the east. Beginning winter 2002, both resorts offer a joint day pass and a joint season ticket allowing full access all of the terrain on both mountains: 26 ski lifts and tows and a skiable area of 4,700 acres (19 km2). The collaboration coincided with the opening of a new lift in Mineral Basin, a large bowl owned by Snowbird on the back of Snowbird's Hidden Peak and Alta's Sugarloaf mountains that had been skiable within the resort since 1999. The installation of Baldy Express in 2002 allowed access to Alta from the Basin. Other access points between the two resorts exist as well. The offer is open to skiers only, as a result of Alta's skiers-only policy.
Both areas receive more than 500 inches (1,270 cm) of snowfall per year, due to lake-effect enhancement from the Great Salt Lake, making them the second snowiest ski areas after the ones in the Cascades). Unlike the humid and wet snow of the Cascades near the Pacific Ocean, arid Great Basin conditions produces very dry and powdery snow.
Snowbird usually closes on Memorial Day in late May while the occasional ski year can last as long as the Fourth of July. The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort perennially offers the longest ski season in Utah. Snowbird has a skiable area of 2,500 acres (10.1 km2) with a vertical drop of 3,240 feet (988 m) from the summit of Hidden Peak, which has an elevation of above 11,000 feet (3,353 m). Hidden Peak is serviced by an aerial tram from the base area.
The resort covers three drainage areas: Peruvian Gulch, Gad Valley, and Mineral Basin. Snowbird is perennially celebrated by industry magazines for its exceptional snowfall, vast and wide-ranging terrain and easy accessibility from the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Snowbird set a resort record of 776 inches (1,971 cm) of cumulative snow (mid-mountain measurement) in May 2011.
Snowbird currently has 10 chairlifts (6 high-speed quads, 4 doubles), a surface lift, an aerial tram, and a 600-foot (180 m) tunnel enclosing a one-way conveyor lift connecting Peruvian Gulch to Mineral Basin allowing easier access for beginners and intermediates to new terrain. The tunnel, the first of its kind in North America, also allows for skier transport when winds require the closing of the aerial tram. New in the 2013–14 season is the Gad 2 High Speed Quad, replacing the double that followed the same lift line.
The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort has a total of four lodges, including the Iron Blossom, the Inn, the Lodge at Snowbird, and the Cliff Lodge. The resort also has many gift shops, restaurants, arcades, a popular fine-dining Sunday brunch, hiking trails, several pools and a full-service rooftop spa.
Snowbird also offers one of the most accessible mountain meeting destinations in North America. The resort has 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) of meeting space along with 31 meeting rooms and a 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) Event Center available in the summer.
Skiing Magazine ranked the Alta-Snowbird ski area second in North America overall and first in the United States for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. According to SKI Magazine (October 2002) Snowbird ranked 20th in North America with Gold Medals in snow, access, challenge, terrain, scenery, weather, and lifts. In specific categories it was ranked third in North America for snow, fourth in North America for challenge, and fifth in North America for terrain. Snowbird ranks as the second best resort in North America, runner-up to Whistler Blackcomb resort in Canada, according to Skiing Magazine. More recently, Outside named Alta-Snowbird the number one ski destination in North America for the 2008-09 season. The ski school at Snowbird is well regarded, and two of Snowbird’s mountain school instructors, Rob Sogard and Nancy Thoreson, made SKI Magazine's Top 100 list.
Chairlifts and Tram
- Peruvian Express High Speed Quad
- Gadzoom High Speed Quad
- Mineral-Basin Express High Speed Quad
- Baldy Express High Speed Quad
- Little Cloud High Speed Quad
- Gad 2 High Speed Quad
- Wilbere Double
- Mid-Gad Double
- Baby Thunder Double
- Chickadee Double
- Aerial Tram
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