A Ski Utah Dream At Powder Mountain - My Family Travels

Funky Powder Mountain resort in northern Utah is known for the 500" of powder dumped during the season and left for skiers and riders to discover. It's the perfect family destination for those traveling with expert skiers, powder chasers or the snow-seeking groupies who use SkiUtah's Powder Alert smartphone app to learn when and where the storms have hit.

Powder is also the ski resort for anyone who thinks snowsports are about the mountains and the scenery and only occasionally, a hot chocolate. It's authentic, the real deal, a place where you can make first tracks all day long. And upholding that reputation means a lot in a state whose license plate reads: "Greatest Snow on Earth."

Powder Mountain is Old School to the Max

With thousands of acres to spare, Powder Mountain is bigger than almost any other resort in North America, and always covered in white.  Although there is some grooming done to trails that are mostly intermediate cruisers, what's fun at Powder are the off-piste glades and casual Frontier ambiance. So fun, that since my visit, the resort’s trail crew has adding tree skiing to Powder Country, Backcountry “DMI” Tour areas, and the Snowcat Powder Safari Zones.

Ski bum hippies have retired here since Powder opened in 1972. Yet as more and more skiers and riders discover its charms, the friendly locals have learned to embrace the resort's Facebook page and the next generation that comes with it. Local volunteers take out newcomers to tour the groomed, lift-served trails, and professional guides can be hired to tour the out of bounds terrain. But don't expect them to serve chai lattes at the funky snack bar where we had a delicious burger. Enhancements like that may be too fast too soon for fans of classic Powder.

What's Big and Beautiful at Powder Mountain

There's no snowmaking at Powder, so the resort opens whenever it's ready (usuallly by early December).  However, once open, there's enough fresh powder to keep the famous Out of Bounds Tours by Snowcat going all day. That's what draws the fans, and most agressive skiers and riders just tumble out of the Snowcat and take off down the hidden chutes, across the wide open bowls, and through the forested glades. Or just strap into their snow kites and go.

But with its dress down style and more than 10,000 acres to share, Powder's casual ambiance makes every type of skier feel at home. Our group of intermediates, for example, was encouraged to take the Snowcat into the beautiful back country then avoid the steeps by returning along the groomed Snowcat trail. For the 2011-2012 season, Powder Mountain will expand their single-ride Snowcat trips by 50% with the addition of 350 skiable acres and an additional Snowcat.

If they don't want to spend $15 to access Lightning Ridge by Snowcat, skiers and riders can plunge off any trail into the snow-packed forest and make fresh tracks all the way to the surrounding ring road, where free shuttles circulate to bring them back up the mountain.

Powder's Ski School is a Gentle Intro to the Sport

Families will want to start their kids off with the beginners on the Nordic Center's gentle slopes. In contrast to many resorts, at Powder, the well regarded ski and snowboard school doesn't offer formal lessons to children until they're age 6. Although there is a day-long supervised snowplay program for ages 3 and up so parents can enjoy the mountain, it focuses on fun rather than formal technical classes.

One dad I met (father of a toddler who climbs into his snowboard boots to stand) explained that Powder's clientele of hardcore skiers and riders enjoyed teaching their own toddlers the sports' basics. By age 6, however, even Powder's devoted parents appreciate that some kids take instruction more easily from a professional.

Visiting families with kids who are ready to play, ski or ride will find the snowsports school very welcoming, and should take advantage of it to hop a Snowcat or helicopter or ski-kite and access some of the resort's gorgeous above-the-treeline terrain. The more traditional and more cautious snowsports fan has excellent grooming on almost 3,000 lift-served acres, so there is several days' worth of breathtaking intermediate terrain as well.

Trip Planning Details for a Powder Mountain Blast

The enormous Powder Mountain (801/745-3772) is located in what feels like the middle of nowhere at State Road 158, Eden, Utah 84130. The base area is high above the rim road at 6,900 feet, which reinforces the magical transformation that visitors feel in this snowy nirvana.  From the peak at 9,105 feet, there are 135 marked runs and seven lifts.

Part of the magic is that Powder has no commercial development and no base village. There are a few restaurants, some shops and a day wellness spa in the nearest town of Eden. Families from out of state may prefer the wider range of apres-ski activities available in Ogden, about 45 minutes away. The small city (Ogden family activities reviewed here) will provide whatever nightlife your family might crave.

But make no mistake, the day is all about Powder.

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