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When I was a kid, I skied every day at a rinky-dink resort in Northern Michigan. The slopes were glazed with what we'd call "blue ice;" if your edges weren't sharp, you couldn't stand up. The snow is plentiful in places like Michigan, but it's not ideal for skiing and snowboarding.
Growing up, I was able to ski some pretty neat resorts both in the West and even Europe. I ski-raced through college, and taught skiing at several different resorts by the time I was 22.
When I was a strapping lad of 22 years, I taught at Boyne Mountain. On Christmas Eve in 1993, a freak storm blew across northern Michigan. The ski school gave us the day off, so we skied. It was a miracle: 30 inches of dry, powder snow fell on Boyne Mountain. It was literally the first time I'd seen it, touched it or skied it. It was absolutely amazing, and on that day, I made up my mind to move out west.
I had formalized my concept of what the ideal ski conditions are, and where they could be had: The Sovereign State of Colorado. To me, Colorado was the end-all, be-all of skiing, especially powder skiing. I moved to Telluride right out of college in hopes of having more powder-skiing days like that freakish Christmas Eve back in MI. And I'll tell you that I got plenty. Telluride averages more snow than most any other place in Colorado, and it's pretty dry stuff. I became a powder hound and loved it.
Somewhere along the line, I met a girl; we moved away; and bla bla bla, somehow ended up living in Denver (which we figured for a "big" ski town). The drive from Denver to any ski resort was horrific, and five times worse on the drive home. The snow at Keystone, Loveland, A-Basin, Breck, Copper, Vail, Beaver, etc, was nothing like the dry, fluffy snow in Telluride. Denver wasn't ideal, but it wasn't Michigan either.
Then we moved to Park City.
Forget that the airport is so close it's practically at the bottom of the lift. Forget that there are seven major resorts practically right on top of each other. Forget that Park City is as fun and elegant as any other ski town. The snow in Utah is the Greatest Snow on Earth. It's a catchy little phrase, and it's true. Since I've been here, I've skied more powder than most people will ever see in their lifetime. Telluride was great, Telluride was awesome-but even fair Telluride does not get snow like Utah.
Did you ever make ice cream? You use salt and ice and some other weird stuff, and out comes this amazing-tasting frozen treat. Utah is like that. Our storms comes across the dessert of Nevada and western Utah; then they pick up steam as they cross over this strange inland sea filled with dense saltwater; then the storms slam into the monstrous Wasatch mountains-and they get stuck here, dumping snow until it's snorkel deep. Somehow, the Cottonwood Canyons make their own weather; it will often snow in both canyons while the Park City resorts will bask under clear blue skies.
When it snows in Utah, it falls like goose down. The stuff is bone dry and stacks up feet deep with almost no moisture density at all (if you melt our snow, you get very little water). Utah has high-altitude, but it's not so high that you start to choke when you pull into town (Breckenridge is at 10,000 feet!) Our mountains are steep, but not too steep like Telluride. Generally speaking, if it snows a foot in Park City, the Cottonwoods get three feet. If Park City gets 20 inches, the Cottonwoods get 60 inches.
After 25 years of research and travel, and over 10,000 hours of actual skiing, I offer this with the greatest amount of humility,
"The ideal conditions for skiing and snowboarding are in Utah." Utah powder snow is the perfect snow. Groomed powder runs here are like paddling down through buttermilk. Unkempt powder runs are delicious and deep long after the storm has left the region. The Wasatch Mountains are the ideal elevation. Park City is a barrel of monkeys, and it's beautifully elegant. The airport is only 30 minutes away in heavy traffic. And because of the ease and proximity of these seven resorts, we think visitors have a difficul t time just choosing where to ski or snowboard.
We asked each of the seven major resorts four simple questions. We're printing their responses verbatim (well, two had to be cut down because they were a bit long winded).
We're also giving our perspective on each of these resorts. We've tackled the very grueling task of skiing each resort this season before this publication is printed-- just to keep things fresh.
You may agree with us, or you may disagree with anything we've said about these seven resorts. Hey, all we can do is our best.
Enjoy your time on the Greatest Snow on Earth. It's what makes Utah such a special place to ski and ride.
The Greatest Snow On Earth!