Jack Kerouac became a literary iconoclast through his use of spontaneous prose. Tom Waits built up a distinctive musical persona by growling out portraits of society’s forgotten people and places. Depending who you ask, Banksy is considered either a cutting-edge artist, a volatile political activist, or an unrepentant vandal. The thing is, each of these icons became icons because they chose a notoriously independent path and never wavered.
If these people were a place, it could easily be Ogden, Utah. If these guys were skiers or snowboarders, you’d probably find them at Powder Mountain.
More than one travel writer has described Ogden as, “The Other Utah.” The same, famed “Greatest Snow on Earth” that falls on resorts with greater name recognition 40 miles to the south, falls on the 9,000-foot peaks that tower over Ogden. In terms of snow quality and terrain, it’s very much Utah. The “other” part derives from virtually everything else you’ll experience.
In a world of chain restaurants, big box stores, and resort conglomerates proudly built on homogenized sameness, Ogden stands defiant and notoriously independent. Odds are pretty good that you’ll share a chairlift with the guy who owns the independent, downtown pizza joint whose satellite location will slide you a slice at lunch. Your next ride up the mountain could be with the girl who crafts the beer in one of the locally owned breweries that you’ll hit after the lifts shut down. The guy shredding that aggressive line beneath you could easily be the guitar player in the local band that you’ll be listening to in a dive bar later in the evening as you peel labels off of $2 longnecks.
Despite the cracked and peeling stickers on their cars, trucks, and guitar cases encouraging you to go away, or at least keep your mouth shut about the area, if you’re a semi-decent human being, these wannabe curmudgeons will embrace your presence and probably show you to some of their favorite stashes. In short, unless you make it clear that you want to be treated as an outsider, Ogden is going to assume you’re part of the community and treat you as such.
You don’t get to Powder Mountain on a multi-lane interstate. You get there on a winding two-lane road that is so steep that professional cyclists in the Tour of Utah threatened to boycott the summer race if it ever included the climb again. Pow Mow is a top-down resort, meaning that you park at the top of the mountain with lift service back up after each run.
From its 9,000-foot “base area” at what feels like the top of the world with four states visible below, you’ll believe you’re taking in its 8,464-acre expanse, but don’t be fooled. Much of the skiable terrain exists in hidden side canyons that are accessed via snowcat or skinning to earn your turns.
First-timers should take advantage of the complimentary mountain tours offered by Pow Mow guides every day at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Meet up outside the Mountain Adventure Yurt. Once you’ve got the lay of the land, enjoy exploring the various open glades and skiable pockets of quaking aspen.
When the legs need a break and the lungs need a breather, pull up a chair in the Powder Keg…a chair, not an entire table. Make new friends at a shared table in this intimate pub and grill that will fill your belly with noodles in hot broth, freshly grilled burgers, and plenty of beer on tap. It will also fill your ears with live music most afternoons. On days when the powder is dumping…and there are several of these days…the Powder Keg is the place to hang out while the plows clear the road for your trip back down the mountain.
Once your white-knuckle drive gets you back to Ogden Valley, you may be ready to hit either New World Distillery to pick up a bottle of locally crafted gin, vodka, or agave spirits (tequila), or Shooting Star Saloon…the oldest, continually operating saloon west of the Mississippi River. Yeah, they pretty much ignored the whole Prohibition era in Ogden Valley and kept pouring, hence the phrase. “the other Utah.”
Or keep heading down Ogden Canyon and back to town where independent dining, nightlife, music, and other entertainment options abound. Did someone say “competitive axe throwing?”
If you want to hook up with some of the new friends you met on the mountain, your best bet is probably Slackwater. This locals’ favorite has the largest beer selection in the area (over 300) as well as some of the best food and live music in town. If you’re wanting to switch things up, head to Tona for what is consistently recognized as the best sushi in the state of Utah, or Hearth on 25th for locally sourced, gourmet wild game dishes and signature cocktails.
Whatever you do, spend some time exploring Ogden’s Historic 25th Street. During the rough and tumble days of passenger rail travel, the street was home to bootleggers, gamblers, and prostitutes. While the gambling halls, brothels, and opium dens have faded away, there’s still plenty of grit to be experienced in the eclectic mix of art galleries, shops, restaurants, and bars ranging from swanky to dive.
Lodging around Ogden runs the gamut from national hotel chains to boutique properties to vacation rentals by owner. VisitOgden.com is the best place to check available lodging, dining, and entertainment options. How convenient that you’re already here!
If you’re looking for a ski/snowboard vacation that is like everybody else’s, we could point you to dozens of destinations that will satisfy. If you’re looking to take your own path and write your own story, we welcome you to Notoriously Independent Ogden, Utah.