This is how your ski/snowboard trip to Ogden, Utah is going to go down.
You’ll land at SLC International Airport. Snap a few pics as you make your way through the concourse to baggage claim, because a year from now, it will be an entirely new airport and you’ll want to be able to tell people that you “came here when.” It’ll be nice to have photos to support your stories of the old days as you make your inevitable return trips.
You’ll find your skis or snowboard in the easy-to-spot oversize baggage claim area. SLC International baggage handlers probably see more ski/snowboard bags than any other airport in the world and they make it easy on everyone. You’re not going to be searching for some odd, little room with dingy lighting and a surly agent. You’ll be standing in a crowd of powder hounds talking about recent storm totals and where they’re headed. Some will be talking about their “place in Park City” a little too loudly in an attempted show of wealth. You’ll hear some people mispronounce Alta as ALL-ta, but it’s not your job to correct them. Simply collect your gear and head for the door.
This is the last crowd you’ll see for a while.
If you’re renting a car, simply walk across from the terminal to the rental car counters. Upgrade to the four-wheel drive since Powder Mountain Road doesn’t mess around, and it’s going to be on your itinerary whether you originally planned to ski/ride there or not.
If driving snowy 16% grades with signs reading, “AVALANCHE AREA: NO STOPPING OR STANDING NOV. - MAY” are intimidating to you, you might want to opt for the public transportation option. You’ll grab TRAX into Salt Lake City, then transfer over to the FrontRunner train to Ogden. A free downtown trolley can get you from the train platform in Ogden to your downtown hotel, and the UTA Ski Bus can get you from your hotel to either Snowbasin Resort or Powder Mountain every morning, and back every afternoon.
Get checked in and drop your gear and head for Historic 25th Street. Like any hotel, the front desk can give you friendly tips on where to go for a drink or a bite to eat…but here’s the thing about Ogden: pretty much any stranger you bump into is going to be willing to do the same.
Ogden isn’t a place where visitors feel like outsiders. Don’t pretend to be a local. Ogden loves that you’re not. Tell Ogdenites where you’re from. Share your stories and they’ll share theirs. You’re going to pick up a few new Facebook friends and Instagram followers during your trip
Your bartender will recommend two or three other bars you should check out while you’re in town. Your server will tell you about a dozen other restaurants that you need to experience. The brewer at one brewpub will tell you the story of the beer you’re drinking that they made, then tell you which beers to try at the other brewpubs in town that their friends made. Even the hardcore skier or snowboarder seated beside you will share directions to their favorite stashes that you should hit tomorrow. You see, there’s plenty to go around in this town and Ogden shares its abundance.
If you’re driving to Snowbasin in your rental car, take a couple of people up with you (you will have made a few friends during your evening on 25th Street), because Snowbasin gives preferred parking to carpools. Even if you go it alone, you’ll still park closer to the base area at Snowbasin than at nearly any other resort. If you’re taking the ski bus, the front desk will tell you exactly when and where the bus will arrive for pick-up.
You’ll be drawn to the opulent log lodges at the base area, but there will be plenty of time for that later. You need only stop long enough to pick up your pass. You’ll see small clusters of people gathered around the giant, bronze moose sculpture on the plaza. It’s pretty much the designated meeting spot, and if you made the right friends the night before, they probably said, “Meet me at the moose.” This is the place they were talking about.
Jump on the Needles gondola. During the 10-minute ride to the top, you’ll make seven new friends. A couple will be locals. At least one person will say, “I usually go to [insert name of other Utah resort here], but figured I’d try Snowbasin. Next time, I’m just coming straight here.”
You’ll take a few runs to get your ski legs under you before heading to the John Paul high-speed quad lift. From the top of the lift, you’ll take the Olympic Tram and stand atop DeMoisy Peak and gaze at four states: Utah, directly below, and Nevada, Idaho, and Wyoming as you slowly turn and scan the horizon.
Unless you take the easy way down on the cat track, this is where you’ll check off that item on your bucket list that says, “Ski the same downhill course that Bode Miller and Picabo Street did during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.” It’s on your bucket list between “Throw a pitch at Fenway Park” and “Play 18 holes at Augusta National.” You know…in the part of your list that includes world-class athletic experiences that you’ll never check off…except this one.
When you reach the bottom, your burning legs will be begging for a break, and you’ll head into Earl’s Lodge. Even if you don’t have to go to the bathroom, you have to go to the bathroom…just to see what all the fuss is about. If you walk out claiming you’ve ever seen nicer bathrooms at a ski resort, you better be able to back it up.
You’ll take a few more runs before you realize you’re only beginning to scratch the surface of this place. On one of your Strawberry Gondola rides, you’ll pull out your phone to check your calendar to see if there’s anything that can’t be pushed so you can extend your stay.
You’ll start to wind your day down at the Cinnabar inside Earl’s Lodge with the best gin and tonic you’ve ever had. The bartender will inform you that the secret is the award-winning gin that’s distilled just down the hill at New World Distillery. He’ll recommend a distillery tour and tasting. You’ll realize that the locals haven’t steered you wrong yet, and pull your phone out and make a reservation.
By the time you get back down to Ogden, you’ll pretty much have the lay of the land. You might head for that sushi place that looked amazing, or maybe the live music joint, or the comedy club, or the historic theater, or the dive bar, or the artisan pizza place, or…
You’ll bump into some folks at the intersection of Lincoln Ave. and 25th Street trying to decide where to go. Clearly, they just arrived and need a little direction. Good thing you’re pretty much a local at this point, and you’ll point them the right way.
You’re going to experience the steepest road you’ve ever traveled as you head to Powder Mountain. Even if you rented that four-wheel drive at the airport, you may want to park at the shuttle stop in Eden and take the bus to the top. With 16% grades, this road was built prior to modern department of transportation protocols and it’s construction wouldn’t be allowed today.
Avalanche control and snow removal are top notch, but on epic Utah powder days, even round-the-clock crews can’t always keep up.
You’ll arrive at the top and realize that there is no more aptly named resort in the world as you stand atop a mountain of powder. With its expansive acreage and a daily cap on skier numbers, Powder Mountain is famous for holding untouched stashes for days and even weeks after storms. That can sound intimidating to beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, but plenty
of the 8,464 skiable acres is groomed terrain as well.
You’ll pick up a standard resort pass and meet a knowledgeable mountain host near the Mountain Adventure Yurt for a complimentary tour of the resort. When you’re done, you’ll drop into either the Hidden Lake Cantina for a quick taco, or the Timberline Cafeteria for a slice of Lucky Slice pizza. Afterwards, you may want to drop a few bucks for a Lightning Ridge or Raintree Snowcat ticket to experience the abundance of powder country and side country terrain that you observed during your mountain tour. Or you may realize that there is plenty of terrain you haven’t touched and forego the snowcats.
As your day winds down, you’ll cram into the Powder Keg to warm your belly with a bowl of steaming ramen and a beer or two. You won’t have your own table. This is another place where you’ll make new friends in Ogden as you sit elbow-to-elbow with them and listen to live music cranking from the tiny stage. As the sun sets, rowdy locals will clear the tables to make room for dancing and pull you up to join them. If it’s a blower snowstorm outside, no one, including the band, will be in a hurry to leave. You will all just hunker down to ride out the storm with more tunes and another round as snowplow operators work to clear the road and get you safely off the mountain.
The rest of the story is yours to write. It might include a visit to the oldest continually operating saloon west of the Mississippi. It might include wild game fine dining. It might include a bit of competitive axe throwing or sipping long-neck domestic beer as you play pool in a dive bar with your newfound friends.
YOU get to decide how the rest of your story in Ogden goes. After all, they don’t use the tagline, “Notoriously Independent” for nothing.