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Terrain Breakdown & Openings

Image: Riley Whitney

Author: Snowbird

Published Date: 02/27/2023

Read Time: 8 minutes

All You Need
to Know About Snowbird’s 3
Terrain Zones

Introducing: Peruvian Gulch, Gad Valley & Mineral Basin

When the Tram docks at Snowbird’s 11,000-foot summit, you’ll often hear passengers cheering before they exit, skis and snowboards in tow. They’re cheering for a reason—as they step out of the Tram onto Hidden Peak, they’ll ski and ride some of North America’s most diverse terrain and deepest powder. Snowbird spans 2,500 acres, yet the mountain’s expansive reach—from steep chutes to open bowls to cruising groomers—makes it feel even more significant. It’s often said that it would take an entire lifetime to ski all the mountain has to offer, but we have yet to find someone who’s claimed to do it.

Baldy Mt. visible from the Cirque in Peruvian Gulch

This variety of terrain keeps every day interesting but can also make navigating the mountain intimidating. To guide you to success, we’ve broken down Snowbird’s 3 distinct areas—Peruvian Gulch, Gad Valley and Mineral Basin—highlighting terrain, where and what to eat, family and first-timer appropriate runs and more.

Bird Insider Tip: Upgrade your lift ticket with Fast Tracks to navigate the mountain with speed and ease by accessing express lanes at all high-speed quads.

Peruvian Gulch

If you were to gaze up at the mountain from the Snowbird Center’s Plaza Deck, most of what you’d see is part of Peruvian Gulch. Lifts servicing this area include Snowbird’s famous Aerial Tram, Peruvian Express (nicknamed P-Dog) and Wilbere. Due to this zone’s northeast orientation, the snow gets less direct sun exposure than other parts of the mountain, meaning snow conditions typically stay cold even after the flakes stop falling. Experts love Peruvian Gulch for its lap-able, challenging terrain, while intermediate skiers can enjoy the highest number of groomed blue runs in all of Utah.

Snowboarder airing into Peruvian Gulch

Highlights:

  • While not technically a part of Peruvian Gulch, it would be remiss not to mention Snowbird’s learning-friendly terrain accessed via the fixed-grip double-chair, Chickadee. Directly across from Peruvian Gulch, under the watchful gaze of Mount Superior, Chickadee offers gently sloping terrain best for those just learning or getting comfortable riding chairlifts.
  • Are you looking to maximize your vert? Check out Chip’s Run, a long and cruisey cat track that stretches over two miles from Snowbird’s 11,000-foot peak to the base of the mountain. Extend your tour de Chip’s (and avoid the busier Phone 3 Road) by turning onto Who Dunnit, which offers Cliff Lodge ski-in access before returning to the Snowbird Center/Peruvian Express lift base. 
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to ride North America’s only ski- and snowboard-friendly subterranean tunnel. Peruvian Tunnel, located at the top of the Peruvian Express, accesses Mineral Basin utilizing a conveyer belt that transports you through Mt. Baldy and to the other side of the mountain. The tunnel doubles as a heritage center, featuring mining-era artifacts to enjoy on the ride.
  • On stormy mornings, delays may occur on Gadzoom, Peruvian Express and the Tram while avalanche mitigation is performed. Instead of waiting, bag powder laps off Wilbere Chair until the upper mountain terrain opens.
  • Snag ski-in, ski-out parking along the Bypass Road. While spots are limited, this area is first-come, first-served, and allows you to coast to the car at the end of the day.
  • Fuel up with eggs benedict or the beef bahn mi sandwich at The Forklift (Snowbird Center Plaza Deck), the coconut curry chicken rice bowl or salad bar at Rendezvous (Snowbird Center Level 2), Baked & Brewed Café’s sunrise smoothie or beehive latte (Snowbird Center Level 2) or a Mt. Baldy breakfast burrito or Regulator Johnson bagel sandwich from General Gritts Deli (Snowbird Center Level 1).

Skier carving down Who Dunnit on the Peruvian Gulch side of Snowbird

Gad Valley

Intermediate runs form the backbone of Gad Valley—Snowbird’s west-facing zone that stretches from the top of the Tram to the bottom of Baby Thunder. Other lifts servicing this area include Little Cloud Express, Mid-Gad, Gadzoom, Gad 2 and the Thunder Tube conveyor lift.

Fun Fact: The name “Gad,” a pointed tool used in mining, pays homage to Snowbird’s pre-skiing past.   

Bassackwards starting from Gad Valley at Snowbird

Highlights:

  • Take a journey with your family through Mini Miner’s Camp, a winding trail through the trees adorned with mining-themed activations located off Baby Thunder’s West 2nd South trail.
  • Enjoy the glades off Gad 2—right off runs like Bananas and Election—which not only provide an ideal venue for emerging intermediates to dip a toe into tree skiing and snowboarding, but also are home to some of the oldest evergreen trees in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
  • Utilize free, first-come, first-served parking at Entry 1 or the Upper Gad Valley lots. Get closer to the lifts by utilizing the Lower Gad Valley lot, which can be reserved online or paid for upon arrival (if inventory allows).
  • If you’re hungry, check out Creekside Lodge’s chicken tenders and fries or any variety of the loaded mac & cheese (located at the base of the Gadzoom lift). On-mountain, snag a draft beer and a bluebird bacon burger, western burger or chili with all the fixings at Mid-Gad Restaurant (on the Middle Bassackwards run).

Mid-Gad Restaurant on-mountain dining in Gad Valley at Snowbird

Mineral Basin

Stellar views and sun-bathed groomed runs are the hallmarks of Snowbird’s Mineral Basin back-bowl area. Access Mineral Basin through the Peruvian Tunnel from the top of the Tram or Little Cloud Express. This zone sees the most sunlight in the morning, making it a go-to first stop for many skiers and riders. This popularity can sometimes lead to longer-than-usual waits at Mineral Basin Express. Don’t let the crowds deter you—instead, upgrade to Fast Tracks to speed through the lift line and remember to download the Snowbird App to check wait times.

Mineral Basin sunny powder skiing at Snowbird

Highlights:

  • Take in views of the entire basin while gliding along the Path to Paradise traverse to Junior’s Powder Paradise—a wide-open and regularly groomed intermediate run.
  • Watch your kids practice parallel turns along family-friendly runs like Lupine Loop, Luckey Boy, Bird’s Nest, Claim Jumper and Bassanova.
  • Ski 2 resorts in a day by using the Alta-Bird Connection. You’ll want to be equipped with an Alta-Bird season pass or day ticket to access the neighboring Alta Ski Area at the top of Mineral Basin’s high-speed quad, Baldy Express. If you’re skiing with an Ikon Pass or Mountain Collective Pass, double-check the access you have to Alta before crossing over. Please note that Alta does not allow snowboarding.
  • Grab lunch or a snack surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows at The Summit, at the top of the Tram and Mineral Basin Express. A few of the hunger-fighting menu items include the Mediterranean focaccia panini, meatloaf, chicken pot pie, fresh pizza and salad bar.

Mineral Basin friends skiing and snowboarding at Snowbird

Putting It All Together

Intermediate or higher level skiers and snowboarders can explore Snowbird via a resort-wide linkup known as “Around the World,” a tour that takes you through Peruvian Gulch, Gad Valley and Mineral Basin. The route begins by riding Gadzoom, heading to Little Cloud Express, making your way from the top of Little Cloud into Mineral Basin Express, taking Mineral Basin to Hidden Peak, then skiing into Peruvian Gulch to Rothman Way trail and arriving back at Gadzoom to do it all over again.

Path to Paradise into Mineral Basin from Little Cloud lift

Navigating a Snow Day at Snowbird

After a large storm, the mountain opens incrementally in the morning as avalanche mitigation work is performed for the safety of guests and employees alike. Because every chair at Snowbird accesses avalanche terrain, the mountain cannot open until this critical work is done. Here’s how to navigate a snow morning to make the most of your time and your turns. 

Avalanche mitigation work initially focuses on Gad Valley, which has the capacity to transport more skiers and riders up the mountain than any other zone. By opening Gad Valley first, more people can begin their day on snow than if mitigation started elsewhere. Start your day here to get the quickest access to face shots of powder. Once Gad Valley opens, mitigation work shifts its focus to Peruvian Gulch. While this area remains beloved for its variety of terrain, that variety also lends itself to complex avalanche mitigation, as Mount Baldy's avalanche slide paths affect all terrain accessed by the lift. Upon completing mitigation in Peruvian Gulch, skiers and riders can enjoy the entire front side of the mountain.

Then, mitigation shifts to focus on opening the sun-flooded slopes of Mineral Basin. This area, known for its stunning views and wide-open terrain, utilizes all-new Wyssen Towers to aid in mitigation work. After opening the three main zones, ski patrol finally begins work on Road to Provo, which usually opens last (sometimes a day later), as mitigation does not have to be complete for Little Cloud Express or Gad 2 to open. You can oftentimes catch powder turns here well after the snow has stopped falling.

Powder Skiing off of the Cirque from The Aerial Tram

The safety of guests and employees will always be the top priority of Snowbird. And while it may take extra time to get terrain open on days when mitigation work is necessary, it’s worth it. The patient bird gets the worm. 

When planning your day, the best way to stay in the know is to check the Mountain Report or download the Snowbird App for alerts when the terrain is open or closed. 

How to Read Lift Status on the Mountain Report or Snowbird App

  • Scheduled: Lifts are set to scheduled at the end of their regular lift hours for the day if they are expected to open the following morning. These are the lifts we are actively working to try and open for 9 am.
  • Open: Chairs/Tram/Conveyor is actively loading guests.
  • On-Hold: A lift is put on hold if it is expected to open for the day but is not currently loading passengers. The most common reasons for a lift to be on hold are avalanche mitigation, wind or lift maintenance. These reasons will be listed on the Snowbird App under the “Status” section.
  • Closed: There is no plan to open or reopen for the day.

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