The Other Side of Snowbird, A Lesson in Hosting

Image: Otto Solberg

Author: Alex Hunt

Published Date: 04/09/2024

Read Time: 3 Minutes

The maroon barbecue sauce that clung to the corner of my buddy’s mouth was a shade darker than his ginger-colored mustache, and had a small piece of pulled pork entrained in its slow-creeping drip. He wiped it clean, refocused his gaze from the Gad 2 Boundary Ridge toward me and said, “Yeah, that was a solid adventure run, but the groomers are looking pretty nice too.” With the midwinter sun illuminating our faces, we could have basked in its warmth for the rest of the afternoon, but instead we polished off our overstuffed sandwiches, buckled our ski boots and clicked into our bindings for some highspeed post-lunch laps. 

See, my old friend Adrian was visiting from Maine after an unusual dry spell here in the Wasatch, and in an attempt to show him some of Utah’s famed powder I took him to the deepest, darkest corner of Snowbird I could find. We linked a handful of soft turns in some thick trees, but came up short of recreating the classic, waist-deep coldsmoke moments that you’ve seen in your social media feeds and on magazine covers. I wasn’t panicking though—I knew Adrian well and had a few more things lined up that would prove equally memorable as one of those famed Utah powder days.

Mineral Basin, a fun activity for guests

After carving trenches through the sun-warmed flanks of Lower Emma on the way down from Mid-Gad, we made our way up to Hidden Peak. Halfway up Little Cloud, Adrian turned to me and asked the million-dollar question, “Is Mineral open?” He wasn’t aware that this exact inquiry has become an inside joke with locals and staff due to the frequency it’s uttered. Without hesitation, I quickly responded, “Yep, it sure is!” Just a few minutes later, Adrian put his racing pedigree to work as he sped past me arcing perfect GS turns down Mineral Basin. My revised itinerary was already proving itself worthy. We chased each other down a few more laps in Mineral before a blistering top-to-bottom finale to the Snowbird Center. We had a reservation after all, and didn't want to be late.

Adrian wasn’t aware that Snowbird has an oasis in the sky, and that we had an advanced booking to check it out. As we entered  The Cliff Lodge  and took the elevator to the top floor, he was a little confused. When the doors opened and we approached the check-in of  The Cliff Spa  he was VERY confused. “Right this way gentlemen,” the helpful attendant said, as she pointed out the various highlights of the facility. “Here is the eucalyptus steam room, upstairs is the pool and hot tub and inside the locker room you'll find the sauna.” Adrian’s eyes immediately lit up. “God, I love a good sauna,” he said. Then quickly dialed in a precise itinerary, “Shower, sauna, cold shower, hot tub, pool, shower, steam room, cold shower.” He was stoked! I was too.

The Cliff Spa from above at Snowbird, a fun activity for guests

After the sauna, we rinsed off and ascended the stairs to the famed rooftop pool. The view from the top of The Cliff Lodge is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s one thing to look up at the surrounding mountains when you’re on the valley floor, but experiencing those peaks from ten stories up makes you feel like part of the skyline. When taking in the view while the powerful hot tub jets sooth away the day's aches, a new level of bliss is unlocked. After a good soak, we needed a break and a slow lap in the pool was a welcome respite. The eucalyptus-infused steam room was a great finish to our session, but we weren’t ready to say goodbye to Snowbird quite yet. I had a little sleuthing to do. 

As the sun dipped below the western horizon, we exited the spa and made our way to  The Aerie Lounge  . I had heard rumors about Utah’s finest high-altitude lobster roll, and now was the perfect time to conduct a proper investigation into its authenticity. If you've ever met anyone from Maine, you’re well aware of their penchant for seafood, especially ‘lobstah’. Adrian is no different. In fact, as a proud Mainer, he’s a certified lobsterman with his own boat and trap. I’m jealous. When we bellied up to the bar the only reason to look through the menu was to confirm that the Lobster Roll was indeed listed. It was, and we quickly ordered a couple of them. As soon as they arrived, Adrian went into food critic mode, “Nicely toasted bun. Plenty of meat. Served warm in a buttery sauce. Everything looks promising.” After a couple bites and a prolonged silence, he rendered the verdict, “This friggin’ thing is legit!” His assessment was spot-on, and we scarfed them down. 

The Aerie Lounge, a fun activity for guests

We enjoyed the rest of our late après and exchanged some light banter with the bartender. When she learned that Adrian was visiting from Maine, she mentioned that The Aerie’s Head Chef had spent a number of years working there. Before I knew it, Chef Cody appeared and he and Adrian were swapping stories like old fishing buddies. Nothing like the shared love of ‘lobstah’ to forge bonds between a couple strangers, right?

The time had finally come to say goodbye to Snowbird for the night and head back down the canyon where “reality” waited for us in Salt Lake City. We may not have skied the deepest powder or hucked the biggest cliffs, but the day was still a huge success. We experienced a different side of Snowbird, one that most people don’t see when scrolling through their phones, but equally satisfying as a neck-deep pow turn. So take a lesson from me, when you have friends or family coming to town don’t be afraid to mix things up and show them some of the off-snow reasons why Snowbird is A Different Breed.

About the Author

Originally from Colorado, Alex has been a skier as long as he can remember. Throughout his 20s and early 30s he avoided summer—spending his winters in Silverton, Colorado as a ski guide and patroller, then chasing the snow south to Argentina. Professional journeys led him to Alaska where he dodged rotor blades and wrangled clients as a heli-ski guide. Eventually he hung up his guide pack and transitioned to office life, working in the outdoor and ski industry. Now he spends his days in Utah, perfecting the BLT sandwich, skiing for fun and looking after his two young daughters.

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