John Stifter of Powder Magazine hired Tim, a local filmmaker, to produce a video segment about Snowbird Ski Resort for their Passing Through series, highlighting iconic ski areas. Tim was in a pickle as he intimately knows the vibe and terrain of Alta, but Snowbird…not so much. Thanks to spending all my winters at Snowbird, Tim sought my help to produce and ski in this video for Powder. This was a job I didn’t know I’d been yearning for: sharing Snowbird, a place that has woven itself so deeply into my story, that I don’t remember life without Snowbird.
With only 3 days of filming to capture the essence of Snowbird amid the doldrums of a high pressure atmospheric weather pattern, Tim and I felt the pressure mounting. In the warm, sunny days leading up to the shoot, I assisted Tim in identifying key locations to film and iconic Snowbird locals to interview. I set a schedule for our shoot and juggled the logistics of arranging our days on the mountain, shooting, and conducting interviews. As a lifetime Snowbird season passholder, I relied upon the relationships I’ve curated on this incredible hill to help make the story of Snowbird come to life while participating in private, nightly snow dances.
It may appear alluring, but 39 degree temperatures do not present ideal conditions for a Powder Magazine shoot.
The Greatest Snow on Earth: Not today.
As the storm gathered energy out over the vast expanse of sterile desert in western Utah and Nevada, we permitted our hopes to rise. The air grew heavy as the storm barreled down on the central Wasatch and unleashed a furious cloud of snowflakes that can only be described as: Little Cottonwood Magic. The energy of these storms, as they traverse the warm shallows of the Great Salt Lake, picking up additional moisture, can only be described as religious. This is the reason hordes of people pilgrimage to Utah, the land of the saints, to ski or snowboard. Snowbird generously provided a room for us at The Inn to bide our time while the brunt of the storm closed in. Marcus, Tim, and I were joined by another Snowbird local, Giray Dadali and we fell asleep to the sound of the wind whistling amid the tossing pine boughs as the inches stacked up at a freakish rate.
On this random Thursday, following a storm that meteorologists had vastly underestimated, we discovered a pratically empty mountain and 47" of fresh, 5% density snow.
The. Greatest. Snow. On. Earth.
These are the days you LUST after. The shit that keeps you awake at night.
And it wasn’t over. The snow was stacking as furiously as it had for the past 24 hours; on it raged.
With baited breath we awaited the tram operator announcements as the boat docked atop the 11,000 foot Hidden Peak.
No words. Just screams.
“Baldy is open? What the…?!”
Without any discussion, our decision was made and we quickly prepared to bootpack along the ridge up Mount Baldy in the squalling tempest. Unbeknownst to us, because the visibility was so low, Snowbird’s Ski Patrol shut the access gate to Baldy moments after we began bootpacking up into the murk. Apparently there were so few people, and the snow was piling up so swiftly, Patrol was concerned about guests becoming lost on the bootpack. The five of us now unwittingly commandeered the entire expanse of Mount Baldy to ourselves, blanketed under 47" of the lightest snow I could recall.
The emotion that accompanies experiencing a storm this deep cannot be distilled into words. It is a rare event, but it calcifies into your brain’s memory bank, your soul. It is a state of ecstasy where time slows, and the energy of fierce joy is ossified into your life’s story. When confronted with death, I know I will remember this day.
Giray Dadali is 6'1" tall. Here he is dressed in 47" of blower Snowbird powder.
This is the story of Snowbird. It is a place where the best day of your life lies in wait. Anyone who has experienced the phenomenon of a deep Little Cottonwood storm understands. If it hasn't yet happened to you, keep coming back. With over 500" blanketing the canyon annually, the odds of experiencing a deep storm of extreme lightness are higher than almost anywhere.
Only then will you understand why this land of the saints is the gateway to heaven.