by Larry Nuñez, Vans Snow Resort Report

There are only a few mountains in The United States that qualify as legit big mountain riding. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Mt. Baker, Washington and a couple in Lake Tahoe, California to name a few. Snowbird, Utah deserves a spot on that list. Blanketed with 500" of light, fluffy snowfall annually, it has amazingly consistent powder days. Combine that with one of the only high capacity (120 people) aerial trams in the country covering 2,900 vertical feet in just seven minutes, Snowbird is serious when it comes to steep, powder riding.

Despite nearby Salt Lake City's relatively mild winters, the snow season can be unusually long in the Wasatch Mountains. Even though it's mid April and may feel like summer in many parts of the country, Snowbird has received over 21 inches in the last 48 hours! So it makes perfect sense that today they host the final stop of The North Face Masters Tour, the premier free ride contest series in North America.

There are plenty of options to snowboard in Utah, all with incredible snowfall and terrain, but Snowbird leads the pack in terms the ease and accessibility to big mountain lines. A short hike off the High Baldy Traverse accesses short but sweet steep chutes and couloirs into the groomed runs below. Stay high off the tram on the Cirque Traverse and get into some wide-open bowls to your right, or spaced out tree runs to your right. Mineral Basin on the backside of the mountain is a large backcountry-like bowl with minimal grooming and tons of rocks, cliffs and bumps to pop off.

There is simply too much terrain to explore in one day, and lots of secret stashes that only the locals know about. All of this is of course well known to Salt Lake City's massive amount of skiers and snowboarders, so Snowbird is definitely a "get there early" kind of place. The line for the tram starts well before it opens on a pow day, so if you don't mind battling it out with the rest of the die hards, it's mad dash for the big lines when the snow dictates. But it's worth it.

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Words and photos: Larry Nuñez.