By Derek Taylor
Snowbasin, Utah is best known for the two ski lifts: The Needles gondola bearing the names of Olympic medalists and the Strawberry gondola, which features the names of the countries that participated in the Salt Lake Olympic games. Both were installed just prior to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, for which Snowbasin played host to the Downhill and Super G. This is good, because the Needles and Strawberry gondolas, and Snowbasin’s opulent lodges that make can you feel like you’re poaching a country club, are where most skiers who frequent this Northern Wasatch hideout will be huddled up to stay warm on storm days. Give them a wave as you walk past to John Paul. The line just under the lift itself is a fun enough run, with often untracked tree corridors that lead to short traverses, and more untracked alleys.
From the top, a short hike or traverse takes you into No Name, an inbounds ridge that offers fun lines on north, east, and south aspects. (The top of No Name is most easily accessed from the Allen Peak Tram, put in to serve the men’s and women’s downhill in 2002; the Tram embarks from the the top of John Paul, and can only be accessed by riding J.P.). If you’re equipped with proper backcountry gear and partners, No Name also provides access into Hells Canyon, which is sort of a miniature version of Jackson Hole’s Granite Canyon. A bit of warning, however: even (or especially) the most familiar Snowbasin locals won’t drop into Hells unless the conditions are right and they are properly geared up to ski avalanche terrain. Though the oft-untracked lines tempt you from just outside the resort boundary, this gully is filled with slide paths and terrain traps that prove deadly to unsuspecting adventure seekers every few years.
In the November 2011 issue of Powder Magazine, the editors profiled the best ski lifts to access the best terrain at the best ski resorts in North America—from British Columbia to New Hampshire. Whether tram, triple, double chair or T-bar, these ski lifts take skiers and snowboarders to dreamy places full of double blacks, deep powder, open bowls, perfectly gladed tree runs, big descents, and pillow and cliff zones. In short, these are must hits for any expert on a ski or snowboard vacation.