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Utah Spring Skiing

Another area physician, Scott Kendell, 37, came to Snowbasin instead of some of Utah's better-known resorts in Park City or the Cottonwood Canyons, which are a bit closer to his home, because it's "usually not much more crowded than this," he said, scanning empty hillsides.

Busy days at Snowbasin -- usually Saturdays or powder days -- bring no more than 1,000 visitors, far fewer people than other resorts, says Kevin Stauffer, Snowbasin's guest services supervisor.

Snowbasin is known for its state-of-the-art snowmaking and extensive grooming. Widespread weather stations allow a computerized system to continually adjust the water and air content of the manufactured snow.

The resort is also recognized for its fine food -- not the typical ski resort fare of chili or burgers gobbled off Styrofoam dishes.

Instead, the cuisine at all three day lodges is made to order and served with china and silverware. For lunch, I tried a local favorite, the spicy tomato bisque served at the mountaintop John Paul Lodge, which also boasts pizza fired in a cherry-wood oven and an extensive Italian menu. (The lodge is named not for the former Pope but for John Paul Jones, an avid Ogden skier who died in combat in WW II.)

Paul Scardino, 42, a software engineer from Layton, joined me for lunch, marveling at the surroundings. "Look at this place -- it's spectacular," he said. "Three years ago, when I'd get here, I'd have to eat all by myself. At least now I have to wait in line."

The lodge's layout, as do the others', allows every diner to be near an enormous roaring fireplace. I sat facing the mountain to take in the vistas.

One of the reasons Snowbasin is not yet realizing its potential is that it has no on-site overnight lodgings.

The Holding family, which owns about 9,000 undeveloped acres around the resort, is planning to construct a boutique hotel with 150 rooms at Snowbasin's base. They will also be selling condos in the future, though most of the land will remain untouched, explains Mary Rowland, Snowbasin's spokeswoman. The family is not going to rush or do scattershot development, she adds.

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