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Utah Spring Skiing

Though they don't offer overnight accomodations at Snowbasin, the Holdings do have the hotelier's magic. In addition to Sun Valley , they own two Salt Lake City hotels: the $325-a-night Grand America Hotel , one of Utah's finest, and the less-pricey Little America , with rooms from $170 to $230. Snowbasin operates a daily one-hour shuttle between the hotels and the slopes.

The closest lodgings to Snowbasin are the condominiums at Lakeside Village . Rooms run from $175 to $425 a night for up to 12 guests, and a frequent shuttle operates between the condominiums on the Pineview Reservoir, within sight of Snowbasin, and the mountain.

Pristine Powder Mountain

In contrast to the luxury of Snowbasin, Powder Mountain promises a bare-bones, off-piste experience.

Its day lodges are simple and old-fashioned. The food is decent. But the skiing is unparalleled -- and even less utilized than Snowbasin.

Powder Mountain is North America's largest ski area, with more than 5,500 acres of skiable terrain and plans for expansion.

It has no snowmaking capability, relying instead on nature. Grooming is limited to a handful of trails in higher-traffic areas near lifts. The owner, Alvin Cobabe, and his family own more than 14,000 acres.

Because of Powder Mountain's enormity, I recommend hiring a mountain host ($80 for a half-day or $125 for a full day; one price for up to six people).

"This is incredible snow for most people," said my host, Phil Wagner, 65, "but we're jaded. We want four feet of powder, or at least two feet."

Last season, Powder finally replaced the older Hidden Lake chairlift with a high-speed detachable quad. But the seven chairlifts serve just a fraction of Powder. The resort is so vast that skiers access Lightning Ridge and James Peak on a passenger snowcat ($8 a ride) and from free roadside bus shuttles beneath the Powder Country area.

"This is a different kind of mountain," Wagner noted, a retired wildlife biologist who's been skiing for four decades. "On deep powder days, you're going to have more fun here than anywhere, taking powder over your head and 20 feet in a single turn."

Powder Mountain has cafeterias at its four lodges. The food offerings, unlike at Snowbasin, are traditional resort-style food -- mostly grilled sandwiches. There is ski-in/ski-out lodging at the Columbine Inn and at three condominium complexes for $85 to $295 a night.

Photo: Snowbasin

More rooms near Powder and Snowbasin, along with restaurants and a golf course, are located in the nearby town of Eden, especially around the tiny but charming Wolf Creek Resort .

In my travels around Powder with Wagner, we also trekked to the remote Cobabe Canyon. It was midafternoon, and we couldn't see anyone, anywhere, as we cut virgin tracks through aspen trees and ponderosa pines. We stopped when I had to untangle myself from the base of a tree.

"My rules of thumb," Wagner said with a laugh, "are simple: Always look two turns ahead, and no eating aspen sandwiches."

At least I was having fun, in keeping with Powder's motto: "More fun. Real snow."

Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.

Martin Stolz is a freelance writer living in Salt Lake City. He previously worked as a newspaper reporter in New York and California.
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