Approximately 53 miles (86km) north of Salt Lake City, in Utah’s Ogden Valley area, sits adventure skiers’ favorite, Powder Mountain.
Affectionately termed ‘Pow Mow’, it claims the title of largest ski resort in the USA; boasting 2,225 ha (5,500 acres) of skiable terrain and some of the smallest crowds around.
So, why haven’t you heard of it?
While the average yearly snowfall is impressive (an enviable 500in / 1,270cm of pure powder), the mountain’s framework simply isn’t as highly developed as that of many rival resorts in Utah and neighboring states.
Of the aforementioned 2,225 ha (5,500 acres), just under 1,215 ha (3,000 acres) are serviced by traditional lifts – fewer than ten, in fact – rendering much of Pow Mow’s skiable terrain, well, un-skiable; unless you’re willing to fork out a bit more for a cat tour.
Powder Mountain’s summit peaks at a relatively modest 9,422ft (2,871m) while base elevation is 6,900ft (2,103m) above sea level. There’s no shortage of snowfall, but the lower elevation can mean a sunny day or two will start rendering that famous powder a little on the creamy side.
Photo: Snow Groomer at Powder Mountain
The season usually runs from the first week of December until the first or second week of April, but this is dependent on snow as there is no snow-making on the mountain.
By air from interstate or overseas, Powder Mountain is best accessed via Salt Lake City International Airport, located 55 miles (90km) (or just over an hour’s drive) south of the resort.
Closest town centers are Eden 7 miles (11km) and Ogden 22 miles (35km); the latter home to a public transport hub via which visitors can get to and from the airport.
The much smaller Ogden-Hinckley Airport operates a commercial air service to Phoenix, AZ; however, this airport is mostly utilized by smaller private and corporate planes.
UTA Ski Bus service from either Ogden or Eden operates seven days a week during the ski season, and will cost you $4.50 (one way on Route 674 – schedules are usually made available via the above link in November just prior to the winter season).
Conveniently for the many who choose to stay off-mountain in Ogden when visiting Powder Mountain, the bus picks you up at a number of locations throughout both towns, including the Ogden Transit Center, Summit Hotel, Ben Lomond Hotel, Hilton Hotel and Rainbow Gardens; and the Park-n-Ride lot in Eden, Moose Hollow Condos and Powder Mountain Outpost in Eden.
Driving from Salt Lake City, the resort is accessible via the I-15 north to Ogden, then by following the signs through Ogden Canyon.
With plenty of natural, silky powder on offer, a vertical drop of 3,399ft (1,036m) and a total of 154 runs, there’s plenty of skiing and boarding to be had for all levels – the terrain difficulty breakdown has been estimated at 25% beginner/40% intermediate/35% advanced.
However, the resort’s four chairs and three surface tows grant access to mostly green and blue runs, both groomed and ungroomed (advanced riders not wanting to shill out for a cat tour can usually be found lapping Paradise lift). Complimentary orientation-style tours of groomed runs depart daily and last 1-2 hours.
For the most part, the runs are devoid of other riders, as you might expect in a resort that is as large as Powder Mountain, with as small a profile outside Utah. It receives just one third of the visitors as the more famous Park City Resort.
Powder Mountain is renowned for its extensive and challenging off-piste action, that will certainly keep you interested if you’re more advanced, but you’ll find that overall you’ll need to work a little bit harder (and pay a little bit more) to get to it.
Snowcat single rides and powder expeditions are available, but at a cost – a single ride will set you back $18.00 (or $15.00 for season pass holders). Half- and full-day tours for groups of between 5 and 11 are available, hosted by two guides, and are the best option for the more advanced wishing to explore some tougher terrain up the mountain – but at $425 a pop for a full day, they’re definitely not for everyone.
Alternatively, guided tours of the mountain are available and start at $140 (for a three-hour ‘half-day’ tour, not including lift pass).
For those willing to brave some wallet-friendly, non-downhill fitness, some good advanced terrain is accessible via hike.
Photo: Grinding a rail at Powder Mountain terrain park
There is usually a very decent amount of snow at Powder Mountain – with an average of over 500 inches each season - however, there is no snowmaking at the hill so if the snow doesn’t fall the season won’t start.
Powder Mountain is home to two terrain parks – Sundown and Hidden Lake.
Sundown, found on Confidence run, is suited to lower-intermediate skiers and boarders, with all the usual features for those starting out – small boxes, jumps and rails in a spacious, groomed area. Sundown is also open for night skiing.
The advanced park on Hidden Lake, also groomed, is a challenge for the experts and is home to a variety of jump lines, big features and obstacles crafted impressively from natural materials – power poles, logs, trees and more.
Importantly, at the bottom of the Hidden Lake terrain pipe, tricksters will be pleased to come across a well-maintained 12-foot halfpipe, spanning 400ft in length.
It is best to apply as early as possible during summer, as openings start filling up around September.
It is possible for interviews to be conducted over the phone, but the resort also hosts an annual job fair where most interviews take place in person. The job fair takes place in later October at Powder Mountain. All the hiring department managers are available to meet and discuss employment opportunities at the job fair.
The resort was purchased by Summit Series in 2013 after a large crowdsourcing effort. There are big plans afoot to develop the resort, including adding environmentally responsible boutique hotels, bars, artisanal shops, an innovation lab and a recording studio. The town center is planned as eco-friendly and would include collaborative spaces, public spaces and funding for public art installations. Additionally, there are plans to construct 500 residences of which around 100 sites have already been purchased.
Should these plans go ahead, there will be many more opportunities for winter seasonal work at Powder Mountain.
Unfortunately, Powder Mountain does not accept international applicants, and doesn’t currently have any existing partnerships with international job programs.
Minimal opportunities for certification and further training are offered through Powder Mountain, and the resort requires all prospective instructors to be fully qualified prior to applying for a ski school role.
The good news is staff receive 50% off food on mountain, and three passes each to Red Mountain Resort and Spa (UT), Taos Ski Resort (NM), Purgatory / Durango Ski Resort (CO) and Las Vegas Resorts.
For those not lucky enough to score a job with the resort itself, other local establishments including North Fork Table and Tavern (northforktableandtavern.com) and Summit Series (summit.co), which purchased Powder Mountain in 2013), are likely to hire seasonal staff.
The resort doesn’t currently offer staff accommodation.
The best option for those hoping to stay for a season is to browse local real estate sites for rentals in the Eden and Ogden areas (try www.zillow.com/eden-ut/).
Rental prices in the area range from $500-800 per room per month.
Valley Market or Smiths (Ogden) are the best places to source groceries.
Lone on-mountain watering hole The Powder Keg is a good spot for an après tipple, but with food service ceasing at 4pm and doors closing for the day at 5pm, you won’t be kicking on for long.
Nightlife on Powder Mountain itself is non-existent (outside of a sobering casual evening meal at Sundown Lodge), so locals and visitors alike flock to Ogden for their drinking, dining and entertainment needs.
For something a little closer, there are a couple of cosy restaurants in Eden (including the standard Mexican cantina and bar and a pizza shop), and a small café that is your best option for coffee in the area.
If you fancy more of a big night, you’ll find a couple of clubs and other night spots on Ogden’s 25th street.