These are the two best mountains you probably never skied.
Although Snowbasin hosted the men’s and women’s downhill races for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the ski area doesn’t carry the bucket-list charisma of other elite destinations like Whistler or Jackson Hole. And even though most of the snowsports public never heard of Powder Mountain, it nonetheless ranks #1 in North America in terms of skiable terrain: 8,464 acres.
Why the obscurity? Neither area has a base village nor plethora of nearby lodgings. For accommodations and restaurants, visitors need to bed down in Ogden or one of the miniscule Odgen Valley communities like Eden or Huntsville… which is a good thing for travelers who like authentic charm.
With double-black-diamond cirques and chutes cupped by 9,000-foot-plus summits, Snowbasin seems larger than life. Lifts—which include two gondolas—swiftly and warmly convey people 2,400 feet from base to summits. For you own gold-medal moment, ride the Allen Peak tram and gape at the Grizzy Start for the men’s Olympics downhill, which plummets at a stomach-churning 62% pitch. (Yes, you can opt to ride the tram back down). But the resort has plenty of long blue cruisers too, like Elk Ridge and Main Street.
While terrain is gnarly, the living is luxe at Snowbasin’s day lodges. The resort is owned by the Holding family, also proprietors of Idaho’s Sun Valley. Super-sized splendors range from Murano glass chandeliers and two-story stone fireplaces to black-and-white Italian marble restrooms.
Powder Mountain, on the other hand, looks like a 1970s time capsule, with a rambling wooden base area. Affectionately known as “Pow Mow,” the mountain pulls an outrageous 500 inches of snow annually. On the white vastness of the slopes, you’ll find nary an off-limits rope or a warning sign—you can ski anywhere. Some 1,200 acres of off-piste powder can be accessed from the chairlifts, with free shuttles bringing snowriders back to base.
Get here soon before the homespun charm changes. Powder was bought in 2013 by an investment group that plans to give the world-class mountain the facilities it deserves. Translation—better lifts, but also real-estate development.
Located about a 30-minute drive from both Snowbasin and Powder—and bustling with great restaurants—Ogden makes a welcoming home base. Never a Mormon settlement, Ogden instead flourished since 1869 as a transportation hub, junction city for the transcontinental railroad.
The city takes pride in its historic architecture, ranging from 19th-century Victorian homes to Art Deco gems like Peery’s Egyptian Theater. “Ogden was rich at the right time and poor at the right time,” locals say: prosperous enough to build architectural masterpieces, but strapped for cash in the 1950s and 60s so residents couldn’t afford to tear them down and “modernize.”
Many restaurants line 25th Street, the commercial center of Ogden that adjoins the old rail station. Now beautifully restored, the 19th-century brick buildings originally housed hotels and shops, as well as gambling dens and bordellos.
Roosters Brewing Co. [Ogden] In the beginning, there was Rooster’s, which opened in 1995 on the historic—but then semi-derelict—25th Street. Its success helped spark the entire neighborhood renaissance. Roosters was also one of the first breweries to open Utah, a state notorious for labyrinthine liquor laws. Set in an 1890s building, the restaurant has a bar as well as dining areas.
Beer offerings change with the seasons, with wittily named releases such as Bee’s Knees Honey Wheat (Utah is the Beehive State) and Black Widow Black Lager. One of the eccentricities of Utah liquor laws: beers on tap are limited to 5% ABV; anything higher comes in cans or bottles. Food selections are hops friendly, with favorites like the Naughty Fries with three different sauces (pepper jack, gorgonzola, and Louisiana hot).
Main courses range from salads and sandwiches to steaks, fish, and burgers (including the meatless Impossible Burger). Roosters also runs B Street Brewery, a large-scale production facility with a small taproom in an industrial area formerly known as the Ogden Stockyards.
Hearth [Ogden] Cosmopolitan flavors and coziness—that’s what draws diners to Hearth, which overlooks 25th Street from its second-story perch.
Creativity and sublime execution come together in dazzling dishes such as yak meatballs and elk-heart mousse made even more exotic with hydrated mustard seeds and dukkah. Choose the four-course tasting menu ($50 pp) to explore the flavors inspired by locally sourced ingredients.
Appetizers might feature rabbit bresaola accented by pecorino and sumac, or finely chopped kohlrabi, seasoned so it almost tastes like spicy tuna. Main courses include the classic elegance of surf-and-turf (prime beef tenderloin matched with shrimp in a beurre-blanc emulsion) and the octopus, prepared sous-vide and then seared in chile oil and blood orange, creating a caramelized, almost candied effect.
Ask the waitstaff if you’re curious about a dish—they love explaining the complex ingredients and preparations. Finish sweetly with apple tarte tatin or warm chocolate cake spiked with braised figs and bergamot tea.
Stella’s on 25th [Ogden] Brick walls, Deco-design wood paneling and an open-duct ceiling create a hip, downtown vibe at Stella’s. The restaurant is located under the flashy neon-dragon 25th Street sign left over from a Chinese restaurant that was a former tenant.
Originally from Chile, owner/chef Geraldine Sepulveda came to the U.S. to finish medical school, but a part-time restaurant job inspired her to follow her passion for cooking instead. Focused on Italian classics, the recipes seem as true-hearted as those handed down from an old-country nonna—but lightened and brightened with local ingredients.
Favorites include chicken saltimbocca, butternut squash ravioli, and linguine frutti di mare, amply laden with shellfish. Steaks are another specialty, grilled and served with bordelaise sauce and reasonably priced from $18 to $25.
Needles Lodge [Snowbasin] Set at 8,710 feet and reachable by gondola, Needles Lodge specializes in top-of-the-world vistas of Ogden Valley. From the outside deck, you can watch daredevils plunge down Lone Tree chute—as good as a Warren Miller movie.
Inside, the design is lavish, with multi-tiered chandeliers, oriental-style carpets, and massive wood beams that frame peaked roofs. You’re coming here for the scenery and ambiance rather than the food, which tends towards predictable (but well-executed) high-country favorites like burgers, pizzas, salads, and burritos.
A full-service bar, “The Overlook” offers food as well as beer, wine, and spirits. Utahn microbrews pair especially well with the grilled cheese sandwiches, such as “The Frenchy” with braised short ribs and gruyère.
Tona Sushi [Ogden] Anyone who’s been to any of the famed fish auctions knows: Those 600-pound tunas that sell for $1.8 million are immediately jetting to New York, London, Tokyo… and even landlocked Utah.
Freshness, creativity and quality are the hallmarks of the sushi at Tona, a moniker that blends the name of owner/chef Tony Chen with that of his wife, Tina. Tony grew up in Ogden but moved to San Francisco as an architectural designer, maintaining a part-time job in a Japanese restaurant. Cooking won out over construction, and Tony followed his dream back to Ogden, opening Tona in 2004.
Multicultural ingredients enliven his offerings, which might incorporate nonconforming but captivating flavors of jalapeño, tomatillo, mascarpone, and extra-virgin olive oil. Tony uses use his design skills in the artistry of sushi specialties such as the “Green Globe,” a sphere of avocado that holds spicy ahi tuna, snow crab salad, and wasabi tobiko caviar.
Shooting Star Saloon [Huntsville] First, some answers to five questions you don’t have yet. (1) Yes, it’s the oldest continuously operating saloon west of the Mississippi, established in 1879. (2) The taxidermed St. Bernard head on the wall memorializes Buck, beloved pet of a previous owner. (3) At recent count, the money that dangles from the ceiling totals more than $18,000. (4) And the largest denomination bill is $100.
All those facts should convince you about the must-visit uniqueness of Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville (population 628). Shoot a game of pool, post the moose head on Instagram, and order a beer and a Star Burger, a kitchen-sink compendium of two beef patties, knackwurst, and cheese that’s big enough to feed four as an après-ski munchie. Let’s not forget (5): Huntsville is also the hometown of Donnie and Marie Osmond.