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Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News
Signs point the way to several runs at Snowbasin. Grizzly Downhill is the resort's signature run.
Week 3 of series on Utah's signature ski runs.

Signature Run — Grizzly Downhill

The run is, as the name indicates, a real Olympic downhill course, made famous in 2002 as the official men's course. The run starts at the 9,289-foot elevation at the top of a very steep face that delivers instant acceleration. Consensus of those Olympians who raced was that they liked the course, found it to be technical, with some nice jumps and variety — hills, valleys, dips, jumps, bumps, sidehills and sweeping turns to keep racers guessing.

Some have called it the most technically challenging course in the world, which, of course, makes it attractive to any skier. Expert skiers can take it at a good speed, certainly not as fast as Olympians. Intermediate skiers will find it challenging and worthy of some good hard edging on the steeper faces.

The run is 9,895 feet in length, or just under two miles, and drops 2,897 feet. The steepest face is 74 degrees. It is accessed off the John Paul high-speed quad, with a short, steep ride from there on the Mountain Allen Tram.

The run got its name from a legendary grizzly, Old Ephraim, which once roamed this country and raised havoc among ranchers. Several turns on the course, in fact, such as Three Toes, are attributable to the old bear. This is a black diamond run.

No. 1 Run — Dan's Run.

The best way to describe this run is "variety." The run offers a lot of different terrain, which makes it interesting and fun. Access is off the Needles Express gondola, which leaves from the lodge area and goes to the unloading area below Needles Peak. Once at the top, the Middle Bowl chair returns skiers to the top for another run on Dan's. From the top, the Strawberry Traverse runs along the ridge, and from there skiers and boarders can drop into the Middle Bowl area and Dan's Run.

It is considered an easy intermediate run that can be challenging. The run lends itself to some good, smooth radius turns. A series of short traverses along this run delivers skiers into some excellent tree skiing.

Top 10

1. Dan's Run off Needles Express is an intermediate run;

2. The Diamond run off Strawberry Express is a black diamond;

3. Griz off Needles and Strawberry gondolas is a black diamond run;

4. Moonshine Bowl off Strawberry is a black diamond run;

5. John Paul Face off John Paul quad is a double black diamond;

6. Wildcat Bowl is accessed off Wildcat chair and is an intermediate run;

7. Sunshine Bowl off the Becker chair is a black diamond run;

8. Main Street off Strawberry starts as a black diamond but turns into an intermediate just below the lift;

9. Blue Grouse is reached off the Needles gondola and Wildcat chair and is an intermediate run;

10. Wildflower Downhill is accessed off the John Paul quad and Mount Allen Tram. It is a black diamond run and was the women's downhill in the 2002 Olympics.


Interestingly enough, it was Alf Engen, who was instrumental in the discovery of Alta, who recommended building a ski area in Wheeler Basin, the current location of Snowbasin. Snowbasin officially opened in 1940 after the road was completed, with two rope tows up Becker Hill, site of the current Becker chairlift.

After one change in ownership, Earl and Carol Holding purchased the troubled ski area in 1984, along with the Earl Miller Ski School. The Holdings turned the ski area around, making major improvements in lifts and slopes and lodges. Between 1998 and 2002, improvements included two eight-passenger gondolas, one high-speed detachable quad, one jig-back tram and 55 miles of snowmaking, which gives the ski area the most expansive snowmaking capacity in the world.

The resort also built a number of new buildings, including the John Paul Lodge, Needles Lodge, Earl's Lodge and the Grizzly Center, all of which are considered among the most elegant found at any ski area.

Snowbasin also successfully hosted six of the alpine events — men's and women's downhill, super G and combined — during the 2002 Winter Games, as well as the alpine events for the Paralympics.

E-mail: grass@desnews.com