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The Cliff Lodge & Spa, Snowbird, Utah

Cliff_winter_b_m_2 BACKSTORY: Snowbird is a mountain lauded for its steep and deep terrain, 500 inches of powder yearly, and cliffs that inspire the craziest skiers and boarders to make the leap of faith. At its base sits the Cliff Lodge & Spa, a 10-story symphony in cement that looks like a prize piece of Brutalist architecture. The raison d’etre for the gruff facade is that the hotel lies in Little Cottonwood Canyon, one of the most avalanche prone areas of the United States. The Cliff was built to withstand mother nature, and it’s not uncommon to have the local police enforce interlodging (a form of martial law), which confines every guest within the building while cannons shoot explosives that trigger big slides that can be cleared off. This giant pillbox (and the rest of the resort) is owned by and imprinted with the singular vision of Dick Bass, an heir to serious Texas oil money, a man who has done all seven summits (as in Everest, K2, etc). Inside this mixed metaphor of a hotel, Bass’ 2,000 plus collection of oriental carpets are hung against unadorned concrete walls and draped over the vast Atrium at the heart of the building.Cliff_atrium_l 

THE ROOMS: The 519 rooms are comfortable without being luxe, and have recently been upgraded in a kind of neo arts and crafts style. Bathrooms have a glass wall, the thought being you can sit in the tub and look across the bedroom and out the window at the mountain. Okay, though they’ve always struck me as the slightest bit kinky.

Cliff_spapool_l MORE REASONS TO STAY: The drill at the Cliff is that at day’s end, you ascend to the top floor, where you’ll find what is arguably the first true ski spa of any size in the United States. Built in 1987, the 28,000 square foot facility has 23 treatment rooms. Best of all is the glass walled relaxation/waiting room, with a dozen chaises arrayed so the steep face of Snowbird is literally in your face. There’s also a recently refurbished fitness room and an open air rooftop pool and hot tub. It’s more gym-like in feel than luxe. But the Cliff gets kudos for educating a generation of skiers in spa-going and it makes no bones that it’s serving a testosterone-fueled crowd. An army of 60 therapists are clearly used to working on the big dogs, hard charging skiers and riders with their particular set of issues and demands. Therapists, according to spa manager Paul Schmidt, are chosen in part "because they like to do deeper work. They’ll give you something that you’re going to notice for a few days."

WHAT’S THE DEAL? The "April Escape Package" includes lift tickets and starts at $149 per person, based on double occupancy, for a minimum three night stay. The deal is valid from April 6th through May 3rd, 2008 and includes a three day Snowbird Tram/Chair pass per adult. Additional nights and lifts can be added.

INSIDER TIP: The Aerie, on the 10th floor of the Cliff, has a top notch sushi bar, wall-to-wall views of the mountain face, and comfortable couches for watching the Alpenglow, with a local amber ale close at hand.

CAVEAT: If you’re looking for the lodge look, look elsewhere. The Cliff embraces the minimal aesthetic.

LOCATION. LOCATION, LOCATION: You can click into your bindings at the door and ski 30 seconds to the Tram. For powder fanatics, enough said.

THE DETAILS: www.snowbird.com

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