How to Ski in Utah

This state has some of the best snow, skiing, and snowboarding in North America. Follow our guide to get to the best of it in the easiest, most efficient way.
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Skier at Alta Ski Area, Utah
Skier at Alta Ski Area, Utah  (Alta Ski Area)
One Lift to Connect It All
The Cottonwoods and Park City aren’t far as the eagle flies, but getting from Big Cottonwood Canyon to the Canyons resort presently requires a 45-minute drive or some serious backcountry skill (or a guided tour of six resorts in one day with Ski Utah’s Interconnect ). But that may change. In August 2012, the Utah State Senate approved the construction of new gondola from Solitude to the Canyons, part of a proposed link that would ultimately connect all the resorts, much like neighboring resorts are connected throughout Europe. Local backcountry skiers, meanwhile, have voiced opposition to this expansion; the proposed route carves right through undeveloped backcountry, and there are concerns that this lift would be the first in a long line of construction in the currently pristine forest service land.
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We seldom fall prey to marketing slogans (savvy or otherwise), but whenever we arrive in Utah and read the state’s license plate, which proclaims it has the greatest snow on earth, we tend to agree. When it snows in Utah, it’s some of the lightest Champagne powder on the planet.

But that slogan should also come with a footnote: the snow’s great—and reaching it is ridiculously easy.

How easy? Read on as we demystify skiing around the Salt Lake City area.

The Basics
There are a total of nine resorts within an hour of the Salt Lake City airport. Closest to downtown are Alta and Snowbird resorts in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and Solitude and Brighton in Big Cottonwood. Further out, about a 30- to 40-minute drive from the airport, reside the three Park City-area resorts, Canyons, Park City Mountain Resort, and Deer Valley. Then there is Powder Mountain, 55 miles from Salt Lake, and Snowbasin, 33 miles to the northeast.

First-Timers
If you’re heading to Utah—and skiing or snowboarding—for the first time, Brighton may be your best bet. This lower-cost resort ranks among the country’s best intro-level resorts, with loads of family-friendly programs, a mellow overall mountain, and lots of on-mountain intro classes. The on-mountain Brighton Lodge offers rustic accommodations. Better still, Solitude Mountain is right next door. This resort is a local’s favorite and boasts a wide variety of trails, from intro to expert, often with powder stashes that last long after other resorts get tracked out. The mountain village at Solitude also offers a wide variety of lodging and dining options in a pedestrian-friendly environment modeled after the villages at Interwest-owned resorts like British Columbia’s Whistler-Blackcomb.

Don’t Miss: Solitude’s Yurt Dinner is a fun way to explore the mountain after the lifts have stopped running. Hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski to the yurt and enjoy a five-course meal before returning to the resort village.

Families and Romance
Those looking for the quintessential ski experience—a scenic mountain town, hanging at the lodge in front of a raging fire, dining on elk and venison—should head to Park City. The drive from the airport and Salt Lake City is short and simple, about 30 to 45 minutes on I-80 East. And when you arrive, you’re a world away from the urban/suburban sprawl of Salt Lake City. A free bus links everything in the Park City area. You’ll find killer skiing and riding, along with other attractions like high-end spas, top-quality restaurants, and other distractions like the Olympic Center (complete with bobsled and skeleton rides) and a history museum that documents the city’s mining past.

Each resort here speaks to a different mountain appetite. Canyons is the first resort you’ll pass and stands as the largest in Utah—it’s a great place to go on high-traffic holidays as the 4,000 acres will let you find your own part of the mountain. The village, meanwhile, boasts some amazing spots like the all-organic Farm restaurant. On sunny days, the base transforms into The Beach, complete with lounge chairs, and on cold, bitter days the covered, heated Orange Bubble lift makes it easy to get up the mountain. As this resort sits a few miles from central Park City, it’s a great place to escape and feel slightly isolated from the scene—even though free transport to Main Street is a breeze. The nightlife is mellow, and the lodging varies from dorm-style settings to the Waldorf-Astoria.

Park City Mountain Resort is literally linked to the town from which it gets its name; you can ride the Town Lift directly to the mountain base and ride it back for in-town après. The locally owned resort boasts runs of all sorts, with everything from double-black runs off Jupiter Lift to green groomers and learn-to-ski programs. The resort also has a massive terrain park with a 22-foot half-pipe, making it a natural for the snowboarders in your set. In-town lodging is the play here, with all variety of hotels on offer, from boutiques like the Sky Lodge to vacation rentals and discount chains.

Deer Valley, meanwhile, speaks to the more haute ski set (snowboarding isn’t allowed). The restaurants and lodging here are top-notch, and they groom most of the runs so skiers don’t have to worry about handling that unpredictable powder if they’re averse to such conditions (bonus: powder hounds can find fresh tracks days after a snowfall). Accommodations here can be costly, but if you’re looking for a refined experience, you’ll find it.

Don’t Miss: High West Distillery, the only ski-in, ski-out whisky distillery in the country. The drinks are—as you’d expect—astounding, from house specialties like the High West Manhattan to the Rendezvous Rye (best served neat). The libations are complimented with a spectacular whisky-influenced menu including house-cured meats and game.

Published: 31 Jan 2013 | Last Updated: 1 Feb 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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Best Hotels in Park City

$199
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#1
Hotel Park City
$275
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#2
Stein Eriksen Lodge
$127
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#3
The Silverado Lodge by Canyons Resort
$140-$168
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#4
Park Plaza Resort

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