Utah is one of the snow meccas in the US, boasting 14 ski areas, 10 of which are conveniently located within an hour drive from the city. It’s known for its monster dumps of fluffy powder bolstered by the Great Salt Lake effect. We've got an insider’s rundown of the area but here are our picks:
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by the State of Utah which impacted the 20/21 ski season. These included physical distancing, mask-wearing and increased cleaning and disinfection protocols. In Salt Lake County, which is home to resorts including Park City and Alta, there was limited capacity for indoor dining and advanced lift ticket purchases were strongly recommended. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
At 7,300 ac, Park City is the largest resort in the US, enough territory for you to explore for days without getting bored! It’s great for groups or families who are interested in more than “just” skiing. After all, Park City itself is an authentic Old West mining town with plenty to see, do, eat and drink. The snow here is consistently fresh and the resort’s popularity often results in some sizable crowds. Even though the resort is huge, there’s not a lot of vertical so if you’re really looking for deep and steep, you may be happier at Snowbird or Alta.
This no-frills skiers-only resort offers pure skiing at its best. The powder is incredible, especially as it layers the steep ungroomed chutes and trees which characterise Alta. It borders Snowbird and you can buy a ticket to ski both, but you’ll find Alta a bit less crowded – either because it’s another mile up the canyon or because no snowboarders aren’t allowed on the lifts. It’s also a much better option for beginners compared to Snowbird and with a fantastic resort layout, you’ll be surprised how little walking you’ll do to get around. That said, there’s not much of a village with only a handful of lodges right at the base of its lifts offering an array of overnight accommodations and inclusive dining packages.
A haven for expert skiers and powder-hounds, Snowbird like its neighbor Alta, gets tons of snow on a north-facing aspect that keeps the powder fresh and light. Unlike Alta however, Snowbird isn’t constrained by the Forest Service and can stay open as long as the snow is there – sometimes deep into the summer! The terrain starts you off on blue groomers and relatively easy blacks before it throws you into the deep end. Off the slopes, there’s not much of a ski town – certainly not like there is in Park City. With only a few options for dining and lodging, Snowbird is your best choice if your focus is on the snow and rugged terrain!
Luxury is the name of the game at Deer Valley, where customer service is widely held to be the best in the industry. It's one of the last skiers-only resorts where grooming is world-class, the ski school is one of the best in the country, and the food and lodging are both exceptional. Of course, all of the pampering comes at a price so Deer Valley isn’t the most economical of Utah’s resorts. Families – especially those with little ones – will no doubt appreciate the convenience that comes with all that 5-star customer service and ski-in/ski-out lodging. Best of all, the resort limits the number of tickets sold per day, so crowds aren't an issue.
Powder Mountain deserves a place on our list. The resort limits daily ticket sales to 1,500 skiers and riders – which makes it a marvelously private and uncrowded experience. With a small number of skiers across such a wide area, it’s no surprise that the all-natural powder lasts for days after a dump. Admittedly, Powder Mountain lacks dining, lodging, shops, entertainment, and off-the-slope activities so if that's what you're after, this may not be your spot – at least, not yet. In the meantime, Powder Mountain is definitely worth checking out for anyone – families, couples, friends, lone wolves – who are “all about skiing!”
Boasting a collection of beautiful on mountain lodges built for the 2002 Olympics, Snowbasin serves some of the best cafeteria food in ski country. On a clear day, you can see the neighbouring states from the top and enjoy tons of vertical on the way down top-notch groomers. It’s also relatively uncrowded compared to other Cottonwood Canyon ski areas, despite being just 10 minutes further away from downtown. The only thing Snowbasin is really missing is a base village and slopeside accommodation.
Brighton is Utah’s first ski area and one of the oldest in the US. It’s always a reliable choice for good snow and less crowds compared to Park City or Snowbird. While Brighton is a small ski area, its four distinct parts of the mountain offer a great variety of terrain. The food options and lodge facilities are far from the standards of Deer Valley or Snowbasin, so you’ll probably end up in Salt Lake and make the short drive every morning. But, the value – especially for families – is hard to argue with since kids under 10 always ski or ride for free.