Utahns claim they have “the greatest snow on earth”, and if you’ve ever put skis to their fresh powder you might well understand their pride in the local white stuff. Doubters out there might argue that Utah’s popular ski mountains don’t get the most snow annually, nor have the driest snow, but the rebuttal? They get the most of the driest. Best all around, in other words. Some will even swear that the snowflakes are special. But really, whichever side of the high-speed quad you ride on this issue, it’s one easily resolved. Don’t take our word for it: pack your bags, sling your skies over your shoulder and hit the slopes.
Happily, this is both easily said and easily done. Of Utah’s 13 ski areas, 11 of them are within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake City International Airport. Brian Head, near Cedar City, is in reach of Las Vegas and Southeastern California; Beaver Mountain sits just outside of Logan, Utah. Additionally, there are nine cross country ski areas, many of them located close to the resorts near Park City, just in case you want to mix things up a bit. All but two ski areas allow snowboarding (Alta and Deer Valley, both near Park City, are for skiers only), but otherwise boarders are always welcome. Places like Park City Mountain Resort even host the annual World Superpipe Championships, where you might catch Shaun White mid-air. For more advanced skiers who are struggling to pick the right mountain, there’s the option of an Interconnect Tour, which allows skiers to hit Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird all in one day (you provide the ski-power to get between the six, of course). In short: plenty of fantastic snow, a good selection of ski resorts, mountain scenery and convenience. Need we say more?
This 2,200 acre resort is readily accessible by winter ski buses from Salt Lake City. Lift tickets might be less expensive here than at the big resorts around Park City but with an average snowfall of 547 inches and an impressive 115 runs, skiers (snowboarding not allowed) will be treated to fine powder and what many call the “purist’s mountain”. Buy a combined Alta-Snowbird pass and use available lifts to connect with neighboring Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort for a combined total of 4,700 skiable acres.
Beaver Mountain is set in the mountains an easy drive north of Logan, Utah. Since it’s roughly 114 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport, this 664 acre resort doesn’t get the high-volume traffic that ski areas around Park City and Little Cottonwood Canyon do. But if you’re looking to get off the beaten path and enjoy plenty of good powder in northeastern Utah this is a good pick. Lift tickets are affordable, the terrain varied and the morning sunshine which warms the slopes the perfect way to start any ski day.
BRIAN HEAD RESORT:
Along with Beaver Mountain, this is the odd man out in terms of location. Situated in southwestern Utah near Cedar City, Brian Head is closer to Las Vegas than it is Salt Lake City, a popular ski destination for snow-enthusiasts from both Nevada and southeastern California. Counting 640 skiable acres, this doesn’t rank as one of the state’s larger resorts but the snow is good, the atmosphere low-key and lift prices very reasonable. There’s also night skiing, for those with yet more to give after a full day on the slopes. To sweeten the deal there are three terrain parks as well as ready access to tourist destinations like Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, both of which can be easily visited from Brian Head.
Perched at the edge of Big Cottonwood Canyon, a short drive from Salt Lake City, Brighton deserves a nod for convenience. But with free skiing for kids 10 and under, it also gets a big thumbs up from families for its affordability. With an average snowfall of over 600 inches, 1,050 skiable acres and night-skiing, this one is a favorite with skiers in Salt Lake City who can hop a ski bus and get in a little apres work action on the slopes.
Utah’ s largest resort is a stone’s throw from Salt Lake City, one of Park City’s big three resorts. Between high-speed lifts and 4,000 skiable acres, this popular ski resort sees plenty of winter traffic. Canyons Resort is a little light on beginner runs, but there’s an excellent selection of Blue Square and Black Diamond runs well-suited towards skiers who’ve advanced beyond the snowplow.
By limiting the number of skiers allowed on the slopes and offering high-end amenities, Deer Valley Resort has found itself a special niche as one of the big three Park City resorts. Snowboarders aren’t allowed, but Deer Valley’s 2,026 skiable acres take in a good range of terrain sure to keep skiers of all levels busy. Like other mountains in the Wasatch Range, this one packs plenty of fresh powder, so come prepared.
PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT
This family friendly resort a skip out of Park City is one of the best places to teach your young ones how to ski or snowboard. Even those without offspring in tow will find there are enough advanced runs to seal the deal on three terrain parks, night skiing and 3, 300 skiable acres. There’s also an Alpine Coaster, NASTAR races and tubing at Gorgoza Park. Whether you swing snowboard or skis, Park City Mountain Resort is a great all around solution to your powder problem.
Located close to Ogden but still only 55 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport, Powder Mountain is worth the extra drive if you’re looking for superb backcountry skiing along with good groomed runs. Think 2, 800 lift served acres as well as an expansive stretch of backcountry accessible to skiers by snowcat or on extreme powder tours. You can also try snowkiting in designated areas, or dally the day away at one of the mountain’s two terrain parks. As if that’s not enough to seal the deal, there’s also night skiing, which means you have no excuse not to take advantage of Powder Mountain’s 500 inches of average snowfall, even if you have a hectic work schedule. Lift ticket prices are reasonable to boot.
There are a number of reasons Snowbasin, just 36 miles from Salt Lake City Airport, has acquired a devoted following. For one thing, they get over 400 inches of fresh powder annually here, enough to thoroughly dust this ski area’s 3, 300 skiable acres. They’ve also got a seasonal superpipe and a selection of progressive terrain parks, which include more than 60 rails. For families (or anyone after a break from the slopes), there’s a tubing hill and 26km of maintained Nordic Trails. After this break from downhill action, return recovered to try your skill at the NASTAR races, a great chance to show your prowess on a race through the gates.
SNOWBIRD SKI & SNOW RESORT
In addition to an average snowfall of 500 inches over its 2,500 skiable acres, Snowbird also boasts the longest ski season, which starts mid-November and usually lasts into May. Located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, about a mile from Alta, Snowbird can be explored on a combo Alta-Snowbird pass, giving skiers access to both mountains. Snowboarders and free-style skiers can tackle the Snowbird Terrain Park between quick trips down the area’s advanced runs.
It’s family friendly, close to Salt Lake City and like other area resorts, sees plenty of seasonal snow. Though with only 1,200 skiable acres it might be smaller than some of the neighboring resorts, Solitude also feels more intimate. And when that translates into shorter lift lines, great off-piste terrain, Nordic skiing, a terrain park suited to free-styling families and a well-rounded selection of 65 runs, well, you might just bump this to the top of your best-kept secret list.
One of Utah’s smaller ski areas, Sundance Resort draws snow enthusiasts less concerned with size and more preoccupied with the terrain and Mount Timpanogos scenery. In addition to a varied selection of runs (there’s something for the beginner as well as the expert here), Sundance offers 26km of maintained Nordic trails, as well as night skiing several nights a week. Save time in your schedule for special events like a full moon cross country tour, or the weekly race night, when even amateurs can try for a trophy.
One good reason to make Wolf Creek Utah Ski Resort on your winter to-do list? They light the whole mountain up like Christmas come sundown, perfect for a few downhill runs at the end of the work day. Okay, so it only has about 110 skiable acres. But there’s room for a terrain park, a good range of runs and a Magic Carpet, which will get beginner skiers on their feet in short order. So yes, it’s small, but for a quick, pleasant ski fix, it’s a good alternative to the larger, more expensive resorts around Park City.