9 Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Utah, 2017
Utah is home to big mountains, thousands of acres of skiable terrain, and everything from top-end resorts to small local hills with only day use facilities. Utah can also be a surprisingly affordable ski destination, especially when compared to some of the big name ski resorts in neighboring Colorado.
At the epicenter of skiing in Utah is Salt Lake City. While there are no ski hills right in the city, there are eight major ski resorts within a one-hour drive of Salt Lake City, and many of these are only 30 to 40 minutes away. Staying in Salt Lake and commuting to the ski hills can save you a significant amount of money. But if you are looking for the full on ski-in, ski-out, or walk-to-the-slopes experience, there are all kinds of great possibilities. Park City, just 40 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, is a popular ski town, with great dining and shopping and the ski resorts of Park City and Deer Valley at its doorstep.
Note that not all of these resorts offer both skiing and boarding. Deer Valley and Alta are only open to skiers, and all of the rest are open to both sports.
1 Park City Mountain Resort
Park City Ski Resort is a top choice for skiers coming to Utah due to its huge amount of terrain and its great après ski infrastructure and atmosphere, with the town of Park City at the base of the slopes. Park City Mountain Resort amalgamated with Canyons Ski Resort in late 2015 to become the largest ski resort not only in Utah, but in the United States. It has 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, and any level of skier can find what they are looking for at this resort.
Although these two have combined, they have separate bases (Park City Base Area and Canyons Village) and each has still maintained its own unique character. Also, many skiers still choose to ski at either one or the other if they are out for a single day of skiing because getting from one side to the other and back requires a significant amount of runs and planning, and can be an all-day project. Canyons was the larger of the two resorts before they joined and has a real mix of terrain, great on-hill restaurants serving gourmet food, and a lively base area, particularly in the spring, when concerts and other events are held here. Park City is known for great intermediate runs but also has plenty of space for new skiers and some challenging areas for those who are more advanced.
One of Park City Ski Resort's great advantages over other resorts in Utah is the town of Park City at its base. This is a real town with a vibrant Main Street, not just a ski village. Although small, it has some great restaurants and hotels and is host to the annual Sundance Film Festival. There is also lodging at the base of Park City and Canyons, with ski-in/ski-out accommodation.
2 Deer Valley
Deer Valley is a skiing experience like no other in Utah, with first class facilities, a good mix of terrain for all levels of skiers, and staff that go out of their way to make sure your skiing experience is fun. This skiers-only resort is just two miles up the road from downtown Park City and about 45 minutes from Salt Lake City.
Although it is known largely as a family resort, the mountain has a surprisingly varied terrain that will keep even the most advanced skiers occupied. More than 100 runs are spread out over 2,000 acres and six mountains, with long and wide, family-friendly groomers on Flagstaff, Bald, and Empire Mountains, and steep glade adventures on Lady Morgan Mountain. The runs here are all well laid-out with good fall lines. To ensure the best skiing experience and minimal lift lines, Deer Valley limits the number of skiers to 7,500 per day, meaning at peak holiday times, the mountain is never too crowded to enjoy. Also worth noting, since much of the clientele at Deer Valley come here looking for groomed runs, it's often easy to find untracked stashes of snow long after a snow storm has subsided.
Customer service is a big deal at Deer Valley. Nice touches like free ski storage, gear and accessory storage for a nominal fee, and immaculately maintained facilities set this resort apart. Deer Valley is also one of the few mountain resorts to have a state licensed child care facility for non-skiing children.
Another wonderful aspect of the Deer Valley experience is the fine, on-hill dining. Luxurious day lodges with wood burning fireplaces, towering windows, and comfortable seating offer a range of menus, with everything from casual to sit-down white table service. Accommodation options at Deer Valley swing towards the luxury end of the scale, with ski-in/ski-out hotels and condominiums. For day trippers, there is ample parking, and you can drop your skis off at the base area, park, and walk or take a free shuttle back to the lodge.
Snowbird has terrain to suit anyone but is a great resort for advanced skiers. Steep runs and open bowls are challenging but not overwhelming. This is also one of the most scenic ski resorts in Utah, with sharp mountain peaks that truly make you feel like you are in the mountains. Snowbird is adjacent to Alta Ski Resort, and the two can be skied together with a joint ticket. They are connected at the top of Sugarloaf Pass, and together the two have enough terrain to keep you busy indefinitely. These resorts tend to get hit with large amounts of snow from storms that get funneled up the Cottonwood Valley.
Unique among Utah resorts, Snowbird has a 125-passenger tram that provides access to almost all the areas of the mountain via one lift. It also has a tunnel through the mountain that skiers can move through on a conveyor belt that serves as a "ski-through" mining museum.
Snowbird recently invested $35 million to upgrade and improve their facilities, including increased snowmaking, new RFID lift tickets, and a complete remodel of the accommodations at the iconic Cliff Lodge. The newest attraction is The Summit restaurant at the top of Hidden Peak that looks out over the hills and spectacular mountains of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The base of Snowbird is very basic with some accommodation options but no real town or village to speak of, making it more of a skier's mountain than a sociable mountain. There is usually ample parking at the base, with the most distant lots free and the closer lots charging a small fee.
Solitude is a hidden gem, better known and appreciated by locals rather than vacationers. Like the name suggests, it is a quiet place near the end of Big Cottonwood Valley, with 77 runs and three bowls spread over 1,200 acres. Wide open intermediate and beginner runs dominate, and those looking for more of a challenge will find it in Honeycomb Canyon. Solitude is a great place to ski with a family or group due to the layout of the hill. All of the runs tend to end up at a couple of main lifts, so getting lost or separated is a rare occurrence.
Solitude has two base areas. Accessed through Entry 1 is the main base area for day trippers, with the largest day lodge and ample parking. The other base area, accessed through Entry 2, services mostly the village area and condos. There is no slope side restaurant or day use facility here. Restaurants can be found just a short walk from the hill on the village streets. Parking at this entry is very limited. On hill dining options include the funky, Himalayan styled roundhouse known as the sunniest spot on the mountain, and the Moonbeam lodge at the Entry 1 base area. In the evening, dining and entertainment options are found only in the Village and many people choose to self-cater in their condominiums or townhouses.
Accommodation options are limited to the Village, where there is a hotel and many condominiums, townhomes, and private homes, all managed by Solitude Resort. Many people day trip here from Salt Lake City, about 45 minutes away by car.
Big changes are afoot at Solitude. Recently purchased by the owners of Deer Valley, this ski resort will soon have all the upgrades to make it even better, with plans for new chairlifts, lodge upgrades, and new food and beverage services, backed by Deer Valley's legendary penchant for first-class service.
In addition to great downhill skiing, Solitude offers an extensive network of Nordic (cross country) skiing and snowshoeing trails.
Alta has a special place in the hearts and minds of skiers. Dating from 1938, this storied, old-school, skiers-only resort is at the end of Little Cottonwood Valley and captures more than 500 inches of snow annually. The terrain here is varied, with groomed runs and plenty of areas for new skiers, but overall the mountain is skewed towards strong intermediates and explorers who like to ski off the groomed runs. The resort has six main lifts (others service only the lodges) that access more than 2,000 skiable acres. There are two bases; the main base is Wildcat, where there is extensive parking and skier facilities; and Albion, a bit further up the canyon, where the ski school is located, but parking is relatively limited. For the quickest access to the most terrain, the Wildcat base and the Collins lift is recommended.
Alta is just up the valley from Snowbird, and those seeking additional terrain can access Snowbird Mountain through a gate at the top of Sugarloaf Pass by purchasing a combined lift ticket. A good option when conditions are icy is to ski Alta in the morning and then shift over to Snowbird's Mineral Basin bowl to catch the afternoon light and sun-softened conditions. A dual mountain pass is also a good option in the spring when not all runs are open at either resort.
Facilities and restaurants at Alta tend to be relatively basic and old school, although the newer Watson Café is a step up from the others. Alta is a good day trip destination from Salt Lake City. That said, there are some great accommodation options for families at the hill, with ski-in/ski-out hotels that cater well to families, with large rooms or adjoining rooms, and all-inclusive meal packages that simplify the whole experience. Staying at the resort means no driving and possibly no meals to cook, and there's a good ski school with full-day programs for children.
Just under an hour's drive north of Salt Lake City and 30 minutes from Ogden is Snowbasin. This resort is an unexpected and often overlooked gem, with first-class facilities, incredible service, and some great runs for all levels, with more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain and 3,000 feet of vertical. Blue and black runs dominate the hill, with everything from steep tree runs to open bowls and groomed runs. Green runs cascade down the lower regions of the mountain, filtering into the main base lodge.
The restaurants and day lodges are beautiful, log-style buildings, with high ceilings and wooden beams, huge stone fireplaces, unending walls of windows, and giant chandeliers. Outside, the heated sidewalks make life in ski boots easy. The only drawback for this resort is the lack of accommodation at, or near, the base. The main lodging for visitors coming to Snowbasin is in Ogden, a cute town about 30 minutes away. The road up to the resort from Ogden can be challenging to drive in snowy conditions. On the bright side, this resort does not see heavy ski traffic from Salt Lake City.
Snowbasin is famous for being one of the oldest continually running ski resorts in the USA. It also hosted some of the skiing events for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and it was the filming location of the 2010 American horror film, Frozen.
Sundance Ski Resort, about an hour south of Salt Lake City and a half hour from Provo, was started by actor Robert Redford in 1969. The resort has a simple, rustic charm, with wooden and log-style cabins and restaurants. The scenery here is beautiful, and the best word to describe the atmosphere is quaint. The ski hill itself is small by resort standards, with 450 acres and 42 runs, but offers a full range of black, blue, and green runs, along with first-class service and amenities, including a ski school.
8 Powder Mountain
Just over an hour north of Salt Lake City is Powder Mountain, with a full range of skiing options, including cat skiing and backcountry terrain. This resort is known for its great natural snow, and powder hounds will be sure to find what they are looking for if they venture beyond the lift boundaries. Powder Mountain has 7,000 acres of skiable terrain, but only 2,800 is accessible by lift, the rest will require heading into the backcountry on a Snowcat Powder Safari. But if you are just looking for some great groomed runs or on-hill action, the lift service area is ideal, and the resort offers a free Mountain Host service to show newcomers around the mountain.
Brighton Ski Resort is about 45 minutes from Salt Lake City, up Big Cottonwood Canyon, beyond Solitude Ski Resort. This resort is all about the skiing and boarding, not about the après ski scene. This is a place to come and enjoy a day on the mountain. With just over 1,000 acres of skiable terrain, all levels of ability can appreciate this hill, but if you are looking for groomed runs, this is definitely the place. That said, advanced skiers will find plenty of ungroomed spaces and powder.
One of the main advantages Brighton has over some of the other mountains in the area is the on-hill equipment. All of the terrain is accessible via high speed quads. Also, children 10 years of age and younger ski free, and night skiing is available every night of the week except Sundays, from early December to March.
Other Ski Resorts to Consider
In southern Utah, about 2.5 hours north of Las Vegas, Brian Head Resort is a good-value, family-friendly ski resort, where people come to have fun. For families that simply want to get out and enjoy the snow, this is the perfect hill, with something for everyone, even if they don't want to ski or board. With a base elevation of 9,600 feet, this is the highest ski hill in Utah. The resort has more than 650 acres of skiable terrain spread over two mountains and offers 1,320 feet of lift-serviced vertical. It has a relatively equal mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced runs, and also offers tubing.
There is some accommodation at the hill or in nearby Cedar City, about 40 minutes away. A few restaurants at the resort offer casual dining.
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