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Skiers and snowboarders flock to Utah every winter for world-famous resorts, accessible mountains, and pristine runs that receive up to 500 inches of snow per season. Salt Lake City is a hub for domestic and international flights, and some resorts can be reached in under an hour from the airport. Several locations provided runs and terrain for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, a feat that few ski resorts can boast.
A few of the resorts are also included on the global Ikon Pass, a season pass that lets users ski or snowboard on a number of mountains around the world. If you plan to ski in Salt Lake City (SLC) often and want to try out multiple resorts, the Ikon Pass is worth investigating.
After one day on the slopes around SLC, you'll see why people say that Utah has "the greatest snow on Earth."
Alta Ski Area
Alta is for skiers only (no snowboards) and shares Little Cottonwood Canyon with another nearby ski resort, Snowbird. Fortunate geography blesses Alta and Snowbird with more snow than other Salt Lake area resorts. Alta is great for no-nonsense advanced skiers, but beginners and intermediates will also find plenty of runs at their level.
Alta promotes itself as a "ski area, not a ski resort," meaning the focus is on the sport rather than fancy dining or nightlife, but don't fret. The mountain still offers plenty of restaurant options for skiers to fuel-up with some food or grab an après-ski beverage with friends. To stay right on the slopes for a ski-in-ski-out experience, book a stay at the Alta Lodge, open since 1939.
The Ikon Pass allows up to five or seven days of skiing at Alta, depending on your pass.
Brighton is an SLC local favorite for its low prices, popular ski school, and kids-ski-free policy, which allows up to two children 10 years old or younger with each paying adult. It's located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, which it shares with Solitude Resort.
Many Salt Lake residents learn to ski at Brighton, continue to ski or board there as high school and college students, and then take their own children for skiing and boarding lessons. Brighton has a great mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain which all start and end in the same areas, so you can ride the lift up with your group, ski or board down the run you choose, and then meet up again at the bottom.
The Ikon Pass allows up to five or seven days of skiing at Brighton, depending on your pass.
Deer Valley is the most luxurious of Utah's ski resorts and stands out for amazing customer service, incredible dining options, and luxury lodging. Deer Valley has consistently been rated one of the top ski resorts in western North America by "SKI Magazine," praised for limiting the number of skiers on the mountain each day to prevent overcrowding.
Skiing at Deer Valley is one of the more expensive options around SLC, but you'll be pampered and well-attended from the moment you arrive. Keep warm on the mountain with a big bowl of turkey chili—Deer Valley's signature dish—between runs. In the evening, feast like you're in the Swiss Alps on a bubbling, cheesy raclette heated over a stone fireplace at the Empire Canyon Lodge.
Deer Valley is also a ski-only resort, so no snowboarding is allowed. Most of the runs are groomed daily for seamless skiing, but those seeking a more rugged challenge can venture into the woods for a backcountry experience.
The Ikon Pass allows up to five or seven days of skiing at Deer Valley, depending on your pass.
The colossal Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) is truly something else. With 250 kilometers of ski terrain and 39 lifts, it is the largest ski resort in the U.S. Because it's at a lower elevation than other nearby ski areas, such as Alta and Solitude, PCMR generally has a shorter season and less snow. However, its convenient location near the eponymous town of Park City makes it much more accessible to visitors. The Town Lift on Park City's Main Street whisks riders directly to the mountain base, so there's no need to worry about long shuttle rides. At the end of the day, you can take the lift right back down and enjoy all of the charming restaurants and vibrant nightlife scene that Park City has to offer.
Although PCMR is usually crammed with people because it's so easy to access, due to its immense size riders can usually find areas that are less crowded. Stick to the higher runs for the best snow and to avoid the packs of people below. Thrill-seekers can ski or snowboard in one of the terrain parks or halfpipes, remnants from the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Snowbird, in Little Cottonwood Canyon, is a hip, elegant resort and an advanced skier or boarder's paradise, with piles of Utah powder and acres of challenging terrain. Along with Alta, it gets more snow than any other Utah resort, with the season sometimes extending from October to May or even June. It's truly one of the best ski areas in the country and has repeatedly been rated number one in top ski magazines and websites.
One insider tip is that the difficulty ratings on Snowbird's runs tend to be underestimated. An easy green run at Snowbird might be labeled an intermediate blue run at another resort, and blue runs at Snowbird might even be considered difficult black runs somewhere else.
The Ikon Pass allows up to five or seven days of skiing at Snowbird, depending on your pass.
Solitude, in Big Cottonwood Canyon, lives up to its name with uncrowded conditions and untracked snow, especially in its famed Honeycomb Canyon. Like Brighton, the other Big Cottonwood resort, it supplies a good mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain for skiers and boarders of all levels. The food options in the charming little Solitude village offer perfect winter options to warm you up, such as curry and naan or Liège-style waffles with hot chocolate.
Not all skiers want to spend the entire trip on the slopes, and may prefer to explore the 20 kilometers of groomed trails on cross-country skis or snowshoes. The Nordic Trails around Solitude let you venture into some of Utah's most stunning and isolated terrain. Lessons are also available for those who have never cross-country skied or snowshoed before.
The Ikon Pass allows pass holders unlimited access to Solitude, with or without blackout dates depending on your pass.
Sundance Mountain Resort
Sundance Mountain Resort, in gorgeous Provo Canyon about an hour drive from SLC, is Utah's smallest ski resort at 450 acres. However, it also has fewer crowds and a quiet, rustic ambiance that make for a perfect and relaxing getaway. Guests laud the decor and the welcoming atmosphere of the lodge, which reflects the tastes of the resort's founder, actor Robert Redford.
Redford named the resort after his titular character in the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." In 1979, he held a conference at his resort promoting independent filmmakers, which has now turned into the largest indie film festival in the country, the Sundance Film Festival.