Yee-haw you are off to ski and snowboard in Utah!
Utah is my favorite place in the world for riding: It has the world’s fluffiest and lightest powder, they get more snow than just about anyone (so you’re almost sure to get a nice 3ft dump while you’re there!), the slopes are just 45 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport, and the lift-ticket prices are some of the lowest too!
The best tip: Buy your lift tickets before you head to the slopes. Ski-n-See and Canyon Sports have discount tickets (click on the link for the prices). Park City, for instance, is $69 instead of $91 on the slopes. Snowboard will run ya $58 instead of $66 for a chair-pass. You can only buy discount tickets at the NON-Park City locations, so if you’re heading to Park City (Park City Resort or the Canyons; Deer Valley has no discounts!) be sure to pick up your tickets before you get to Park City. Rentals at any place outside the resorts will be lots cheaper, and even cheaper if you go into town. Typically you buy the tickets at the shop, and you just hop right onto the slopes because the ticket has a barcode and you just scan it and you’re going. At the Park City resorts this will save you lots of time as the line to buy tix is long! The exception are Solitude and perhaps Brighton, which have different non-bar code systems, but they’re so empty it doesn’t matter.
The resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons are the best deal and will be the least crowded, so go ski there!
There is a unified Snowbird and Alta ticket, but it costs extra. Both mountains are huge, so I don’t think there is any benefit to skiing both in the same day. You’ll just get lost and tired trying to go back and forth. Alta is a NO-SNOWBOARD zone, so don’t bother heading there if you’re with any snowboarders.
Cottonwood Canyon Resorts:
Alta: Skiing only. Snobby local skiers love it because there aren’t any snowboarders. World class slopes.
Snowbird: “The Bird.” World class. On a fresh powder day, this place goes OFF! It’s big, and it has lots of steep and difficult terrain. On a non-powder day, snowboarders may be put off by the narrow cat-trails on the front and back bowls. The biggest decision here is “Gondola or no gondola.” You can ride all the same terrain without taking the gondola. And on a busy day, and most are busy during the high season near Xmas, the line for the gondola is so long you might prefer to skip it anyway. Just take the Peru lift up, pop thru the tunnel, and then ski Mineral Basin in the back!!!
Solitude: It’s called Solitude for a reason, it’s nice and empty. It isn’t my favorite but has some very great back bowls that are awesome. Because it isn’t as popular, if you go here the day after a big snow dump, it shouldn’t be skied out too badly – you can still find some nice power patches.
Brighton: My favorite mountain in the Salt Lake City area. Brighton is nice and empty. In the high-season, this is a real relief! It’s got amazing tree skiing – you can always find some powder in the sparse trees. The other great thing is most of the lifts are bottom-to-top high-speed lifts. So you take a lift up to the top of the mountain and ski all the way down, and then hop the lift back up to the top of the mountain. You’ll ride more here, in more great powder, than just about anywhere. And it’s the cheapest place in town. Has night skiing as well, but it’ll be chilly! :)
Ride up the Great Western lift, and come all the way down. Try and stay left as you come down and ride thru the massive powder in Silver Spur, a black-diamond that is really a blue, trust me! :) Or just follow the easy way down and hop onto Snakebite or Thor – fun easy rolling terrain. Go all the way back down to the Great Western! Hop over to the West side of the mountain and ride Milley’s and come down the green runs, then do it again with the blue, and finally if its powder, go crazy and ride thru the trees and down the chutes! Yes!
Outside Salt Lake City:
Snowbasin: Wow this place is great! I’ve only been once as its a bit further from Salt Lake City, but you’ll love this mountain. You’ll be riding high-speed gondolas from the bottom to the top of the mountain. Snowbasin is big, and has all the same great powder. Best of all, you’re nowhere near Park City or Salt Lake City so its peaceful, quiet, and usually not crowded.
Ah yes, you are in Park City. It’s a fun little town. I used to work at the Park City Mountain Resort. Park City is a big fun mountain. But because the town is right next door, all the resorts here can get BUSY! Parking can be hard at Park City, so try and take a shuttle to the mountain you are going to. Parking is better at Deer Valley and Canyons but in the high-high Xmas season, get there early if you want to drive! Be sure to have a burger with thousands of your friends at No Name Saloon. Don’t miss having some Utah beers, esp. at the Watsach Brewery, where you can have a Polygamy Porter (motto: Why have just one?)
Park City Mountain Resort: This place is big and fun! You’ll get lost! Lots of great beginner terrain. This is your super-duper resort! To get to the top you’ll need to take 1-3 different chairs. The mountain is very spread out, with McConkey’s bowl in the back, and bunches of other areas. Enjoy! Park City also has night skiing but burr it’s very cold and the snow might be very hard so don’t fall, and its only a few runs, so it’ll be crowded with kids. Pop all the way up to the top of the mountain, taking the Bonanza 6-pack to the top. Then ski down Payday, my favorite run in the entire place, a lovely wide groomed green run. Take Silverlode back up to the top, or keep on going down and ride all the blue runs off King-Con. It’s usually less crowded back there. Park City is suuuuper crowded so get used to long lines for food (eat b4 11 or after 1.30 for shorter lines) and lots of people.
Deer Valley: Bring your skis as there isn’t any snowboarding. This place is posh. Carpet and brass everywhere. Their big draw is that they groom all the runs. I’ve only been once, but it’s pretty pricey, with no discount tix.
The Canyons: I’m not a big fan of this place. The whole place is setup as a huge real-estate sales gig. The place is sprawling and you’ll see houses everywhere that they’re trying to sell. Ski-in Ski-out. But I’m no fan of the mountain.
So that’s it! Enjoy Utah and be sure to ski my favorites: Brighton, Snow Basin, and The Bird!