Boasting an annual average of 500 inches of snow, Utah has earned its reputation as having the "greatest snow on earth." The state's 13 ski resorts entice snow sport enthusiasts with deep, fluffy powder conditions and quick and easy access from Salt Lake City Airport. Lodging, restaurants, shopping and cultural activities are plentiful in Utah, making it a viable choice for vacations with non-skiing friends, family and significant others.
Park City Resorts
The Canyons, Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley stand side by side in Utah's Park City area. Art galleries, spas, boutiques and restaurants line the streets, providing off-slope diversions for non-skiers. The Park City Quick Start Program transforms your airline boarding pass into a same-day lift ticket, but sea-level visitors should avoid overexertion on their first day at these high-alpine resorts. The Canyons has limited beginner terrain, and the Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley provide beginner and intermediate options. Ski-in/ski-out lodging is available at all of the resorts, but in-town lodging keeps you closer to the off-slope action.
Snowboarders will not be able to use their Park City Quick Start Pass at Deer Valley. This upscale, multi-amenity resort, known for its gourmet salad bar, is one of the skiers-only areas in the United States. Its wide-open slopes are groomed to perfection, making it easy for intermediate skiers to get their bragging rights on easy black-diamond trails. The resort tram stops in front of your car and takes you directly to the base area. Alta is Utah's other skiers-only resort. Its enthusiasts enjoy natural snow, so don't expect corduroy grooming on the advanced trails. Beginners will enjoy the Albion base, which offers free skiing after 3 p.m. and is accessible by one of the country's few remaining rope tows. The resort's five base lodges offer ski and stay packages.
The Cottonwood Canyon resorts offer a solution for groups of skiers and snowboarders, or groups with mixed proficiency levels. Alta and Snowbird sit side by side, making it easy for skiers and riders to find acceptable lodging compromises. Snowbird, geared toward experts, is snowboarder-friendly. Beginning skiers will be more comfortable at Alta. Snowboarding novices will enjoy Brighton, which offers night skiing and riding. The Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts have on-mountain lodging, but budget travelers find joy in nearby Sandy and Utah, home to low-cost lodging venues like Extended Stay and La Quinta. Most of these small hotels have small kitchens and are a short drive from local supermarkets. There is one caveat: The mountain roads often close during heavy snowfall, so you might save money but lose out on a day of skiing.
The Utah Interconnect
Advanced skiers who can't decide which resort to visit should consider the Utah Interconnect Tour. This backcountry adventure tour visits six resorts in one day: Deer Valley, Snowbird, Park City Mountain Resort, Brighton and Solitude Mountain Resort. The tour covers 25 miles and requires some hiking. Lunch, lift access and transportation back to the starting point are included. Since the tour leaves early in the morning from either Snowbird or Deer Valley, staying at one of these resorts is the most convenient option. Both Stein the Eriksen Lodge at Deer Valley and the Cliff Lodge and Spa at Snowbird have spa and massage service, a nice perk after a strenuous ski day.
Upscale and Rider-Friendly
Snowbasin in Ogden, Utah, rivals Deer Valley in elegance, while allowing both skiers and riders. Oriental carpets and chandeliers embellish its cafeterias, and heated, high-speed gondolas whisk guests to varied terrain, suitable for beginners, intermediates and experts. There's no on-mountain lodging, but the Jackson Fork Inn and Lakeside Resort are a short ride to the lifts and in close proximity to other Ogden vicinity resorts, such as Powder Mountain and Wolf Mountain Ski Resort.
- Powder Mountain 5 image by KETibbitts from Fotolia.com