Originally posted on https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/utah-ski-resorts
November 16, 2021 —
By Blake Snow - Lonely Planet writer
Unlike Colorado and California, most of Utah's world-class skiing is less than an hour’s drive from its metropolitan airport. In fact, there are 10 such resorts in the vicinity, spread across the famous Cottonwood canyons, Park City, and nearby Ogden and Provo.
Better yet, Utah is billed for having “the greatest snow on Earth,” thanks to its light, dry, and fluffy flakes, plus several resorts that record over 500 inches of annual snowfall — the most in North America. As a bonus, the state is home to the largest resort in the nation and filled with really nice and welcoming people, making Utah a remarkable and easy place to ski or snowboard.
Picking the ideal Salt Lake area ski resort is like splitting hairs. All of these resorts rate 4.5 (or higher) out of 5 stars, according to online reviewers. They’re almost all easy to access, relatively affordable, and largely family-friendly.
Which resort is right for you? Before booking your next winter visit to Utah, consider the following.
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Best all-round value
Located just 40 minutes from the airport, Brighton is one of the first and oldest ski resorts in the state, and it has remained one of the best for nearly 80 years. In short, Brighton is both awesome and affordable, with beautiful spacious runs between beautifully tall trees, and $90 lift tickets with kids 10-and-under skiing for free.
The food and lodging may be lacking, but with 500 inches of annual snowfall across fantastic terrain for all levels, you’d be a fool to turn your nose up at this place.
Next door you’ll find the similarly-sized and snow heavy Solitude. As its name suggests, it’s one of the least-visited resorts in Utah, except on days in which other resorts roads are closed, in which case local expert riders come to Solitude for its equally technical terrain. Solitude isn’t an ideal place for beginners, but lots of fun for everyone else with lift tickets averaging $120 per day.
Getting to Big Cottonwood Canyon: You can drive, take a public bus, or rideshare up Big Cottonwood Canyon Road to either Solitude or Brighton.
Little Cottonwood Canyon
Best for serious skiers
If you want two of the nation’s top 10 resorts with the continent’s deepest snowfall which happen to be within 45 minutes of the airport, come to Little Cottonwood canyon. Stay away, however, if you’re a beginner or intermediate skier — Little Cottonwood is too steep for most beginners and intermediates to fully enjoy.
For big amounts of challenging runs, a terrific tram (the only in Utah), and excellent on-site lodging, head to world-renowned Snowbird. And with several more feet of snow than in the already impressive levels in Big Cottonwood, expert skiers and riders will love Snowbird.
For even more snow and slightly better accessibility for intermediate skiers, head a little further up the road for the similarly famous Alta, the first resort in all of Utah. Sadly (or thankfully depending on which team you play for), snowboarders are not allowed on Alta lifts, although they can ride down the mountain via the connecting top access from Snowbird.
Lift tickets for Snowbird vary but start at $130 per day; Alta’s run $120 per day. Either way, both are brimming with powder.
Getting to Little Cottonwood Canyon: Like Big Cottonwood just to the north, you can drive, take a public bus, or rideshare up Little Cottonwood Road to either Snowbird or Alta.
Park City Mountain Resort
Best For families, nightlife, and the most terrain
There’s a reason most out-of-staters ski here. For the largest, most popular, most crowded and second-most expensive resort in Utah, drive 45 minutes to Park City Mountain Resort. Since merging with the already gargantuan Canyons Resort, the new Park City is absolutely massive with 341 total runs and 35 lifts.
Although the skiing is admittedly good (and the terrain park is killer) at Park City Mountain Resort, the night life and amenities are probably even better, which is a big draw for visitors. Lift tickets cost upwards of $150 per day, but you can stay on the Canyons side to avoid some of the crowds.
Getting to Park City Mountain Resort: You can drive or rideshare east up I-80, then south on 189 to famous Park City, which features two resorts, the other being…
Best resort for luxury
Located on the opposite face of Park City (i.e. the east side of town), Deer Valley resort is the finest resort in Utah with lift ticket, restaurant, and accommodation prices to match. Deer Valley also has the best “groomer” runs that are corduroy, comfortably wide, and lined with attendees that can help you find your way or make recommendations. It’s also home to some of the nicest restaurants in the entire state.
If value, exciting terrain and snowboarding are important to you, however, Deer Valley probably isn’t a good fit. Lift tickets cost over $199 per day and overnight rates and even more. But it is an excellent place to ski with nearby access to the same après ski nightlife that Park City Mountain Resort enjoys.
Getting to Deer Valley Resort: You can drive or rideshare east up I-80, then south on 189 to Park City, where Deer Valley is located.
Hidden gem resorts
Sundance Mountain Resort
If you don’t mind driving more than an hour from Salt Lake airport, there are three more notable resorts at your disposal. Although small, the film festival namesake Sundance Mountain Resort in Provo Canyon (formerly owned by Robert Redford) is probably one of the most scenic resorts in the state and great for families and expert riders alike.
Snowbasin Resort and Powder Mountain
In Ogden, just north of Salt Lake, you can find the equally beautiful but much larger Snowbasin Resort with its Olympic downhill runs and three terrain parks. It, like Sundance, enjoys a respectable average of 300 inches of snow per year. Also in Ogden: Powder Mountain, which gets even more snow — a whopping 500 inches to rival the Little Cottonwood totals. With lift tickets for just $90, this is a popular out-of-the-way spot for snowhounds.
Getting to hidden gem resorts: Sundance is located about an hour’s drive south from Salt Lake International; Snowbasin about an hour north, and Powder Mountain a little further about 75 minutes north of Salt Lake airport
Covid-19 changes you need to consider
In good travel news, you will be allowed to ski without a face mask in Utah this year, but some resorts may still require them indoors, so pack some just in case. Additionally, while every resort provides easy on-site ski rentals, some visitors take advantage of more affordable rentals located at the mouth of each respective canyon or the nearest city.
As for buying tickets in advance or on-site: you will also be allowed to do both this year, but will enjoy better savings by booking online at each respective resort or through the popular liftopia.com.
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