Friday, August 25, 2017 1:00 AM
By T Bird, Transworld Snowboarding -- Salt Lake City, Utah is without question the snowboard Mecca of North America. Is that a bold statement? Yes. However, is it relatively inarguable? Also…yes. Think about it. Within a half hour drive from the Salt Lake City International airport lie 6 world-class resorts and if one were to expand that drive to one hour, make that 8 world-class resorts. And that's not even the tip of the iceberg, as SLC plays host to more street spots than nearly any city on earth along with backcountry terrain that rivals anywhere on the globe for those die-hard slednecks and splitboarders. Just look at the pro snowboarders that have come out of Salt Lake and those who have chosen to make it their home during their professional careers. From living legends like Jeremy Jones, JP Walker, Seth Huot, Mitch Nelson, Mikey LeBlanc, Bjorn Leines and MFM to superstars like Jake Welch, Pat Moore, Bode Merrill and Chris Grenier, Salt Lake City is a must-do on any snowboarder's list, regardless of skill level or preference of terrain. Besides, if you play your cards right, you might just lock down a chick (or two…or three) and settle in for a while.
Getting to Salt Lake City is one of the most appealing aspects of it. The Salt Lake City International Airport is 5 miles west of downtown and it offers daily non-stop flights from a multitude of airlines (be sure to check various airlines' baggage fees!) and once you've touched down in beautiful SLC, it's a quick Uber ride to the city (around $9—$15 depending on where you're staying). There's also a TRAX train that runs to and from the airport at all hours of the day and night and costs much less than an Uber or a taxi, however, it takes a bit longer to get where you need to go. Once in the city, the mountains are a hop, skip and a jump away as three canyon roads are the main access routes to…
Where to Ride
…the mountains! If you head east on I-80 you'll end up in Park City, Utah in about 25 minutes (with clear roads). Once there, you'll be able to ride one of the best parks in the world as well as the newly-expanded terrain of The Canyons. The difference in terrain afforded by the two resorts merging make it one of the biggest mountains in North America, however, you're paying for it, as lift tickets are the most expensive in the state, so plan accordingly and do your research.
Just south of I-80 lies Big Cottonwood Canyon, which plays host to Solitude and Brighton. Solitude is a much more family-friendly resort, with a mini village and cookie cutter condos for rent. The terrain is fun yet mellow, so if you're looking to get aggro, keep truckin' up the canyon road for a few more miles and you'll find yourself at Brighton, Utah.
Brighton is every snowboarder's dream and it boasts a mom-and-pop feel that is often underplayed in today's glitz and glam ski resort arena. The tickets are cheap and the beers are cold, but most importantly, Brighton has some of the best terrain in all of the Wasatch range. From open bowls off the Millie lift to breathtaking backcountry hikes up Pioneer Peak (just off the Crest lift) or inbounds steeps right below the Snake Creek and Great Western lifts, Brighton is a fan favorite of all Salt Lake City locals and without a doubt, the best bang for your buck if you're vacationing on a budget.
If you keep driving past Big Cottonwood Canyon, you'll find yourself in Little Cottonwood Canyon and up that road lies some of the craziest terrain you've ever seen at Snowbird Mountain. Snowbird boasts some of the steepest and most hair-raising lines that can be found in the Wasatch (as well as some beginner and intermediate terrain, too) and with affordable ticket prices, Snowbird is a definite must-ride if visiting SLC. Not to mention that said terrain is all accessed by one massive tram that takes you to the top in just seven minutes flat. Think about it now. Say you touched down at SLC International at 10:30am and were standing atop a waist-deep ridgeline peppered with lines, chutes and drops by high noon. Sound appealing? Well, that's Utah. Welcome to heaven.
*Of note is that if you've got a rental car, send it up north toward Ogden and try out Snowbasin. It's insane terrain and the views are spectacular. Or, head to Powder Mountain after a storm where you'll find endless untracked pow and you can hop in a private cat on the resort on the cheap!
Where to Stay
This is another check in the plus column for SLC. Although there are world-class resorts littered throughout the Wasatch front, you can stay in a city! This makes lodging more affordable with avenues like Air BnB and Vacasa, so if you plan on visiting and you wanna make the most of your money, get a nice little bungalow in Sugarhouse or snag a vacation rental in Cottonwood Heights or Millcreek (these are all areas of SLC proper) and you'll save a ton of money, as opposed to staying at one of the resorts. But if you're looking for a fireplace lounge to sip Hot Toddys while you dry out your gear and you're willing to pay for it, look at the on-hill lodging options at Snowbird, Park City, Solitude or The Canyons.
Much to many peoples' surprise, Salt Lake City has a bustling food scene, as there's a restaurant or bar to cater to nearly every palate in the city. Be it Indian, Ethiopian, Japanese, Nepalese, Mexican, German, or classic Americana, Salt Lake City has got you covered. If you don't know what to eat, try the classics. For Mexican, check out Hector's on 3300 South. Or Lonestar, located about a mile east once you exit the Big Cottonwood Canyon access road. Want pizza? Try Spedelli's (also on 3300, right up the road from Hector's), owned and operated by SLC legends Mac and Sam Spedale. They spin an amazing pie and they can still spin their snowboards pretty damn well, too.
Want a downtown vibe? Check out Beer Bar on 200 South. It's part-owned by Ty Burrell (Phil Dunfee of TV's Modern Family) and his aim with Beer Bar was to bring good beer and delicious sausages to SLC. Needless to say, he succeeded. He also owns Bar X which is right next door, if you wanna sip a few signature cocktails after a long day of riding. In an area called "9th and 9th," you'll find Pago, a spendy but really delicious restaurant that serves up the classics. If you're in the mood to drop some coin and really enjoy a nice experience, try Handle Salt Lake (commonly referred to as HSL). You won't be disappointed, and there's a pretty good possibility that former pro snowboarder and Elevation and Sessions team rider Drew Fuller is manning the kitchen. Dude's one of the best chefs in the city. Tell him we sent ya.
If you wanna get a feel for the local scene, drop by Milosport on 3300 after riding and say hi to the crew. Co-founded by SLC legend Benny Pellegrino, Milo is the sickest shop in the valley and they have a shitload of product to peruse, but the best part about Milo is the vibe. It's a goold ol' shop, with skate decks slung on the walls, glass displays with DVDs and stickers galore, music pumping through the sound system and an incredible crew of kids running the floor, eager to answer any question you may have. I've always said that the best way to get a feel for a mountain town's vibe is to check out the local shop, and there are none better than Milo. You'll leave knowing more about the SLC snowboard scene than when you arrived. Oh, and if Benny's not ripping Snowbird full-throttle, he'll be there. Shake his hand and say hi. You'll be stoked you did.
If you're looking to stack clips in the streets, there is no better place than SLC. After all, this is basically where jibbing became a massive part of snowboarding's culture, thanks to JP and Jeremy. If there's snow on the ground (there usually is in December, January and February) there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of spots. We could tell you where they are but you're just gonna have to get the local scoop and find them for yourself. They're not hard to find, though, and in general, the cops in Salt Lake are used to seeing snowboarders creep around and won't give you a ticket, but be prepared to clean up and leave when asked.
* Make sure you check out Rail Gardens. It's right off 215 south in the foothills and it's the most legendary rail spot in Salt Lake City. It's a no-bust zone and you're more than likely going to see one of your favorite pros or up-and-comers warming up to hit a spot later in the day.
Any of the aforementioned restaurants will provide an awesome après experience, but there are a few choice spots in SLC to grab an ice cold beer and some wings or an extra dirty martini and a burger. One is Molly Green’s, right at the base of Brighton. This is the closest thing you'll find to a real deal mountain town bar, and it's literally located right next to the Crest lift. Cheap beers, good nachos and a great vibe all around.
Another great place to check out if The Porcupine Grill right at the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon. The place gets SLAMMED on weekends and powder days, so be prepared to wait a little bit but once you get in, they've got a great selection of microbrews and awesome lunch specials like pizza, burgers, and wings.
There's a new spot in town called The Waterwitch that offers small plates and really good beer selections. It's also manned by our dear friend Pat Harrington who has written for this publication many times and knows how to pour a proper pint. For nightlife, contrary to popular belief, SLC has a pretty good party scene. Twilight Lounge is close to downtown and it's dark, dingy environment is the perfect place to hole up in a corner, listen to some tunes and drink a beer with some buds.
There's also The RUIN. Opened up last year by former pro Jon Kooley and friends, it's got a contemporary vibe and unbelievable cocktails, crafted to perfection. Located right in the heart of Sugarhouse, it's a great walk-to spot if you're staying in that area and the atmosphere is super relaxed.
Explore Your Surroundings
The Wasatch range has everything and while the resorts are unbelievable, the splitboard and snowmobile-accessible terrain is world-class. We can't stress enough, however, that if you're venturing out into the backcountry, always be prepared and carry a beacon, shovel and a probe…at the very least. Even if you have those three things, they mean nothing without the proper knowledge of snowpack stability and backcountry travel safety. If you happen to link up with someone who really knows where they're going, however, be prepared to have the time of your life.
From the endless terrain offered up in the Uintas to the snowmobile-accessible stuff up at Guardsman Pass (up Big Cottonwood Canyon) to the splitboard-accessed terrain up on Mt. Superior and in Grizzly Gulch (up Little Cottonwood Canyon) , it's a powderhound's playground out there. Not feeling quite as adventurous as that? Head up to Brighton, bring your shovel, probe and beacon, check in with Ski Patrol to find out the stability and go for a hike up Mt. Millicent (it's STEEP) or off Majestic and up onto Pioneer Peak. Bring a buddy, though, and be safe. Most of the hike-accessed terrain at Brighton brings you right back to the resort too, so hop on the lift and repeat all day!