Our state wears its “greatest snow on earth” moniker with pride, as it should. On the right day, Utah powder is as dry, fluffy, and abundant as that found anywhere else in the world, and long-time locals, new enthusiasts, and vacationing visitors alike benefit greatly from the many slopes and chutes just 45 minutes away from downtown SLC. And, while after a good storm it’s difficult to have a bad time no matter where you end up, many of the resorts that surround our city offer markedly different experiences where atmosphere, terrain, difficulty level, and snow quantity are concerned. As such, we’ve put together a rundown of our favorite resorts and the distinctive qualities that they possess. Whether you’ve just made the transition from renting to owning gear and need a comprehensive run down or are an old pro looking to switch things up, we hope you find our list helpful next time you clip (or strap) in and head down.
1) Alta: Opened in 1939, Alta unabashedly throws things back to an era of skinny skis and leather boots. The lodges and accommodations that litter the resort’s base are, for the most part, lovely, rustic relics that still offer cozy vibes aplenty when the cold sets in, and many of the locals here have no shortage of stories to swap about this state’s skiing infancy. From a powder perspective, Alta snow is some of the best (and most abundant) in the country, as is the terrain on which it falls. While the friendly, enthusiastic community here makes the resort a great place for beginners, it really sets itself apart from the pack once you get to the steep stuff. Similar to Deer Valley, Alta (unfortunately) doesn’t allow snowboarders—although some locals swear this prohibition is the reason behind the resort’s nearly unparalleled powder skiing.
2) Deer Valley: Often cited as one of the most upscale ski resorts in the country, Deer Valley’s amenities certainly back up said accolade: you’ll find picturesque accommodations, stunning lodges, delicious fare (the turkey chili is a favorite among visitors and locals, alike), and a “ski beach” to boot. The mountain is geared predominantly toward beginner and intermediate skiers—the groomers here are some of the smoothest—but offers a nice (albeit, less extensive) selection of off-piste options, too. For a particularly ritzy aprés ski experience, we suggest ordering up oysters, lobster rolls, and champagne at the resort’s on-mountain seafood restaurant, Rime. Unconventional? Yes. Delicious? Most certainly. Also worth noting is Deer Valley’s antiquated policy that doesn’t allow snowboarders on the mountain—if you board, best look elsewhere.
3) Brighton: In place of stunning lodges and 5-star accommodations, Brighton offers greasy spoon cantinas and laid back vibes as pairings for its unassumingly excellent terrain. From steep bowls to smooth groomers and a great terrain park, this resort easily offers it all. There’s no shortage of fun little pockets to explore (regardless of ability level), and yearly snow totals here often rival even the much-heralded numbers posted by Snowbird and Alta.
4) Park City: Recently combined with neighboring Canyons Resort, Park City now clocks in at over 7,000 ski-able acres and boasts amenities and services that rival the very best (a change largely instigated by new owner, Vail Resorts). If a couple of easy turns followed by a craft cocktail is more your speed, Mid-Mountain Lodge (designed by cityhomeCOLLECTIVE) is a perfect place to unbuckle those boots and kick back. Yet, remodeled lodges and chipper lifties shouldn’t distract from the fact that, for advanced skiers, Jupiter lift offers access to some truly incredible terrain and rarely gets swamped with crowds, even during peak season. Plus, for those looking to conquer their first double black diamond, Park City keeps a section of Blue Slip Bowl groomed—it’s still quite steep but offers a good way to check off that “experts only” box, nonetheless.
5) Snowbasin: Heading up north is a reliable way to avoid the weekend craziness of the Cottonwoods without sacrificing where mountain quality is concerned. This spot was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics’ downhill, Super-G, and combined events, so proficient riders can still shralp both the men’s and women’s downhill courses (Grizzly and Wildflower, respectively). At Basin, you can expect relatively shorter lift lines, world-class lodges (courtesy of aforementioned games), and a wide variety of excellent terrain, ranging from bunny to double black. Although the resort receives less average annual snowfall than some of its counterparts to the south, freshies stick around longer here due to the dearth of accommodations—and, consequently, out-of-towners—around the re- sort’s base. Those looking for an overnighter will have to journey northeast to the Ogden Valley or west to South Ogden.
6) Powder Mountain: Although Powder Mountain is slated to undergo some major expansions, for now it remains a relatively sleepy resort that offers a veritable off-piste playground. The majority of the terrain isn’t as steep as that offered at other resorts, but there are so many fun, powdery pockets to explore (many of which last for days after it snows) that you’ll likely forget all about vertical feet. Infrastructure here is relatively sparse and, as such, you might find yourself forgoing lifts and instead hailing a snowcat or a shuttle to get back up the mountain.
7) Solitude: For reasons unknown, Solitude manages to fly under the radar compared to its surrounding competitors (although that’s slowly changing). The accommodations at its base are nice and quiet and the terrain, while not as expansive as other resorts, offers a great mix of options for all difficulty levels. Thanks to the lack of crowds, if you catch Solitude on the right powder day, you’ll experience little-to-no competition for fresh tracks—head over to Honeycomb Canyon while the getting is good.
8) Sundance: What Sundance lacks in 6-person chairs and square acreage, it more than makes up for in quaint lodging, great food, and often-untracked snow. Robert Redford’s love for the surrounding landscape still informs many of the goings-on here and, as such, the resort hasn’t changed a whole lot throughout the course of his ownership. Facilities remain interspersed among the trees, and the whole thing feels more like a canyon hideaway than a bustling destination. If you live close enough, Sundance is a great option for untouched powder or a couple of pre-work laps, as much of the terrain is surprisingly good.
9) Snowbird: Considered to be the state’s toughest resort by many, “The Bird” certainly doesn’t cater to first-timers (the upper part of its most popular beginner run has been known to develop a cornice, at times). That said, Snowbird’s terrain is truly incredible and, while “best snow in the state” is certainly a contentious topic, the powder here can be unbelievably light at times. For our money, cramming in the tram and heading to the very top (skill level permitting) is worth doing at least once, as is heading over to Mineral Basin for a run or two (accessed via a tunnel that cuts through the side of the hill). It’s a demanding mountain, this one, so don’t be afraid to take a long lunch with a view at the new “Bond villain lair”-esque summit restaurant or swing by the Cliff Spa for an aprés soak.