Utah Ski Guide: Where To Go For Your Powder Adventure

alta

Alta Ski Area overview via Alta

In Utah, there are a variety of areas to ski, each with its own distinct personality and offerings. Whether you’re looking for a true ski getaway in the mountains, pure luxury or a combination of world-class skiing and non-snow activities you can find it in the state. To help you choose the perfect homebase for your trip, here is a guide to some of Utah’s top ski resorts.

Alta: For The True Ski Addict

Less than an hour from Salt Lake City perched at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest you’ll find the Alta Ski Area. This small, peaceful mountain town reaches 9,500 feet above sea level at its highest point. Looking out the window of your rustic cabin you’ll see nothing but mountains dotted with aspen and spruce, high alpine meadows, jagged cliff faces carved with glaciers and talented skiers ripping up the soft powder trails.

With an average of 500 inches of snowfall each year, Alta is a haven for ski-enthusiasts as, along with Snowbird, it gets the most snow of any resort in Utah. The enchanting ambiance of the town allows for 70% to 80% of guests at the lodges to be return visitors. Additionally, what makes this destination unique is it is one of only three mountains in the country that are ski-only — meaning no snowboarders permitted — allowing for a softer and more high-quality snow.

While many people believe beginners can’t ski at Alta, the truth is its slopes are 20% beginner, 45% intermediate and 35% expert. That being said, it tends to attract a more advanced crowd, not just because there are more skiing options, but because there really isn’t much else to do besides ski and enjoy the gourmet meals and relaxation offerings at the five base lodges.

Stay at Alta’s Rustler Lodge for rustic luxury and accessible skiing. Their ski-in/ski-out accommodation allows you to enjoy the mountain without transportation, as you can take a chair lift or ski right to the mountain from the lodge. The property itself was built in the 1960s and offers a cozy old-world ambiance with modern amenities. A grand piano sits in the common room as does a roaring fire with plush chairs and a counter of gourmet teas, seasonal fruit and fresh baked goods. Travelers can grab a drink in the Eagle’s Nest Lounge and enjoy the mountain views out the expansive windows, rejuvenate tired muscles with a massage at the onsite spa or relax with a dip in their outdoor heated pool or Eucalyptus steam room and Jacuzzi. The lodge includes breakfast and fine-dining dinner in the price, as well as serves lunch, so visitors tend to stay put in their lodge of choice and only leave to explore the powder at Alta and Snowbird.

canyons resort

Canyons Resort via Canyons Resort/Dan Campbell-Lloyd

The Decadent Canyons Resort In Park City: A Little Bit Of Everything

Canyons Resort in Park City — the largest ski resort in the state at 4,000 ski-able acres and 3,000 feet of vertical — is a decadent yet cozy destination for those who want to experience some of the country’s best skiing while also enjoying fine dining, nightlife, shopping and spa treatments.

Located about 35 miles east of Salt Lake City and nestled within the Wasatch Mountains, the ski resort offers ski trails for all levels. In fact, compared to Alta you tend to see more open treeless trails, with routes being 10% beginner, 45% intermediate and 45% advanced. No matter what ski lift you take, you’ll always have each level option available to you to get down. Skiers can choose to take lessons with their ski and snowboard school, or even opt for a private lesson with Olympic athletes like Kaylin Richardson and Graham Watanabe through the “Ultimate Mountain Experience.” Moreover, it’s located only five minutes from the Utah Olympic Park, the site of 14 events during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Canyons Resort isn’t your typical rustic ski lodge, however, as many consider it to be a city within itself. Showcasing restaurants, bars, retail shops, spas, a variety of accommodation, outdoor activities and even a “Ski Beach,” the only thing missing is a grocery store. Sample New American Kosher cuisine at Bistro at Canyons, the country’s only all-kosher restaurant at a ski resort, or taste dishes made with ingredients sourced within 200 miles of Park City at The Farm. Additionally, Red Tail Grill offers delicious Southwest cuisine as well as 14 choices of fresh-fruit margaritas, Drafts showcases over 50 international beers and gourmet pub food and Lookout Cabin allows guests to enjoy hearty Rocky Mountain cuisine and handcrafted cocktails with a view. Food trucks allow for skiers to eat on the go while the mobile Chocolate Bar offers a variety of flavored hot chocolates.

For a truly decadent stay, book a room at the Waldorf Astoria Park City, located within the Canyons Resort Village. Along with luxurious rooms offering mountain views, the property showcases an array of restaurants, bars and a world-class spa. Make sure to sip a Champagne at the outdoor Powder Champagne Ice Lodge, which features a 14-foot-bar made entirely of ice as well as ice sculptures and furniture. Moreover, Crave Cafe serves up coffees, homemade pastries and desserts and takeaway meals, while Powder is the perfect venue to enjoy breakfast, lunch or an apres ski dinner and drinks in a casual setting. For some fine dining, Slopes is the property’s upscale dinner restaurant serving hearty cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients. And of course, their Golden Door Spa entices people from all over Park City with everything from spa treatments and massages to a full-service hair and nail salon and an on-site naturopathic physician. I recommend relaxing your weary muscles with a “4-Handed Massage,” rejuvenating skin with a “Coffee Orchid Hydrating Wrap” and helping sun and wind damaged skin with a “Soothing Wind and Sun Mini Rescue Facial.”

Image via Park City Mountain Resort

Park City Mountain Resort via Andy Miller

Park City Mountain Resort: A Ski Park For The Adventurous & Family Travelers

While also in Park City, the Park City Mountain Resort takes on an entirely different vibe from the luxurious Canyons Resort. Home to three 2002 Winter Olympics events, including the snowboarding events and men’s and women’s alpine giant slalom events, the resort has much to offer the talented skier.

Park City Mountain Resort is the true definition of a mountain ski resort, with no development up on the mountains that doesn’t relate to ski culture. It’s also a haven for those who want to take their skiing and snowboarding to the next level. The resort features trails that are 17% beginner, 52% intermediate and 31% expert, as well as four terrain parks — Little Kings, Neffland, Three Kings and King’s Crown. Just imagine a skateboard park on snow, with jumps to catch air off and features to hit. Their newest terrain park, Neff Land, debuted in 2012-2013 and features challenging obstacles in a Candy Land theme. This “sweet” run features candy cane rails, snow cone jibs, giant cupcakes, ride-on boxes and 10-foot tables, all covered in “powdered sugar.” Additionally, daring skiers can ski at night, as the slopes are open until 9pm.

Families also love Park City Mountain Resort, as it’s full of activities for kids. Their “I Ride Park City” freestyle camp for intermediate and expert skiers and snowboarders aged 9-15 allows campers to shoot and edit video of their experiences in the terrain park, while children aged 3 1/2 to 14 can take part in signature instructional programs. There are also rides like the Alpine Coaster and Flying Eagle Zip Line, ski and snowboarding school and Adventure Alley, which allows kids to hunt for treasure and learn about the environment while skiing.

Another drawing point of the Park City Mountain Resort is it’s accessibility. Not only is it located only 30 minutes from an international airport, but there is a chair lift that loads on Park City’s bustling Main Street that takes skiers to the park. In fact, this is where you’ll find High West Distillery & Saloon, the world’s only ski in/ski out whiskey distillery.

Moreover, there is no other ski resort in Utah with a history as rich as Park City Mountain Resort’s. Opened in 1963 as a resort called “Treasure Mountain” — named for all the silver and gold that had been procured there — the area had previously been a prosperous mining town. As Park City moved into the 20th century and the silver boom waned, the town was looking for a new way to generate revenue and turned to a ski mountain. Today, you can still see old structures littered around the resort. In fact, one of their on-mountain restaurants, Mid-Mountain Lodge, was a boarding house/mess hall for miners way back in the day before being turned into one of our lunch spots.

Stay at Club Lespri, located five minutes from the ski resort and accessible via Park City’s free bus service. The property features six spacious luxury rooms with a fireplace, full kitchen, oversized tub with rain shower and comfortable beds with plush linens. Additionally, the property is well-known for their fine dining restaurant, which serves fresh sushi, USDA prime steak, protein-rich entrees, colorful salads and an international selection of wines. To relax, head to their Rain Spa, which focuses on being “a healing journey for your body, mind and soul.” We recommend the “Skiers Recovery Massage,” specially designed to relieve sore muscles used while tearing up the trails, and the “Purifying Pumpkin Peel,” which makes use of the fruit’s natural enzymes to hydrate skin and stimulate cells.

deer valley

Deer Valley Resort via Deer Valley

Deer Valley: 5-Star Service & Luxury Amenities

For those looking for ultimate luxury ski trip in Utah, Deer Valley delivers VIP service and amenities and attracts a more affluent crowd with a more intermediate ski style. With complimentary ski valets to carry your ski gear, free parking lot shuttles and attendants handing out tissues on the ski lifts, skiers feel like royalty. Not only that, but uniformed staff make it a habit to call their skiers “guests” instead of “customers.” Basically, expect to be well catered to the moment you arrive.

With such a high reputation for customer service, it’s not surprising Deer Valley has more ski lifts than any other ski resort in Utah. Additionally, for the 2012-2013 season Deer Valley invested $8 million into improving their resort. This includes the addition of the Mountaineer Express chairlift, a a high-speed detachable quad lift on Little Baldy Mountain that allows for 1,200 skiers to ride per hour. Moreover, because Deer Valley is one of only thee ski resorts in the country that don’t allow snowboarders — the other two being Alta in Utah and Mad River Glen in Vermont — the snow is of the highest quality.

For a truly world-class accommodation that also offers ski in/ski out access, stay at the Montage Deer Valley. Located less than five minutes from Main Street, the property showcases 154 deluxe guestrooms and over 66 suites and residences, all with impressive mountain or valley views. Imagine wrapping yourself in a plush robe after a candlelit bath with luxe spa products, or sitting out on your secluded balcony sipping a glass of red wine.

When you’re hungry you won’t even have to leave the property, as there are five dining and drink options to choose from. While Apex offers regional cuisine and handcrafted cocktails in a venue with spectacular views, Daly’s Pub & Rec is a gourmet gastro-pub with an open-kitchen and arcade games. There is also the Asian-inspired Vista Lounge and Terrace, intimate Yama Sushi and Buzz, the artisanal sandwich and espresso bar.

Additionally, Spa Montage can help you relax sore muscles and dry skin with treatments and therapies tailored to individual needs. Additionally, their spa menu features some must-try offerings. Pamper yourself with the “Apres Ease,” a massage featuring curative mud and the removal of cellular toxins, or the “Therma Stone Facial and Kur Wrap,” a two-hour full-body and face treatment that begins with a herbal hydrotherapy soak and ends with a therma stone facial for a vibrant glow.

Sundance Utah

Sundance

Sundance: Romantic, Rustic Skiing In Solitude

Founded by Robert Redford in 1969, Sundance Resort is located in Provo Canyon, nestled in the scenic Rocky Mountains. It is Utah’s smallest ski resort with only 450 acres. That being said, it attracts visitors who want to get away from the giant crowds and enjoy a more peaceful and rustic experience. In fact, while Redford’s investors tried to get him to build the resort up with accommodations and condos, he instead focused on environmental conversation and artistic expression at the attraction. Along with world-class skiing, visitors can enjoy browsing galleries and exhibits, taking part in workshops and knowing they’re skiing in a place that takes green and sustainable operations seriously. The destination has diverse cultural programs including an Author Series, concerts such as the Bluebird Cafe concert series, an outdoor theater featuring plays during the summer months and an Art Studio where guests can take classes in painting, pottery, photography and jewelry making.

In fact, right on their website it states:

“The People here come from all walks of life, but one belief is shared: our community should represent who we are and what we believe. Sundance is an arts community, a recreational community, a community of people who appreciate the beauty of nature and feel the responsibility to preserve it…Somewhere in our community awaits an experience which belongs to you and we are committed to helping you find it.”

The resort features 42 runs, most of which are geared toward expert skiers, although there are options for beginners, as well. Starting at an elevation of 8,250 feet, visitors can experience a vertical drop of 2,150 feet and about 320 inches of snow annually. Showcasing an array of diverse terrains of bumps, bowls and chutes, experienced skiers looking for a challenging bowl in a beautiful place should attempt Bishop’s Bowl. The classic bowl is set among the Wasatch mountains and features medium-sized bowls that build up as you ski along the trail. For an extra adrenaline boost, Sundance Resort also offers night skiing.

In terms of accommodation, Sundance Resort features a namesake hotel. The tranquil lodge offers a variety of room classes ranging from a small but cozy standard to a full-on mountain home with hot tub, multiple decks and floor-to-ceiling windows for mountain views. The ambiance of the lodge is in harmony with nature, with lots of wooden accents and chances to sip hot drinks while sitting by the fireplace or taking in the scenery. While there are restaurants located on the mountain, the lodge also hosts its own dining venues, including the fine-dining Tree Room, casual Foundry Grill, the inviting Owl Bar with live music and a deli. And of course, no ski lodge is complete without a spa to sooth sore muscles. With a focus on balancing the body and soul with nature, their menu is full of holistic offerings. Opt for a “Four Winds Massage,” a personalized treatment combining massage with meditation, or an “Herbal Poultice Massage,” which incorporates steamed muslin bags filled with lavendar, chamomile and calendula for lymphatic drainage.

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