The Salt Lake City ski resorts are legendary! The appeal of the city is obvious for skiers, snowboarders, and anyone that loves the mountains. You only have to look up to realize why, as the snow-capped peaks of the Wasatch Mountains dominate every view around the city.
The ski resorts of Utah had been sitting in the back of our minds for many seasons. In the midst of a global pandemic, international travel was out of the question. So, we decided it was time to check off some North American ski resorts.
We booked a month in Salt Lake City, packed our truck, and set out from our home in Alberta. On the way, we made plenty of stops and crossed off a dozen other ski resorts. However, we always had our eyes set on Utah as we’d heard of the mythical powder stashes and expert terrain.
Due to its proximity to the mountains, almost all of the surrounding ski resorts are less than an hour’s drive. Those ski resorts are covered in over 500 inches of snow every year on average. Face shots and powder days are almost guaranteed! And the terrain at these ski resorts is enough to leave a smile on anyone’s face.
Resorts are not small in Utah! Powder Mountain has 8,646 acres of skiable terrain, making it the largest ski resort in the United States. Park City Mountain Resort is the second largest ski resort with 7,300 acres of skiable terrain. Then when you add in Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, and Brighton, you get a whopping 6,000 acres of terrain.
Even with a month in the city dedicated to snowboarding, we could not cross off every section of every resort, and we did try our best! In our post about skiing in Salt Lake City, we share our experience at the best Salt Lake City ski resorts. Bust out the snorkel face shots and powder days abound!
Best Ski Resorts in Salt Lake City
You can take your pick between four ski resorts in Salt Lake City. The four astounding ski resorts are Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, and Solitude. They can be divided by the two canyons that they are located. Snowbird and Alta are located in the Little Cottonwood Canyon, while Brighton and Solitude are located in the Big Cottonwood Canyon.
All of the mountains are on the Ikon Pass. It’s well worth picking up an Ikon pass if you plan to make a ski trip to Salt Lake City for anything more than a week. While the Epic Pass supplies access to Powder Mountain and Park City.
We don’t like to rank just about anything as it all depends on what you’re seeking, but Snowbird is one of our top five ski resorts in the world. For experts and advanced riders, you can not beat the combination of the snow quality and quantity with the incredible terrain. Outside of the weekend crowds, pains of being near a city, there isn’t much to complain about at Snowbird.
Due to the resort’s steep, challenging, and unique terrain, it’s one of those ski resorts that should be checked off the list by any die-hard skiers or snowboarders. Confession time, we’re ski bums! After your first day on the mountain, it’s easy to understand why locals here can rip.
Snowbird can best be characterized by its massive bowls, burly chutes, and steep runs. That means beginners will need to look elsewhere as there is really one lift that services several beginner’s runs detached from the rest of the ski resort.
There are a couple of classic experiences every visitor needs to hit. The Mineral Basin Tunnel is a magic carpet that cuts through the mountain and drops skiers off into the large alpine bowl. Once through the tunnel, a run down the alpine bowl called the Mineral Basin is quintessential and should not be missed.
The resort facilities are, for the most part, very modern and up to date. You can come expecting high-speed chairlifts and an impressive summit restaurant building. There is also some very upscale on-mountain accommodation — room rates are pretty high!
What sums up Snowbird best is its viral “one-star” marketing campaign. In a tongue-in-cheek approach, they shared their “worst” reviews across a variety of media. Billboards and magazines we’re emblazoned with reviews across the nation. You can see what Greg thought of Snowbird below.
“Too Advanced! I’ve heard Snowbird is a tough mountain, but this is ridiculous. It felt like every trail was a steep chute or littered with tree wells. How is anyone supposed to ride in that? Not Fun!Greg, Los Angeles, CA
- Snowfall: Generally, Snowbird receives the most snow in the Salt Lake City area and has the longest season.
- Distance from SLC: 27 miles or about 30 – 45 minutes
- Suited For: Advanced/Experts
- Favorite Runs: We loved Mineral Basin! Truthfully when it comes to Snowbird, it pays to traverse or hike. Our favorite runs here were White Diamonds, Alimony Chutes, The Endoras, Gheen Gully, Great Scott, Fields of Glory, and Mach Snell. All blacks and double blacks, it’s steep here!
- Pros: Amazing terrains, fast lifts, and fantastic snow. Snowbird and Alta are adjacent and interconnected, but only skiers can take advantage of that.
- Cons: The majority of the resort is not beginner-friendly. Snowbird lacks a serious terrain park, but the natural terrains leave plenty to free ride. What up, cliff drops!
- Insider Tip: A solid all-mountain snowboard or ski helps here as some of the best runs require a traverse. Powder lasts for a day or two, but attempting to traverse on our powder boards was arduous.
Solitude Mountain Resort
Don’t sleep on Solitude as the ski resort can deliver the goods. Despite it being the smallest of the ski resorts in Salt Lake City, it utilizes the terrain well and has a decent amount to explore for a wide range of ability levels.
The resort has some excellent bowls, solid groomers, burly chutes, and some wonderful tree skiing. Solitude is well known for delivering its name, solitude. Of all the ski resorts in the area, it is often the quietest.
This is largely due to the awkward parking situation. The only official parking at Solitude is a modest lot that requires payment, $20. Outside of that, guests can park along the road for free and walk to the base. Be careful if you choose to park on the road as all vehicles must be fully off the road (past white lines), and the snowbanks can be large.
Like all the other resorts in Salt Lake City, it receives a hefty bounty of the blower powder. The terrain here is a bit more varied and provides good progression from green runs to double black chutes. However, as with most resorts in Utah, experts and advanced skiers will find the most enjoyment.
The resort has a charming little village below and a great nordic center with several routes around the base. Snowshoes are also available for rent if you’re looking for something really low-key. Both sports are fantastically affordable, with rentals starting around $20. Solitude has a couple of lodges at the base but nothing of magnitude. They also have a nice spa for those looking to recharge a bit.
- Snowfall: The average snowfall is over 500 inches annually!
- Distance from SLC: 29 miles or 35-40 minute drive
- Suited For: Intermediates/Advanced/Experts
- Favorite Runs: You’ll need to earn your turns at Solitude by either hiking or traverse to your line. A hike up to the Evergreen Peak is a must-do as it provides access to excellent lines like Barrett’s Glade and Evergreen Chutes. Other runs to check out are Black Forest, Middle Cirque, Black Bess Chutes, Prince of Wales, Eagle Ridge, and Dynamite.
- Pros: Solitude has a good variety of terrain, quieter slopes, and it receives a ton of snowfall.
- Cons: The resort has an awkward lift layout, parking is a bit of a pain, and not much to the base area.
- Insider Tip: Arrive early and park on the side of the road if you want to save yourself some money and hassle.
As snowboarders, we’re abstaining from strapping two planks on our feet and skiing around the resort. I have pretty mixed feelings about a private business limiting access while operating on public lands. To say the least, it’s pretty backward. However, Alta is well known for delivering excellent ski conditions.
Alta is a mecca for many skiers as the advanced terrain and abundance of snowfall fall in the Little Cottonwood Canyon. The resort is adjacent to Snowbird, and the two resorts are interconnected, so you can easily ski between the two. Similar to Snowbird, the terrain here is excellent and skewed towards experts and advanced riders. It does have a great section for beginners and intermediates.
It is smaller than Snowbird and the resort lacks the large Alpine bowl that Snowbird possesses. However, the history of the resort and the locals that ski here is the stuff of legends. There’s a lot of charm at Alta and it easy to see why most skiers are enamored by the resort.
Even though we are “banned” from the resort, we still swung by to enjoy the Apres-ski scene. The base of Altas contains charming wood buildings that house several bars and restaurants. In comparison, the Snowbird base is largely concrete bunkers built to withstand an avalanche.
Alta Ski Area Stats
- Snowfall: Just like Snowbird, Alta receives a ton of snow!
- Distance from SLC: 32 miles or 45-60 minutes
- Suited For: Intermediate, Advanced, Expert
- Favorite Runs: I’ll let you know when I decide to ski!
- Pros: No snowboarders (eye roll), excellent terrain, variety, uncrowded on the weekdays, has a cool vibe, and it’s connected to Snowbird.
- Cons: No snowboarders, lifts could use some updating.
- Insider Tip: Local’s love to make fun of people who mispronounce “Alta.” It is pronounced like AL-ta, not AHL-ta. Got it?
Brighton Resort may not get all the glory that the other ski resorts around Salt Lake City receive, but it’s no slouch! It was the first ski resort to open in Utah and one of the first in the U.S. They were also the first ski resort to allow snowboarders!
It’s well-loved by families and attracts a fair number of snowboarders who come to pay homage and enjoy the decent park. We enjoyed our time at Brighton immensely and found it to be one of the most digestible resorts. Even though the resort lacks much for expert runs. We did enjoy some excellent powder turns in their trees.
The runs are well laid and spread out around the base area. Almost every chair has a green or blue run back down to the base, which explains the appeal for families. It helps that the resort has a laid-back atmosphere with a simple base area.
Out of all the resorts Brighton felt the most laid back and had us enjoying a post-ski beer in the parking lot.
- Snowfall: Brighton gets plenty of snow with around 500 inches annually!
- Distance from SLC: 31 miles or 40-minute drive
- Suited For: Beginners, Intermediates, Advanced
- Favorite Runs: Pacific Highway, Thunder Road, Golden Needle, Clark’s Roost, Sunshine, Main Street, and Thor.
- Pros: Family-friendly, good layout, relaxed atmosphere, and world-famous Utah snow!
- Cons: Lacks expert terrain, lacks much for accommodation, sparse dining options.
- Insider Tip: Intermediates and beginners should take advantage of the Crest Express and Snake Creek Express.
Salt Lake City Ski Resorts Comparison
When you compare the four ski resorts that are best accessed from Salt Lake City, you can group them by canyon. Alta/Snowbird is interlinked and located in the Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC). Brighton and Solitude are also interlinked and located in the Big Cottonwood Canyon (BCC).
Alta/Snowbird is better suited for experts, while Brighton/Solitude is better suited for intermediates. Of course, there is terrain at all of these resorts suited for any skier or rider level! All of the resorts are on the Ikon Pass, and the pass provides unlimited access to Solitude. Snowbird generally receives the most snow, but due to the proximity to each other if one receives snow so do the others.
- Brighton: Decent tree skiing. Best ski resort for families. Least on offer for experts. Laid-back atmosphere.
- Solitude: Well-rounded amount of terrain. Nice little resort base area. Clunky lift layout. Great tree skiing and chutes. Quiet slopes.
- Snowbird: Easily the best ski resort in Salt Lake City for experts and advanced skiers/riders.
- Alta: Well-rounded ski resort, but skiers only. The expert terrain is just a few notches below Snowbird.
Ski Resorts Outside Salt Lake City
These ski resorts are located “outside” of the city, but they’re still under an hour’s drive from the city center. I’d even say some are just as close as the four resorts above, but they’re better visited from the cities of Park City or Ogden.
Visitors to Salt Lake City could easily make a day trip to any of these ski resorts; locals certainly do! Of course, every resort on this list is excellent, and I’m certain any would enjoy them!
Park City is the second-largest ski resort in the United States and a real behemoth in the ski world. It’s almost as close to the city as the other four Salt Lake City Ski Resorts, but it has its own town for a base.
The town, Park City, is well known for being one of the best ski towns globally and has fabulous hotels and wonderful dining options. If you’re after a full-service ski vacation, you will surely be pleased with Park City. Park City is a high-end resort town so expect to pay a premium for the full resort experience.
Park City is on the Epic Pass, so pass holders may want to consider a visit here over the ski resorts in Salt Lake City. The ski resort lies on the Eastern side of the mountains and generally receives less snowfall than the resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon. The quality is still excellent!
If you want the highest chance of rubbing elbows with a celebrity on a public slope, it would be Deer Valley. The high-end resort is adjacent to Park City and receives a bounty of snowfall like the other Utah resorts. It is for skiers only and well-known for its high level of service and groomed slopes. The resort has a high price tag, and it caters well to guests who are willing to pay more for exclusivity.
The terrain is more gradual than most of the resorts in the area, and it is well suited to intermediates looking for lessons. The resort has managed to carve out a niche in the ski community through its high level of service, attracting visitors from across the country. For skiers, it’s one of those resorts they should ski once in their life.
Located outside of Ogden is Powder Mountain, the largest ski area in the United States. It is famed for its powder stashes. The mountain can provide secret powder stashes days after the last snowfall. This is largely due to how the snow is accessed. While “Pow Mow” is the largest, much of the terrain requires traversing far off-piste, hopping in a snowcat, or even skinning yourself.
Most will not be able to access the vast sections of the terrain, but it’s a playground with some assurance of avalanche control for experts. Powder Mountain attracts far fewer visitors, and it stays nice and quiet on weekdays. Liftlines make us sick to our stomach!
There isn’t much to the base of this Ogden Ski Resort, but the day lodges are luxurious and ready to receive visitors. Snowbasin may be an old resort, but all of its facilities are now modern. It has a great variety of snow and a decent amount of terrain.
It’s a few steps above Brighton but has a bit less to offer beginners. It would be best suited for advanced riders who are after some powder and enjoy a quieter resort. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t rule out any of these resorts as skiing in Utah, and Salt Lake City is exceptional!
Salt Lake City FAQs
How Do I get to Salt Lake City Ski Resorts?
It’s super easy to visit the ski resorts in Salt Lake City and Utah for that matter! Salt City International Airport is well serviced with direct flights all over the country. From the airport, you are less than an hour’s drive from 10 different ski resorts. Four are best to visit from Salt Lake City and the others are better to visit from Ogden or Park City.
You can drive to all of the ski resorts from the city center, but the roads up into the mountains are notorious for traffic and winter conditions. We had our truck with winter tires and would recommend anyone visiting mid-winter to at least rent a vehicle with AWD/4×4. The added size of a truck/SUV helps with transporting your gear too!
Utah has pretty mild weather and outside of February, the roads are generally fine. Of course, snowstorms can happen from November to April! If you’re uncertain of driving conditions you can book a shuttle with Canyon transportation.
The other option which can also save on the hassle of parking, which can be very problematic on weekends, is to take the bus. To save money you can rent a basic car to get around the city and then hop on the buses at the base of the canyons. Ikon Pass holders receive free rides on the bus too! You can learn more about the ski bus service here!
You’ll always save the most money on lift tickets by purchasing in advance, but this leaves very little room for flexibility. All of the resort lift tickets range in price from around $100 to $160 a day. The price variation depends on the dates, day of the week, and resort. Mid-week at Brighton would be the cheapest, while a holiday weekend at Snowbird the most.
The best way to save money on lift tickets is to purchase the Ski City Super Pass or the IKON Pass. The Super Pass is best for those looking to ski a few days, but it quickly loses its value compared to the Ikon Pass once you ski for more than a few days. The Super Pass costs $118 a day to ski at any of the resorts.
The IKON Base Pass provides access to over 40 resorts, and you’ll get 5 days at each of the resorts, plus Deer Valley. Snowbird/Alta are combined, and the pass provides unlimited access to Solitude. The season pass cost is around $800, but if you plan to ski more than a week throughout the whole season, it’s a no-brainer.
We bought the full IKON pass and used it for 60 days this past season which means we spent on average $16 a day to ski at resorts like Jackson Hole, Snowbird, Mt. Bachelor, and Revelstoke.
Season At Salt Lake City Ski Resorts
The season in Salt Lake City lasts around five months, from December to April. It can sometimes open a little early in November or close late like May, but it’s not reliable like skiing in Banff. Of course, it all depends on the season!
If you’re seeking the legendary Utah Powder, I’d suggest visiting in January, February, or March. Snowfall is about the same all three months and you’ll want a bit of base to ski the better terrain so I’d hold off on skiing in December.
What To Pack For Your Trip
It can be a bit stressful to figure out what you’ll want to pack for your ski trip. We have some excellent suggestions in our post on a ski trip packing list.