7 Reasons To Choose Utah for Your First Big Western Ski Trip

A vacation to Utah is an easy way to sample a wide variety of amazing skiing.
A vacation to Utah is an easy way to sample a wide variety of amazing skiing. Andrew Kooyman
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It’s a well-known fact that Utah has attracted a population of serious skiers—and yes, the terrain and snow quality in the Wasatch Mountains are tough to beat, so some of the world’s best and brightest ski talent reside here. But the area is also uniquely good at hosting out-of-state vacationers, too. You needn’t be a world-class shredder to feel at home at Utah’s ski resorts. In fact, the area is quite accommodating for beginners, intermediates, and families.

Perhaps the biggest selling-point is that there are enough unique resorts and lodging options to really create an ideal vacation for any type of group, whatever your age, interests, and ability level. The resorts around Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden, and Southern Utah don’t require a one-size-fits-all program. You can stay in a ski village or in the city, choose a little condo or a spacious house, and ski at one resort or several.

Here are the top seven reasons why Utah is the perfect spot for a ski getaway.

1. Get There Fast and Fuss-Free

Salt Lake City is less than an hour away from most of the major ski resorts.
    Chris Pearson
Salt Lake City is less than an hour away from most of the major ski resorts. Chris Pearson

Most of Utah’s resorts are within one hour of Salt Lake International Airport, so the trip from baggage claim to chairlift is pretty darn quick. If you plan to stay at one resort than simplify your vacation by grabbing a shuttle from the airport or if you want the mobility to explore multiple resorts then a rental car is your ticket.. There’s also the option of linking up resorts via the public Ski Bus system, too.

2. A Range of Resorts

Do a little homework and see which resort or resorts will suit you best. (This guide can help you create side-by-side comparisons of each resort.) If you’re looking for beginner-friendly and family-friendly, Deer Valley could hit the spot, or Brian Head Resort in Southern Utah. If you’re on a ski club reunion vacation with an advanced posse, consider the steeper and more aggressive terrain of Snowbird. There’s something to suit everyone, ranging from mellow to challenging.

3. Utah’s Famous Snow

Powder in Utah is one of its major draws.
    Adam Clark
Powder in Utah is one of its major draws. Adam Clark

Utah really lives up to its slogan as having The Greatest Snow on Earth. The Cottonwood Canyons are one of the snowiest places on the planet, with Alta receiving an average of 551 inches of snow each year. That’s more than a foot of snow every five days during the season—and the other resorts aren’t far behind. In addition to the volume of snow, the quality is just what you want for skiing. Climate conditions in the area help create a snow density of 8.5 percent, which is the technical way of saying that the snow has the perfect body for floating your skis through the powder. The light, fluffy snow feels softer, which is why those who love powder skiing flock to Utah.

While the mountains are getting more than 40 feet of snow a year, Salt Lake City—only 8 miles away—gets about five. So while you can enjoy the fresh powder at the resorts by day, Salt Lake City’s amenities are easily accessible at night, and getting in and out of town is easy. Plus the area features 300 days of sunshine each year, so you’ll often find bluebird skies to pair with that fresh powder.

4. Ski School

Utah’s resort ski schools are plentiful, which means you can shop around and sign up for lessons at a resort that should suit your ability and goals. (You can find out information about more than 40 of the area’s schools and clinics here.) Some ski schools are well known for their kids’ programs—Brighton, we’re looking at you—while others offer excellent clinics to help intermediate adults progress to advanced levels. You can even plan your vacation around a ski school seminar that would help you build confidence and skill. Sign your teen up for a multi-day teen camp at Alta, or try one of Snowbird’s women-specific ski camps.

5. Enjoy the Nightlife

You can get warm and spirited at Eagle Point.
    Henry O. Welles
You can get warm and spirited at Eagle Point. Henry O. Welles

Each Wasatch resort has its own take on nightlife. Park City is well known for its lively Main Street bar and restaurant scene, while the four resorts in the Cottonwood Canyon keep it a little more traditional with fireside pitchers of beer and nachos. Ogden’s historic 25th Street, which traces its origins back to the boom town that built up around the continental railroad, is now filled with museums, art galleries, shopping, dining, and entertainment venues—even a comedy club. And wherever you stay, you can always cruise down to Salt Lake City for countless additional options for eating, drinking, and entertainment. Catch a concert, sample downtown’s best restaurants, take a gallery stroll, or jump on a bar crawl. With all the resorts and towns so close to each other, it’s not hard to hop around.

6. Mix and Match

Another blessing of the Wasatch range resorts’ proximity: You don’t have to tie yourself down to skiing in just one place. Visitors can find a hotel or rental house in a central location and drive or catch a shuttle up to whichever ski area they choose on a given day. This frees you up to avoid the resorts that get more crowded on weekends and holidays, and you can sample more options to determine your favorites. It’s a great approach for first-timers who want to explore the area’s offerings before committing to stay at a single resort for their trip.

7. Trust the Local Experts

Utah has lots of options for everyone from first-timers to advanced skiers.
Utah has lots of options for everyone from first-timers to advanced skiers. Jon Boyden

As we said earlier, plenty of experts populate these mountains. You can get nearly any question answered at a local ski school or ski shop. If you’re on a quest for an excellent piece of equipment or clothing, you’re in a gear mecca. A bevvy of trustworthy local ski shops are filled with staff who can custom-fit your boots, address a layering problem, or help you find goggles that won’t fog. It’s what they do, day in and day out.

Originally written for Ski Utah.

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