From the Salt Lake Airport to the slopes in an hour or less: 10 Utah ski resorts
Unlike Colorado and California, most of Utah's world-class skiing is less than an hour’s drive from its metropolitan airport. In fact, there are 10 such resorts in the vicinity, spread across the famous Cottonwood canyons, Park City, and nearby Ogden and Provo.
Better yet, Utah is billed for having “the greatest snow on Earth,” thanks to its light, dry, and fluffy flakes, plus several resorts that record over 500 inches of annual snowfall—the most in North America. As a bonus, the state is home to the largest resort in the nation and filled with really nice and welcoming people, making Utah a remarkable and easy place to ski or snowboard.
Which resort is right for you? Before booking your next winter visit, consider the following.
Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts
Located just 40 minutes from the airport, Brighton is one of the first and oldest ski resorts in the state, and it has remained one of the best for nearly 80 years. In short, Brighton is both awesome and affordable, with beautiful spacious runs between beautifully tall trees, and $85 lift tickets with kids 10 and under skiing for free. The food and lodging are lacking, but with 500 inches of annual snowfall across fantastic terrain for all levels, you’d be a prick to turn your nose up at this place.
Next door you’ll find the similarly-sized and snow heavy Solitude. As its name suggests, it’s one of the least-visited resorts in Utah, except on days in which other resorts roads are closed, in which case local expert riders come to solitude for its equally technical terrain. Solitude isn’t an ideal place for beginners, but lots of fun for everyone else with lift tickets averaging $115 per day.
Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts
If you want two of the nation’s top 10 resorts with the continent’s deepest snowfall which happen to be within 45 minutes of the airport, come to Little Cottonwood canyon. Stay away, however, if you’re a beginner or intermediate skier—Little Cottonwood is too steep for most beginners and intermediates to fully enjoy.
For big amounts of challenging runs, a terrific tram (the only in Utah), and excellent on-site lodging, head to world-renowned Snowbird. With several more feet of snow than the already impressive levels in Big Cottonwood, expert skiers and riders love Snowbird for a reason.
For even more snow and slightly better accessibility for intermediate skiers, head a little further up the road for the similarly famous Alta, the first resort in all of Utah. Sadly (or thankfully depending on which team you play for), snowboarders are not allowed on Alta lifts, although they can ride down the mountain via the connecting top access from Snowbird.
Lift tickets for Snowbird run $125 per day; Alta’s run $110 per day. Either way, both are brimming with powder.
Related content: Gearhead's guide to skiing in the US
Park City and more
For the largest, most popular, most crowded and second-most expensive resort in Utah, drive 45 minutes to Park City Mountain Resort. Since merging with the already gargantuan Canyons Resort, the new Park City is absolutely massive with 341 total runs and 35 lifts. Although the skiing is admittedly good (and the terrain park is killer), the night life and amenities are probably even better, which is a big draw for visitors. Lift tickets cost upwards of $150 per day, but you can stay on the Canyons side to avoid some of the crowds.
If you don’t mind driving an hour from Salt Lake airport, there are two more notable resorts at your disposal. Although small, the Robert Redford-owned and film festival namesake Sundance Mountain Resort in Provo Canyon is probably one of the most scenic resorts in the state and great for families and expert riders alike. In Ogden, just north of Salt Lake, you can find the equally beautiful but much larger Snowbasin Resort with its Olympic downhill runs and three terrain parks. Both average a respectable 300 inches of snow per year. Sundance lift tickets runs $90 per day; Snowbasin $135 apiece.
Think twice before booking
Of the three remaining resorts within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake airport, all come with a few caveats. For instance, if value, exciting terrain and snowboarding are important to you, the posh Deer Valley Resort probably isn’t a good fit. (Conversely, if you’re a wealthy skier-only who wants the nicest amenities, valet service, corduroy-perfect groomers, and fine dining, this is an excellent place for $170 per day!)
The tiny Nordic Valley Ski Resort near Ogden is best for locals learning to ski rather than visiting tourists hoping for a memorable vacation. And although it pains me to say it, Powder Mountain is really 75 minutes from the airport, despite being sold as “an hour away” by Ski Utah. (Nevertheless, the extra 15 minutes, 500 inches of snow, and $88 lift tickets are easily worth it.)
That said, picking the ideal Salt Lake area ski resort is like splitting hairs. All of the above 10 resorts rate 4.5 (or higher) out of 5 stars, according to online reviews. On the whole, they’re snow filled, easy to access, mostly affordable, and usually family-friendly.