An Expert Guide to Ski & Snowboard Resorts in Utah

Curated Expert and University of Utah grad Zach C. spends a month every winter skiing in Utah and runs through the top resorts in the state.

A chairlift at a ski resort that reads "First Time". The ski resort is very snowy.

A lift at Park City Mountain Resort. Photo by Scarlet Sappho

Utah, the Beehive State, is renowned throughout the world for its incredible and life changing alpine skiing and snowboarding. Many come from all over North America and the world to the Wasatch Mountains in hopes of catching one of those Utah bluebird days, where it dumped a few feet of lighter than air powder. With its incredible topography, unbelievable ski conditions, and “The Greatest Snow on Earth” (which many refer to as Utah Blower), it is no wonder why Utah's skiing has led to a ton of resorts throughout the state. In fact, there are so many resorts it can often be hard to pick which one you want to ski at as they are all so tempting.

After going to school in Salt Lake City (GO UTES!), I have had the chance to ski all over the state, and still spend at least a month of the year out there every winter as it truly is world class snow conditions. My goal is to give you a layout of the different areas of Utah, and the resorts that lay within them, so you can plan out the perfect resort in Utah for you as a skier, and let you experience one of those epic days yourself!

Little Cottonwood Canyon

The snowbird tram above a snowy ski run.

Photo by Cameron Smith

Approximately 30 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport sits the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Here you will find the resorts of Snowbird and Alta at the very top of it. Both of these resorts are known for deep snow and incredible terrain, as Little Cottonwood receives more inches of snow annually than any other canyon in Utah. Both of these resorts are on the Ikon pass and allow for passholders to both to move freely between the two as they are connected through the pass over Mt. Baldy.

Little Cottonwood canyon is one of my personally some of the best Utah skiing as each of the resorts has a different feel to the mountain. Snowbird very much feels like a place where professional athletes are training for big mountain skiing, where Alta has the old mom and pop feel of locals that have been skiing there for generations.

Either way if you are going up Little Cottonwood on a powder day, make sure you leave before the break of dawn, as there is only one two lane road that goes up it and you will be fighting almost all the Utah drivers to get those legendary lines. You also have the option to stay up at the top of the canyon which gives you easy access to the mountain, and a chance of free refills and deep snow if they close the canyon for avalanche safety.

Snowbird

  • Location: Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
  • Season: November through June (Conditions Permitting)
  • Number of Runs: 169
  • Number of Lifts: 13
  • Summit Elevation: 11,000ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 500in

Snowbird is the first resort you find going up Little Cottonwood and it is an absolute beast of a mountain with Utah's biggest vertical drop. With the tram going right up the middle of the mountain, over the legendary Cirque and smack to the top, you can get up and into legendary terrain in about 10 to15 minutes provided there isn’t a crazy line. The backside of the mountain, Mineral Basin, is also one of the best places to ski powder in Utah, as it is essentially one big bowl. Personally, I would say that Snowbird is a place you want to go hardcore skiing for yourself, but probably isn’t the best for a family trip as there is very hazardous terrain found all over the mountain. But if you like to go big and get sendy, Snowbird is a great place to do so.

Alta Ski Area

  • Location: Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
  • Season: November through May
  • Number of Runs: 116+
  • Number of Lifts: 6
  • Summit Elevation: 11,068ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 545in

If you go past Snowbird for about 10 minutes, you will find yourself at the base of one of Utah’s most iconic ski resorts, Alta Ski Area. Alta is built on top of an old mine, has a small town located at its base, and is a must if you are trying to find vertical feet and the deepest snow in Utah. Due to its location at the top of the canyon, storms get trapped inside the massive glacial bowl that is formed between Devil’s Castle and Sugarloaf Peak, and this gives it the greatest snowfall in Utah. The terrain at Alta is also world class, with steep open lines, big drops, and the occasional glade thrown in there as well. Alta Ski Area, like Snowbird, is a mountain that expert skiers flock to for these reasons, and while they may have a ski school, it may not be your first choice for the family vacation.

Big Cottonwood Canyon

A skier wearing a helmet and goggles looking down at a snowy mountain.

Brighton Ski Resort. Photo by Tyson Dudley

If we head in the same direction off of I-215 as Little Cottonwood but make a left instead of going straight at the light, we then begin a short drive to head up Utah's Big Cottonwood Canyon. Big Cottonwood is home to some of Utah’s best powder and tree skiing within the two resorts that call it home, Solitude and Brighton. While these may not see as much of that Utah blower as Little Cottonwood, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be overlooked by any powder hounds, as they get the third and fourth greatest snow in Utah. These resorts all have their own terrain and feel, and due to the fact that it's Utah, offer world class skiing as well!

Solitude Mountain Resort

  • Location: Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
  • Season: November through Late April
  • Number of Runs: 80
  • Number of Lifts: 8
  • Summit Elevation: 10,488ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 500in

The first resort one comes across when heading up the canyon is Solitude Ski Resort. This resort is one of my personal favorites as it offers incredible terrain, great snow, and is somewhat of a hidden gem compared to the other names listed in this article. Solitude is on the Ikon pass, and is a great resort for getting fresh lines and some of the best tree skiing in Utah as well. The terrain of the mountain itself is very well rounded, offering some cliffs and steeper lines for the more advanced skier, as well as great groomers and open trails for the more intermediate athlete. At the end of the day, Solitude Mountain Resort's name is a good reflection of its skier density as well, as every time I have headed up there the lines have never been long and the fresh stuff lasts almost all day due to the fact that not many people head there first.

Brighton Mountain Resort

  • Location: Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
  • Season: November through Late April
  • Number of Runs: 66
  • Number of Lifts: 6
  • Summit Elevation: 10,750ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 500in

At the very top of Big Cottonwood Canyon lies Brighton Mountain Resort. This mountain is the oldest resort in Utah, and a fantastic place for skiing powder and trees. It also boasts a killer terrain park off of the Majestic lift for anyone who wants to get upside down. Brighton Resort receives the third most snow annually in Utah, and has terrain that is perfect for getting face shots of the light Utah blower. Brighton is also known as being the one of the best mountains in Utah for tree skiing, with glades that seem to run endlessly from top to bottom with light snow underfoot. If you feel like getting into the back and side country, Brighton is a great mountain as well, with a ton of access points found throughout its ridgeline. One of my favorite aspects of Brighton is its atmosphere as a local favorite. It has an old-school skiing feel, with PBRs in the parking lot and lift lines not being an uncommon sight.

Park City Area

A skier doing a jump and grabbing his skis. There is a crowd in the background watching him.

Photo by Patrick T. Kindt

On the other side of the Wasatch, about a half hour from Salt Lake City International Airport on I-80, lies the resorts of the town of Park City, Utah. The former home of the 2002 Olympics, Park City is a ski town that blends the luxury of Aspen and Vail with the western feel of Jackson Hole and other more remote towns. It has a main street that is great for dining, shopping, and is a great scene for Après skiing at the end of the day. There is also plenty of ski-in lodging and cabin rentals with easy access to the mountain, which puts it above Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon for an extended family vacation.

Due to the fact that these resorts are found on the leeward side of the mountain, they don’t tend to receive as much powder as their windward counterparts, but offer great terrain for tree skiing and groomer laps. The two Park City resorts are Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort.

Deer Valley Resort

  • Location: Park City, Utah
  • Season: November through April
  • Number of Runs: 103
  • Number of Lifts: 24
  • Summit Elevation: 9,570ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 300in

Deer Valley Resort is one of the best ski resorts in Utah for nice and long groomers, as well as groves of trees that are fun and playful. Another mountain in the Ikon Collective, Deer Valley is the best recommendation if you are looking for a more luxurious Utah ski trip. With ski valets to help carry your skis and gear from the car to the mountain, and a lodge that boasts of the golden age of skiing, it is a great fit if you want to take some breaks and enjoy the scenery with a hot toddy. If you are looking for a resort to take the little ones out ripping, Deer Valley Resort is a great fit as well due to its open space and family-friendly atmosphere as well. The mountain has a variety of terrain for each skill type, and ensures that you and your family can spend the whole day skiing around the entire mountain.

Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR)

  • Location: Park City, Utah
  • Season: November through April
  • Number of Runs: 324
  • Number of Lifts: 41
  • Summit Elevation: 10,026 ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 355 inches

If you are looking for a resort that will take you at least three days to touch every run, then PCMR is the resort for you. A member of the Epic Pass and Vail Resorts, with the addition of the Canyons Resort in 2014, PCMR is currently the largest ski resort in North America's ski industry with over 7,300 skiable acres. The terrain of the mountain is that of great tree skiing and groomers, an absolutely incredible terrain park, and a number of steeper and deeper runs out towards the Jupiter side of the mountain. PCMR’s terrain park in particular is a highlight of the mountain, with athletes such as Tom Wallish calling it their home. PCMR is my recommendation for skiing in Park City, as it has more than enough terrain to satisfy any family member that joins you on your trip.

Outside of Salt Lake

A chairlift at Sundance Ski Resort.

Sundance Ski Resort

While the mountains above are the most commonly visited Utah ski resorts due to their proximity to Salt Lake City, there are a number of great resorts farther north and south. All of these resorts offer unparalleled skiing and conditions if you are looking to get farther out into the Great State of Utah. Here are some of my personal favorites if this is the route you want to choose!

Powder Mountain

  • Location: Eden, Utah
  • Season: December through April
  • Number of Runs: 154
  • Number of Lifts: 9
  • Summit Elevation: 8,900ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 350in

If you travel north from Salt Lake City International Airport to the town of Eden, Utah, you will find Powder Mountain. This is an absolute monster of a mountain that has over 7,000 acres of skiable terrain, with over 50% being advanced and expert based. With nice wide-open bowls of the Greatest Snow on Earth, as well as a variety of groomed runs and great tree skiing, Powder Mountain truly is one of Utah’s best resorts that many people have never heard of. They are also independently owned and operated, giving them the ability to create a relaxed and fun atmosphere on the mountain as well. I would definitely recommend Powder Mountain to anyone who wants to ski deep Utah snow without the commotion of some of the more popular resorts.

Snowbasin

  • Location: Hunstville, Utah
  • Season: November through April
  • Number of Runs: 104
  • Number of Lifts: 11
  • Summit Elevation: 9,350 ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 350 inches

North of Salt Lake City by around 40 minutes on I-15 lies the resort of Snowbasin near the town of Hunstville. This is a favorite resort of Utah locals due to its incredible terrain and powder skiing, coupled with substantially less crowds than you would find closer to the Capitol City. With three unique areas that make up the mountain, there is something here for everyone. Snowbasin features incredible bowls and steeps for when you want to ski nipple deep powder and go big. They also have some of the best groomers in the West, which all seem to go on forever once you step out of the gondola. Off of the John Paul Express, skiers can find tree skiing that is sure to keep a smile on your face as you bounce from glade to glade.

Sundance Mountain Resort

  • Location: Sundance, Utah
  • Season: December through April
  • Number of Runs: 44
  • Number of Lifts: 5
  • Summit Elevation: 8,250ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 320in

Farther south of Salt Lake City towards the town of Provo you will find the Sundance Mountain Resort nestled into the Wasatch Mountains near Mt. Timpanogos. This resort is another hidden gem in the Utah resorts and boasts incredibly deep snow throughout the season, plenty of groomers for the family, and incredible views of the valley below. Sundance Mountain Resort also has a great terrain park for anyone who wants to ski powder in the morning then take laps through the park in the afternoon. While a little smaller in size than most of those featured in this article, I feel this gives Sundance Mountain Resort more character and a much more family feel than the others as it is independent from the Pass collectives and lets them focus on themselves.

With all of these options in mind, there is no question that Utah should be on any skier’s list of destinations. Whether you prefer steep and deep or picturesque groomers that run for miles, there are plenty of options throughout the state that will check all of your parties’ boxes. Hopefully, this article will help you narrow down where you want to go and rip it up, and I will see you up in Little Cottonwood Canyon! If you have any questions or are looking for free, personalized gear recommendations, reach out to me or another Curated Ski or Snowboard Expert.

Ski Expert Zach C
Zach C
Ski Expert
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Written By
Hey there! I have been skiing since I could walk, and grew up skiing in the mountains of Lake Tahoe where I was born. After coaching and teaching skiing for 4 years, I went to school in Salt Lake City (sko Utes!) and now live in Colorado. ​ Typically I am on the hunt for deep powder, fun cliffs, and...

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