Skiing has always been Utah's biggest recreational draw, and as host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Salt Lake City area drew the attention of international skiing and winter sports lovers.
Summer visitors will find lots to like after the snow melts: Most ski areas remain open for warm-weather recreation, including mountain biking, hiking, trail rides, tennis, and plain old relaxing.
Utah's "Greatest Snow on Earth" lies close at hand. Within an hour's drive from Salt Lake City you can be at one of seven downhill areas in the Wasatch Range, each with its own character and distinctive skiing terrain. The snow season runs from about mid-November to April or May. Be sure to pick up the free Utah Ski Vacation Planner from Ski Utah, Inc. (150 West 500 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, 801/534-1779 or 800-SKI-UTAH, snow conditions at 801/521-8102, fax 801/521-3722); it's also available at most tourist offices in Utah. Alternatively, check out the website at www.skiutah.com. The planner lists most Utah resorts and has diagrams of the lifts and runs, lift ticket rates, and detailed information on lodging.
Salt Lake City-area ski resorts are grouped quite close together. Although they are in different drainages, Solitude and Brighton ski areas in Big Cottonwood Canyon and Snowbird and Alta ski areas in Little Cottonwood Canyon, they all share the high country of the Wasatch Divide with Park City, Deer Valley, and The Canyons ski areas. There is no easy or quick route between the three different valleys, however, and traffic and parking can be a real hassle. Luckily, there are plenty of options for convenient public transport between Salt Lake City and the ski areas and between the resorts themselves.
Alternatively, you can ski between the various ski areas with Ski Utah Interconnect (801/534-1907, www.skiutah.com/interconnect), which provides a guide service for backcountry touring between Wasatch Front ski areas. Skiers should be experienced and in good physical condition because of the high elevations (around 10,000 feet) and the need for some walking and traversing. Touring is with downhill equipment. Tours depart daily from Deer Valley Resort or Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, and go through Park City Mountain Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Brighton Resort and Alta Ski Area. The cost of $295 a day includes the guide's services, lunch, and all lift tickets.
During heavy snowfalls, Salt Lake City parks and streets become impromptu cross-country ski trails, and any snowed-under Forest Service road in the Wasatch Range is fair game for Nordic skiers. The Mill Creek Canyon road is a favorite. If you don't mind cutting a trail or skiing ungroomed snow, ask at ski rental shops for hints on where the backcountry snow is good.
Otherwise, there are numerous organized cross-country ski areas in the Salt Lake City area. The Mountain Dell Golf Course in Parley's Canyon (off I-80 toward Park City) is a favorite place to make tracks. There are cross-country facilities at Alta and Solitude ski resorts as well as at the White Pine Touring Center in Park City.
Transportation to Ski Areas
Salt Lake City's public bus system, the UTA (801/287-4636, www.utabus.com), has regularly scheduled service to the four resorts on the west side of the Wasatch Range: Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird, and Alta. You can get on the buses downtown (they connect with the TRAX light rail), at the University of Utah, or at the bottoms of the canyons. A couple of early-morning buses run up to the ski areas every day; return buses depart the ski areas around 5 p.m.
All Resort Express (435/649-3999, ext. 1, or 800/457-9457, www.allresort.com, $40 per person round-trip) offers daily skier shuttles from downtown Salt Lake City hotels to Park City, Deer Valley, Canyons, Alta, and Snowbird. Custom shuttle services are also available.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition