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Utah Ski Area Guide -- Very Complete
- Alta, Alta (Little Cottonwood Canyon) • 2200 skiable acres on 2020' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 10,550'; Base elevation: 8530'. 12 Lifts: 1 quad, 3 triples, 4 doubles, 4 surface. Uphill capacity: 11,248/hr. Terrain Mix: 25-40-35. Longest Run: 16,800'. Season: usually late November to mid April. Rentals & Lessons. No snowboards. Annual Snowfall: 500". Snowmaking: 2%.
The SKInny: No snowboards. Here's one of the most storied ski areas in the Rockies, with some of the finest powder on the planet, and as if that weren't enough, no snowboards. Don't need to say much more than that. This is really a skier's ski area; not the best for beginners or developing blues but still has plenty of terrain for those skiers. Great for hotshots, but most hotshots look for a little more apres-ski than Alta offers. An ideal resort for good, expert skiers who don't particularly need a lot of nonsense like theme restaurants, clocktower villages, etc. Not overly groomed, some trekking required, some slower lifts, lots of moguls. Steep, deep, and relatively cheap. Wanderer's heaven. This is the #1 ski area in the USA for true expert skiers.
Signature Trails: Alf's High Rustler.
- Beaver Mountain, Logan Canyon • 525 skiable acres on 1600' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 8800'; Base elevation: 7200'. 5 Lifts: 3 doubles, 2 surface. Uphill capacity: 2700/hr. Terrain Mix: 26-18-56. Longest Run: 10,560'. Season: usually December to March. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 400".
The SKInny: Comfortable mid-sized family run ski area, with lots of runs and hidden chutes and routes. A lot of skiable acreage for the vertical due to the "open" spaces on the mountain. While there are only 20 "official" runs, each has opportunities to move about, try various routes, etc. so the mountain feels like it has a lot more than the trail map shows. Plenty of steep runs, and a few long easier runs, with a separate area "Little Beaver," for learning skiers. Isolated, usually uncrowded -- Saturdays can be quite busy, minimal services. A great ski area since the late 1930s.
Signature Trail: Stan's Bonanza
- Brian Head, Cedar City • 540 skiable acres on 1700' vertical (1320' lift served)
Specs: Summit elevation: 11,307'; Base elevation: 9600'. 9 Lifts: snowcat, 5 triples, 1 double, 2 surface. Uphill capacity: 10,500/hr. Terrain Mix: 40-40-20. Longest Run: 7920'. Season: usually late November to early April. Night Skiing fri-sat. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 425". Snowmaking: 35%.
The SKInny: This is a terrific, off-the-beaten-path resort with a little something for everyone. Spread out, built on three high desert mountains. Navajo area is beginner/novice stuff, Giant Steps is an all-around ski area, and Brian Head Mountain is cat served and primarily for experts. Do know that the Navajo Peak and Giant Steps/Brian Head areas are not connected by ski trails; a shuttle is required. The Brian Head cat skiing is nice for powder hounds who happen to be here, but not worth seeking out on its own. A quiet, underdeveloped, underskied resort. Short liftlines always. Hotshots will prefer other resorts, while the wanderer could be content here for a couple days. Really for families and others interested in an outstanding -- and quiet -- skiing experience. Nobody will call Brian Head the best in Utah, but quite a few call it their favorite.
Signature Trail: Giant Steps
- Brighton, Brighton (Big Cottonwood Canyon) • 850 skiable acres on 1745' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 10,500'; Base elevation: 8755'. 8 Lifts: 3 quads, 1 triple, 3 doubles, 1 rope tow. Uphill capacity: 10,100/hr. Terrain Mix: 21-40-39. Longest Run: 15,840'. Season: usually mid November to early April. Night skiing. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 500". Snowmaking: 20%.
The SKInny: Nice mountain, lots of powder, short liftlines. Well-rounded terrain; something here for everyone. Great backcountry opportunities. Although not as big or steep as the other Cottonwood Canyon resorts, Brighton feels like four ski areas in one. So what's the downside? A lot of the snowboarders who aren't welcome at Alta head for Brighton. Mostly locals, as it has been a favorite for SLC residents since 1936. With the exception of Great Western, each mountain/lift area has trails for every ability. Now owned by Boyne Corp. (the Michigan based resort operator), Brighton definitely seeks a "new school" crowd.
Signature Trails: Endless Winter, Elk Park Ridge
- The Canyons (Park West), Park City • 3500 skiable acres on 3190' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 9990'; Base elevation: 6800'. 16 Lifts: 2 gondies, 9 quads, 2 triples, 1 double, 2 surface. Uphill capacity: 32,700/hr. Terrain Mix: 14-44-26-16. Longest Run: 13,200'. Season: usually mid November to mid April. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 350". Snowmaking: 4%.
The SKInny: Quiet little Park West was engulfed by the American Skiing Company (once owners of Killington, Mount Snow, Steamboat) in 1997. What was a well-done cheap little local ski area became a pricey, sprawling monstrosity with hyper-quick lifts that run all over creation to serve eight mid-sized mountains. Now it is an impressive operation, to be sure, but it just sprawls a little too much. The 3,000+ vertical is not continuous; about 1900' is the max you'll get on any one run. The canyons at The Canyons make for interesting runs, but unfortunately many of them have long run outs -- and some are uphill. Locals head to Alta or Brighton, and refer to The Canyons as "a tourist area that used to be a great little spot." On the positive side, you can expect the quickest, most modern lifts and incredible variety of terrain. Hotshots will prefer Alta or Snowbird, without question. Wanderers, on the other hand, will likely never find a resort to beat The Canyons. You can create your own routes, find hidden glades, tuck down little used canyon chutes...literally ski for days and days and never use the same route twice. With the recent sell-offs by ASC, we're not sure what to expect for the future; one line of thought is that Park City-based ASC intends to jettison all but The Canyons, and built it into the best whatever it is that they can. The question is, are ASC's fiscal troubles resolved? We do know of some skiers who've received less than stellar customer care in early 2007.
Signature Trails: The Black Hole.
- Deer Valley, Park City • 1750 skiable acres on 3000' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 9570'; Base elevation: 6570'. 19 Lifts: 1 gondie, 9 quads, 7 triples, 2 doubles. Uphill capacity: 39,700/hr. Terrain Mix: 15-50-35. Longest Run: 10,560'. Season: usually early December to early April. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 300". Snowmaking: 29%.
The SKInny: As Utah resorts go, Deer Valley is a bit more developed, the mountain is a bit crowded, it all feels a little commercial. So why then, do we rate this as one of our all-time favorites? No snowboards! None! Deer Valley covers four distinct areas: Bald Eagle Mt, Flagstaff Mt, and Empire Canyon are all primarily beginner/intermediate country; while Bald Mt. is intermediate/expert terrain. Other than Bald Eagle, each area has access to either glades or off-piste bowls or both. Bald Eagle houses the beginner areas, the condo complexes, theme park and ferris wheel (just kidding on the last two) and is the reason Deer Valley gets the largely undeserved rap of being overly developed. (It really isn't). But admittedly, the Little Baldy area criss-crosses more roads, winding condoplex driveways, and pricey housing developments than probably any other ski area in the world. It is as if this section of the ski area was built to serve the homeowners. Do know that the 3,000' vertical can't really be skied continuously; 2,000' is about it. Beyond that, Deer Valley is one of the outstanding ski areas for emerging blues and those starting on the diamonds. Originally started life as Snow Park (1947-1965) then shuttered and reopened as Deer Valley in 1981. Trails are meticulously groomed; the closest comparison is Vermont's Okemo. Any time you ski at Deer Valley you'll feel as if you are a better skier thanks to the fleet of groomers. OK for hotshots, great for wanderers. Otherwise, the closest thing you can compare Deer Valley to is the Ritz-Carlton. You're living in high cotton, and you pay accordingly. Here's another litmus test: If you honestly, deep down, prefer golf to skiing, this is your type of ski area. But make no mistake, it is much, much more than just that. Right now, Deer Valley is the top of the heap for customer service and a top-notch ski area.
Signature Trail: Daly Chutes, Daly Bowl, Stein's.
Please click here for our in-depth guide to skiing and getting around at Deer Valley Resort.
- Elk Meadows, Beaver • 400 skiable acres on 1400' vertical Operations currently suspended.
Specs: Summit elevation: 10,400'; Base elevation: 9000'. 5 Lifts: 1 quad, 1 triple, 3 doubles, 1 surface. Uphill capacity: 8000/hr. Terrain Mix: 15-60-25. Longest Run: 14,520'. Season: usually December to early April. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 400".
The SKInny: Currently closed due to some sort of water or water treatment wranglings, or funding, or something like that. Been to Elk Meadows once, and I can tell you it's so far off the beaten path it makes Brian Head look downright metropolitan. A great mid-sized ski area with no liftlines, no commercialized anything. Highly recommended; we'll re-post when it re-opens.
- Nordic Valley, Eden • see Wolf Mountain, below.
- Park City, Park City • 3300 skiable acres on 3100' vertical (not all lift served)
Specs: Summit elevation: 10,000'; Base elevation: 6900'. 14 Lifts: 4 sixpacks, 1 quad, 5 triples, 4 doubles, 1 magic carpet. Uphill capacity: 27,200/hr. Terrain Mix: 18-44-38. Longest Run: 18,480'. Season: usually mid November to mid April. Night skiing Dec-Mar. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 350". Snowmaking: 15%.
The SKInny: One of the legendary ski areas with historic runs that unfortunately is more City than Park these days. Weekends can be crowded. Quite crowded. The atmosphere is busy, mobbed, developed...ok if you happen to like that. Yes, you can get to some remote spots. The Jupiter Bowl is still a legendary spot for hotshots. Wanderers can find plenty to do here, and families will love the abundance of intermediate level terrain. The big, easy intermediate cruisers offer just enough variety that the expert will enjoy them as well. In fact the trail called Payday is arguably one of the progenitors of the rolling groomed cruisers that are the mainstay of ski resort offerings. Another plus for Park City: it's hard to think of a bigger, better resort so close to a major metropolitan airport. As mega resort communities go, Park City is pleasant, safe, convenient. Probably one of the finest destinations for GolfCondoSkiers. Let's face it, serious skiers will prefer Alta, Snowbird, Snowbasin, etc. but it's really hard to have a bad day of skiing at Park City.
Signature Trails: Payday, Jupiter Bowl.
- Powder Mountain, Eden • 2800 skiable acres on 1300' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 8900'; Base elevation: 7600'. 7 Lifts: 1 quad, 1 triple, 2 doubles, 1 platter pull, 2 rope tows; cat skiing. Uphill capacity: 6350/hr. Terrain Mix: 10-60-30. Longest Run: 15,840'. Season: usually late November to early April. Night skiing. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 500".
The SKInny: Quiet little Powder Mountain quietly offers some of the best skiing in Utah. Some of the best skiing in the country for that matter. Outstanding snow. Undeveloped mountainside. Easy to find powder runs. Endless backcountry. Rumor is that new money wants to move in and turn it into GolfCondoSkiWorld replete with 475 $4,000,000 homes, 1,000 million-dollar condos, two hotels, two golf courses...really screw it up. What is today a great spot for real skiers will someday be a great spot for vacationing golfers, replete with theme restaurants and a built-to-order village. But for now, Powder Mountain is what a ski area should be. It sprawls over six distinct peaks, with canyons, glades, long ridge runs, bowls, and powder, powder, powder. The lifts are a mix of new hi-speed quads, school buses and clumsy platter pulls. The lodges are small and rustic. The slopes are uncrowded, even on Saturdays. Just pick a line and ski it. Look, we could go on and on in this description, but it isn't necessary. Powder Mountain is simply one of the best ski areas on the planet. Period.
Signature Trails: Straight Shot, anything in Cobabe Canyon.
- Snowbasin, Huntsville • 3200 skiable acres on 2959' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 9250'; Base elevation: 5850'. 9 Lifts: 1 tram, 2 gondies, 1 quad, 4 triples, 1 double. Uphill capacity: 14,650/hr. Terrain Mix: 11-49-40. Longest Run: 15,840'. Season: usually late November to early April. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 400". Snowmaking: 34%.
The SKInny: Owned by Sun Valley, site of the 2002 Olympic Downhill, Snowbasin is a ski area to be reckoned with. Lines are virtually nonexistent, and the lifts run hither and thither and can ferry you anywhere quickly. Only 40 odd miles from the airport, it's just a matter of time before this place is "discovered" and becomes as crowded as the rest of the mega Utah resorts. The knock is that some of the trails have long run-outs. Nah. The terrain seems like it's mostly well-groomed cruisers, but that's because that's all they show on the map. There's terrain here for everybody, from flat-out beginners to out-and-out big mountain freakzoid hotshots. Runs are long. Unfortunately nothing here the equal of Alta or Snowbird, just a good skiing mountain. Watch out for this place...reputation will soon equal the better known resorts. A great resort for wanderers, hotshots, families...you name it. Also one of the few where most of the advertised terrain is legitimately accessible from a lift of some sort. Be warned that when you step into the lodge, you will not think that you are in a ski lodge. Lots of elevators, oriental carpeting, magnificent construction, granite, marble, oak...the lodges are almost more impressive than the skiing. Snowbasin is most similar to Deer Valley in terms of ritzy, and in some ways out-does DVR. We're pretty sure the brass railings are polished more frequently at Snowbasin.
Signature Trails: John Paul, Elk Ridge, Main Street.
- Snowbird, Snowbird (little Cottonwood Canyon) • 2500 skiable acres on 3240' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 11,000'; Base elevation: 7760'. 10 Lifts: 1 tram, 2 quads, 7 doubles. Uphill capacity: 15,000/hr. Terrain Mix: 27-38-35. Longest Run: 18,560'. Season: usually November to mid-May. Night skiing. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 500". Snowmaking: 15%.
The SKInny: The Bird is easily one of the biggest, best ski areas in the country. Where Alta is old school, Snowbird somehow stays hip and trendy. Plenty of terrain, plenty steep, decidedly not cheap. Lots for hotshots, wanderers...even the emerging intermediate can find ways to keep busy for days on end. The closest comparison to Snowbird in the USA is Jackson Hole, and most will admit that Snowbird pulls down better snow and more agreeable weather. Day in and day out, more skiers with the most skill and finest form are found at Snowbird than any other resort in the Rockies. (Vermont's Stowe takes Eastern honors). In fact, everyone short of true expert skiers will likely find other resorts more to their liking. The knock on the Bird is the lack of apres-ski (we don't care) and the fact that the trail ratings should be turned up a notch. Greens should be blues, blues should be blacks, etc. Double blacks are for the serious, pedal-to-the-metal only. If you ski blacks elsewhere, do not attempt the double blacks at the Bird right out of the chute. This is seriously tough stuff. We would put Snowbird ahead of Alta, simply because the lifts are faster and very little traversing is required, except Snowbird has snowboarders and a bit of Vail-type attitude. In any event, Snowbird fights for all-around best in the nation with a handful of other resorts: Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley, etc.
Signature Trails: Regulator Johnson, Great Scott.
- Solitude, Big Cottonwood Canyon • 1200 skiable acres on 2047' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 10,035'; Base elevation: 7988'. 8 Lifts: 2 quads, 2 triples, 4 doubles. Uphill capacity: 12,500/hr. Terrain Mix: 20-50-30. Longest Run: 15,800'. Season: usually mid November to mid April. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 500". Snowmaking: 20%.
The SKInny: Big ski area that doesn't seem to have the crowds or pretense of others in the Cottonwoods. Biggest knock is the clunky lift system, the fact that you have to trudge around to access certain trails, and that you may have to move from lift to lift depending on where you want to ski. Skiers who frequent Solitude skip tend to skip Alta and Snowbird in favor of this area, which speaks volumes. The name Intrawest (Whistler, Stratton, Snowshoe, MountainCreek) is associated with Solitude, which has its plusses and minuses. At Solitude, however, management is quick to point out that Intrawest is only involved in the lodging aspect. Solitude has the cutesy clocktower village and all the other jimcrack, but none of Intrawest's usual on-mountain "improvements." (Intrawest builds wicked efficient lifts, but also tames and fences a lot of mountains) Back to the skiing. Solitude is one of the most well-rounded of the Cottonwood Canyon ski areas; plenty for novice and expert alike. Some great cruisers, some excellent powder bowls. Because some of the powder runs require a hike, you can almost always count on finding some sort of untracked something at Solitude.
Signature Trails: Dynamite, Honeycomb Canyon, Challenger.
- Sundance, Sundance (Provo Canyon) • 450 skiable acres on 2150' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 8250'; Base elevation: 6100'. 3 Lifts: 1 quad, 2 triples. Uphill capacity: 5167/hr. Terrain Mix: 20-40-40. Longest Run: 13,200'. Season: usually early December to early April. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 500". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Probably the oddball among Utah resorts, and Sundance prefers it that way. Few lifts, less terrain, lots of vertical, no lines. Has skiing for every ability off the summit. It's also one of a handful of Utah ski areas that doesn't offer a view of a city somewhere. Wanderers will prefer the big areas, as will hotshots. But everybody really enjoys the quality skiing at Sundance; it just seems that the lack of quantity compared to other Utah resorts makes it one of those "Yeah, we hit Sundance at least once or twice a year, but generally go to..." It's also a little bit, uh, "odd" for the casual GolfCondoSkier. Everyone knows Sundance was founded by Robert Redford, and it seems to attract more than the average number of cosmically-attuned weirdos, animal-rights activists with leather coats, and overly environmentally conscious nutjobs with more money than brains. Maybe it just seems that way. In any case, the skiing is top shelf, the resort is well run, and the atmosphere is fantastic. The occasional kook just kind of adds to the mix, and is hardly noticeable amidst the drop-dead beauty of this resort. A little history here: During the construction of Sundance, Redford and the design team hiked and explored almost every inch of the mountain to plan the trails, rather than design from topo maps. The payoff is that the trails at Sundance work with the terrain, and the skiing is exhilirating.
Signature Trails: Bishop's Bowl.
- Wolf Mountain, Eden • 100 skiable acres on 1000' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 6500'; Base elevation: 5500'. 3 Lifts: 2 doubles, 1 surface. Uphill capacity: 4400/hr. Terrain Mix: 25-45-30. Longest Run: 3200'. Season: usually December to Mid-March. Night skiing. Rentals & Lessons. Annual Snowfall: 350".
The SKInny: Formerly known as Nordic Valley, Wolf Mountain is Ogden's local ski hangout, complete with night skiing, and a top ticket price in the neighborhood of $25. Picture the average eastern ski area plunked down on the Wasatch range, add some Utah powder, and you've pretty much got this place pegged. None of the terrain is over-the-top in terms of difficulty; this is just a fun ski area and one of the best deals you'll ever find. Virtually everybody can ski from the, uh, "summit" -- which is actually only a third of the way up the mountain. New ownership has livened up the place; a lot of families use lodging at and around Wolf as a base for a ski vacation, spending time at the host mountain with visits to nearby Powder and Snowbasin. You'll never confuse Wolf with Alta, but that's ok, it's still a terrific place.
Signature Trail: Barney's Way.
Do you have a ski area "report" online? A narrative and photos about a recent trip? Perhaps you have a skiing page hosted on a free site server with a bunch of pesky pop-ups? Skiernet.com will host your ski-related pages and photos at no charge, for easy access by thousands of skiers...please click here for details.
Best all-around Skiing Guide for Women...
Mom has a pretty raw deal on the average ski trip. They're expected to make sure every child is geared up and ready to go...settle the arguments, feed the family, prepare the snacks, pack the chapstick, and so on...and then ski the black diamonds with dad after the second lesson.
The book, Skiing: A Woman's Guide by Maggie Loring and Molly Mulhern Gross ought to be mandatory reading for every ski mom. It not only provides the basics for managing the gang, it also gives a step-by-step instructional guide from a woman's point-of-view. This link is to amazon.com, where you can usually pick up a used copy for about two bucks. Mom, it's the best two bucks you'll spend all winter.
Hotshots are skiers who can ski anywhere, anytime, in any conditions, and generally enjoy showing off those skills. Wanderers are skiers who like to go exploring, to essentially get "lost" and move from face to face, seldom skiing the same trail twice. Newbies are the girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband who has never skied before, but gamely insists on going along. Obviously, Blues represents intermediate skiers, while Blacks refers to experts.
A note about ski area statistics: Although it's hard to believe, some ski areas are (gasp!) less than truthful with their numbers. Like the guy who lies about his, uh, shoe size, some ski areas believe that inflated numbers make their resort sound more appealling. When these numbers are obviously questionable, we put a note: (?!) and will attempt to verify the legitimacy of the claim.
A Signature Trail Is mostly subjective. Whether it's history, reputation, the view, or degree of difficulty...it's the run you have to do, even if it isn't necessarily the best the resort has to offer. If a ski area calls a trail by two names (one at the top, and another at the bottom) in an effort to claim more trails, we go by the upper name. If a trail is called "Upper Whatever" and "Lower Whatever," we simply list it as "Whatever" in this index.
Trail to Improvement
Probably the most helpful book I've seen to help you make the jump from strong blue to expert or hotshot level, is All-Mountain
Skier: The Way to Expert Skiing, by R. Mark Elling. If you've tried to follow the recommendations in magazines and books, and had trouble mimicking the photos, this book somehow makes it all work, makes it understandable and easier to apply on the slopes. This link goes to amazon.com, where you can generally snag a used copy for about six bucks, or buy a nice squeaky clean one for about 20% less than retail.
-- Rick Bolger
Please click here for the SkierNet.com home page.
Planning a ski vacation? Have you considered renting a home or condo directly from a homeowner? It's worth looking into -- private deals are often comparable to hotel chains, and virtually always less than resort-owned lodging. When you add in the privacy, the full kitchens, and the crackling fire, a ski house rental makes the average vacation unforgettable. Here's a site of rental vacation properties that is easy-to-use, and you do not pay any sort of "surcharge" for finding a place. Definitely worth a click.