Salt Lake City: A Place to Play
Symphony musicians say Utah's one-two punch of arts and recreation is hard to beat.
Picture this: You’re on the slopes at Brighton on a Sunday morning, waiting for your snowboarding lesson to begin, when you realize that your instructor looks oddly familiar. A quick question confirms your suspicion — the friendly, bearded guy in snow gear is the same man you saw in a tuxedo the night before, playing percussion with the Utah Symphony in downtown Salt Lake City’s sparkling Abravanel Hall.
Talk about your “only in Salt Lake City” moments.
Percussionist Eric Hopkins is a New York-educated former Floridian who channeled his lifelong passion for skateboarding into a fun side job a couple of years after winning his Utah Symphony spot. He’s one of many orchestra members captivated by the state’s hard-to-match combination of world-class arts organizations and world-class outdoor recreation. (Watch: "Utah Symphony's Ode to Winter")
“Art and culture in Utah is really evolving, especially in Salt Lake City,” says principal flutist Mercedes Smith. “The breadth of cultural opportunities, in addition to the incredible scenery — it really elevates the quality of life here.” (Read: “Salt Lake City’s Must-See Street Art” and “Temple Square: The Geographical and Musical Heart of Salt Lake”)
"There's no city the size of Salt Lake City that has a major orchestra, a major ballet company and a great opera company."
– David Porter, Violinist for the Utah Symphony
Smith’s husband, Utah Symphony violinist David Porter, believes the state’s recreational amenities are well-known, thanks partly to their starring role in the 2002 Winter Olympics. (Read: “The Fly Girls of Park City.”) “But I don't think the average person realizes that we have an exceptional arts community,” Porter says. “There's no city the size of Salt Lake City that has a major orchestra, a major ballet company and a great opera company.”
The Utah Symphony is one of fewer than 20 full-time orchestras in the United States. Ballet West, Utah Opera and Pioneer Theatre Company also enjoy national prominence.
Back in the days of Maurice Abravanel, who led the orchestra from 1947 to 1979, most of the Utah Symphony’s roster was home-grown. These days, “we’re from all over the country — from California, Pennsylvania, Texas — to all over the world, from France, Canada, South Korea and Russia,” says Canadian-born cellist Anne Lee.
"The breadth of cultural opportunities, in addition to the incredible scenery — it really elevates the quality of life here."
– Mercedes Smith, Principal Flutist for the Utah Symphony
Claude Halter, who leads the orchestra’s second violin section, says Salt Lake City offers the best of both worlds: small-town pace and big-town culture. “I just wouldn't be able to find that same experience anywhere else in the U.S. that I'm aware of,” says Halter, who grew up in Paris and has had orchestra jobs in Miami and in Vancouver, B.C. He came to Salt Lake City with Lee when she joined the Utah Symphony, followed a few months later by his own successful audition. The two have since married.
Halter had skied in Utah before and was “extremely psyched” at the prospect of more outdoor adventures in the state. (Read: “Movies Filmed in Utah: Plotting a Cinematic Drive-Through” and “Paddling the Escalante.”) But for Lee, Salt Lake City’s thriving recreation scene was a pleasant surprise. Now she loves sharing outdoor adventures with her colleagues in the orchestra. “It’s therapeutic for all of us to not just be stuck inside playing our instruments all the time,” she says.
“Just skiing, I don’t feel completely satisfied because it’s just all fun, but no bigger questions of ‘Why am I doing this?’” Hopkins says. “But with just performing, it’s not quite the same physicality of the skiing. I think together the physicality and the intellectual-ness of the orchestral performance is a therapy.”
Current Ski Conditions
We can't predict the weather, but we can tell you Utah's 15 ski resorts average upward of 500 inches of snow a year. Compared to other ski destinations in the United States you already have a much better chance of satisfying your snow craving by focusing on Utah.
Ski & Snowboard FAQs
Planning your cold weather vacation to Utah? Find winter travel tips on highway safety, skiing and snowboarding gear and helpful information about Utah liquor laws.
Where to Stay
Utah's metropolitan areas are situated right by our snow-packed mountains, offering visitors unparalleled access. The only challenge is deciding if you want to stay in a slope-side lodge or a hotel in the city. Either choice is good, or even better, try out both.
Read the Stories
11 Classy Ski Experiences That are Uniquely Utah
From sheer proximity and the biggest mountains to a ski-in distillery and a celebrity-owned resort, these are the reasons to ski Utah now.
8 Elevated Ski Experiences That are Uniquely Utah
If you dream of the possibility of hitting six resorts in one day or carving your own lines from snow-covered summits served by helicopters, then this listicle is made for you.
8 Reasons Why Ski School Is Cool
Ski school is cool, and it’s where beginners to experts find the secrets to skiing (and Utah’s secret powder stashes). Learn to ski the entire resort.
A Cauldron of Continuing Olympic Fervor
Since hosting the 2002 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, in many ways the Olympic spirit and world-class athletes that seized Utah have never left.
A Utah Ski Vacation (or Two) for Less
Shop for ski gear like a local. Get discounts on lift tickets. Learn everything you need to know for a cheap luxury ski trip.
AndShesDopeToo's Insider's Guide to Ogden
AndShesDopeToo is a worldwide adventure community of women run by Jennifer and Taylor Killian from Ogden, Utah. This insider's guide video highlights their unparalleled access to both the outdoors and the city's "fun counterculture vibe" at the foot of the mighty Wasatch Mountains.
Another Day in Powadise
Join ski cat driver Kevin Irons on a day's adventures to Lightning Ridge at Powder Mountain, complete with pizza bribery, remote access and lots of powder.
Best Spots to Get Olympic Spirit
Just because the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games are in the past doesn’t mean that the Utah Olympic spirit is has been snuffed out. Athletes still train here, and ski schools in Utah resorts might be the start of a future Olympian’s career.
Curry, Fine Wine, Dining at 11,000'
Fred Barbier is Director of Resort Dining at Snowbird Resort restaurants. Find out what goes on in the kitchen and why you need to eat a meal here.
Everything in its Right Place
Bring your snowboard on your Brighton Ski Resort trip. Visit the six terrain parks – with new designs each week – to add some exhilaration to your ski vacation.
How To Get the Most Out of the Park City Annual Gay Ski Week
At Park City, Utah's annual Gay Ski Week, officially known as Elevation Utah, visitors will be surrounded by like-minded athletes and folks who want to crush it out on the slopes and have fun dancing the night away.
Ice and rock, snow and splendor: Winter in Southern Utah
For an extraordinary adventure, plan winter hikes in Utah’s Zion National Park. Winter rewards hikers with stunning sights of stalactites and snow covered mountains.
Insider's Guide to Park City
Kaylin Richardson, Olympic athlete, and a friend share their favorite Park City experiences to encourage you to add the city's culture-enriched valley, scenery, food, art and access to all-season adventure to your bucket list.
Music of the Cottonwoods
Discover the sound of two iconic Utah bands — Talia Keys and the Love and Pixie and the Partygrass Boys — whose music is inspired by their love of life and nature.
Park City Area: 1 Destination, 3 Resorts
From Olympic fame and luxury to innovation and extreme adventure, discover a vast winter playground on three resorts.
Planning Your Big Snow Trip
Let’s plan a powder ski trip to Utah and even help you save some time and money while you’re there. Just answer these three questions: Who? When? How much?
Powder Pups to the Rescue
Four furry friends help the Solitude Ski Patrol do their duties.
Red Rock, Rock ’n’ Roll and Ribs
Planning a great weekend getaway? Utah’s Brian Head Resort is smokin’. Come play in the snow, party like a local, and chow down on Big John’s KC-style BBQ.
Ski and Golf Same Day Utah
Nowhere else in the world do individuals have the choices and proximity to ski and golf the same day as they have here in Utah.
Sundance, Full Circle
When visiting the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, movies are only part of the experience.
The 4 Sickest Terrain Parks in Utah
This might be where you’ll find some of the driest, fluffiest powder in the states, but The Greatest Snow on Earth or not, some days are just made for the park.
The Best Skiing in Utah
Out of 15 ski resorts, here's where families, friends groups, experts, luxury seekers and even night owls find their groove in Utah.
Utah’s Factory-to-Slope Culture
Utah’s gear scene benefits from being able to use its backyard as a testing ground, making the complete ski and snowboard cycle uniquely Utah
Walking The Line Between Risk and Responsibility
Why a Hawaii-based highliner and influencer hasn't returned to Utah — yet.
What To Pack for a Ski Trip
Make sure you have everything you need for your Utah ski trip this season. Follow our ski trip packing checklist to guarantee a fun and safe time on the slopes.