Utah Is Your Easy Winter Vacation Destination (and We All Could Use Easy)
Whether you’re looking for a break, vacation or quest for fun this winter, Utah is the place for adventure — wherever the trail takes you along the way.
We all need a break, but how and where? For our communities, we distance; for our friends and families, we cling together — rekindling bonds and traditions, forging new ones and reminding each other that while we are forgoing some things, we are rediscovering many others, surprisingly, through travel.
To make your winter travel plans easy, affordable and adaptable, choose Utah. We know these things mean more to you now, and we want you to feel confident that Utah — the place that welcomed the world for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games just four months after 9/11 — stayed largely open by implementing safeguards throughout 2020, allowing visitors to rediscover nature and reconnect with one another. (Learn more about planning a Utah ski trip during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
"A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking. "
– Earl Wilson
Throughout the year, people from across the United States visit Utah to experience its breathtaking landscapes and outdoor adventures. Stretching from The Rockies to The Great Basin and featuring five national parks, 44 state parks, mountains, hot and cold deserts, over one million acres of water and over 500 inches of annual snowfall, Utah represents a convergence of climates, cultures and possibilities for the curious as well as the cooped up.
Some swap their international plans for a place that sounds remote but still feels close to home. Others tell the kids after another curbside grocery pickup, “This is no longer a vacation...it's a quest. It's a quest for fun,” and just kept driving until the stars are brighter than the street lights. Indeed, every dad over 40 has recited Clark Griswold’s mantra and dreamed of just going and going until they reach Arches National Park, which, unlike WallyWorld, never closes.
Speaking of roads, in an effort to keep Utah’s canyon highways and panoramic views clear, consider carpooling and public transportation whenever possible. The Park City electric bus system provides free transportation throughout town getting you from most hotels and condos to both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley. If you’re skiing the Cottonwood Canyons’ resorts, UTA offers the Ski Bus and numerous private shuttle options. Better yet, save the rental car cash and stay slopeside.
Utah’s Winter Playground
Winter in Utah provides even more places to play. With 15 ski resorts scattered throughout the state, beginners and experts, powderhounds and parents, budget-conscious or big spenders can find a place to enjoy Life ElevatedⓇ.
Utah’s resorts and wintertime landscapes are the polar opposite of visiting a theme park: the latter is a highly-staged production that is the same every time you visit. Do you want to do exactly what everyone else has done, written about and posted online? Regale about that great log flume ride where you waited two hours in line? Instead, imagine describing the sounds and Instagrammable visions of making fresh tracks all morning on Powder Mountain’s Lightning Ridge or the exhilaration of doing laps in a catski to the backcountry where you are waist-deep in fresh powder under sun-drenched skies.
Even better, a looped song won’t worm its way into your head, because Utah’s gelid venues are accompanied by an ever-changing cacophony of nature’s best. Skiing Mineral Basin at Snowbird, snowshoeing at Eagle Point or snowmobiling in the Uintas provides a dynamic sensory experience every day, week, month, season and year. The weather can be warmer, the snow can be deeper, the trail can have a different path or profile than before. It looks, feels and even smells new, preparing us to live boldly in the moment.
Seeking What is Real, Not What’s on Reels
More than ever, people are taking more pleasure in “small” moments. Cheering a toddler (or especially a grown-up) as she glides down the bunny hill for the first time melts the most-jaded soul, and spotting animal tracks while hiking an otherwise pristine snowy trail will replace cynicism with a mix of wonder and wariness every time. These aren’t the adrenaline-filled images captured on most brochures or web pages, but they are the ones we carry with us and recall first when asked, “How was your vacation?”
Whether you’re sailing off Solitude’s Fantasy Ridge or sipping Italian hot chocolate slopeside at Alta’s Baldy Brews (yes, Utah is the capital of craft chocolate), you feel on fire and want to share it with everyone around you. However, more surprising, it’s a feeling that’s as thrilling with the kids as it was your first time. It’s like watching the viral video of two teens hearing Phil Collin's "In the Air Tonight" for the first time, a song recorded decades before they were born. Anticipating their reaction (or your kids’ or grandkids’ squirming beside you), as you patiently wait until Collins drops his most famous drum break, and then relive the wonder from that almost-forgotten segue. It’s about sharing a moment, the present one or from years ago.
We are all a bit nostalgic these days. Heck, we’re baking bread and sowing seeds, for goodness sake! We’re also camping, touring national parks, cycling and doing a lot of things — especially outdoors — we did or wanted to do in a different time.
What’s funny is that while some perceive Utah as a place from a different time (inside secret: It’s how we keep it to ourselves in the offseason), people who live and play here not only do all of these things regularly but take them to the next level making them fresh and exciting with each iteration, especially in winter. We ski and kite ski, sled and bobsled, ice skate and ice climb, snowshoe and snow bike. What this means is that, not only is there a lot to do, there is always something to do off the slopes, as well. In these challenging times (or just between seasons), Utah continues to adapt.
"Cheering a toddler (or especially a grown-up) as she glides down the bunny hill for the first time melts the most-jaded soul."
Plan B is Just the Road Less Traveled
Vacation travel in Utah is being reimagined by replacing or complementing an itinerary with a guide, something that suggests what not to miss along the way and, especially now, encourages you to wander and embrace the unexpected. Visit Utah is your guide to the undiscovered or at a time when ‘plan’ can become another four-letter word: What do we do when WallyWorld is closed?
If you take a trip that ends up requiring activating a “Plan B,” that doesn’t mean the trip was a bust; it means it was an adventure and reminds us that the unexpected is often the best part, the part that made the trip memorable. Swap your ski boots for hiking boots. Add some crampons, because frankly, it sounds pretty cool to say, “Crampons!”
"When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen."
– A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
If you’re concerned about planning a winter escape, don’t fret! There are two reasons why you should feel confident in your Utah vacation. First, Utah resorts are making every effort to stay open and stay safe this winter, spring and in the case of Snowbird, summer. Masks? Yes, always. We love masks (which prevent chapped lips, if anything), goggles, gaiters and balaclavas! Utah winter fashion has always been about function, beard icicles notwithstanding, and locals know that staying warm means skiing more powder.
Last season, during the height of Covid, Utah resorts remained open. They did this by responding to the situation, as necessary. The way ski lifts and trams were loaded was the biggest change visitors experienced: numbers were limited per chair. However, this was typically only noticed at the base and during busy holidays and powder days. Some resorts did what Deer Valley and Powder Mountain have done for years, capped the number of skiers or implemented a reservation system. Although this sounds @#$%, many visitors already purchased lift tickets or season passes in advance, and capping numbers reduced lift lines and traffic. Finally, dining was adapted much like what you’re saw at local restaurants, but online reservations and curbside takeaway were ubiquitous throughout the State.
Pro tip: Live like a local and enjoy a tailgate lunch or, better yet, ski through an otherwise empty noon hour and hit the hot tub early. (Yes, we enjoy a ridiculous lifestyle here)
Hopefully, the changes were temporary, but Utah resorts remain committed to acting promptly and responsibly in any situation. So, check Visit Utah and the individual resorts for updated information throughout the season.
However, if it all goes sideways, then here’s another reason why Utah is a great winter destination: There is so much to do in Utah even when you’re not resort skiing. Backcountry and cross-country skiing are both available without a lift ticket. Rent some snowshoes or those cool crampons for a walk or trail run in the woods that will transport you from Park City’s Main Street directly to Narnia. Fat tire biking, another example of Utahn’s ability to adapt, has become one of the state’s fastest-growing activities year-round. With five-inch wide knobby tires (and even fatty ebikes available to rent at many bike shops and resorts), people of any age or ability can ride the growing number of groomed or tamped trails along the Wasatch Range. Again, no lift ticket required. These are just a few examples. Visit Utah is your guide to Life ElevatedⓇ providing plenty of other winter activity ideas all over the state.
Whether you’re looking for a break, vacation or quest for fun this winter, Utah is the place, as always, for adventure — whatever you plan to do or wherever the trail takes you along the way. Let Visit Utah be your guide to help make it easy, as well.
Things to Do
Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding
Thousands of people each day enjoy Utah's famous backcountry — the areas outside of ski area boundaries.
Cross Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing Utah is awesome! Find popular Nordic trailheads in the north, high altitude serenity in central Utah and miles of regularly groomed trails in the south.
Dining in Utah
Want the inside scoop on the best Utah restaurants? This dining guide covers the state’s top culinary scenes–check it out and get hungry!
Fat Tire Biking
Fat tire biking has become the latest rage among cycling enthusiasts and newbies. Find out tips for riding and the best places to explore in Utah.
National Parks in Winter
In the winter, Utah's five national parks and their surrounding country are full of solitude. Layer up and come prepared and you can count on having it all to yourself.
Winters in Utah may be known for having The Greatest Snow on Earth®, but there is so much more to explore off the slopes.
11 More Utah Winter Experiences Outside the Ski Resorts
No matter your level of adventure, you will find good reason to save some time for a day away from the resort.
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.
Best Après Ski Bars in Park City and Beyond
Want to master the art of après? Here’s your guide to the best après-ski bars in Park City and the Wasatch Front.
Cross-country Skiing in the Tracks of Olympians
Utah cross country skiing for beginners starts with techniques. Soldier Hollow is the perfect location and hosted 2 events for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Endless Utah Ski Options for Families: Four Itineraries to Get You Started
Here are some pointers for planning your Utah family ski vacation, including where to make homebase and why.
Hiring a Backcountry Ski Guide
Thinking of exploring backcountry terrain this winter? We can see why. With empty slopes and fresh powder, it’s an alluring idea. But there are things you should know before you venture out of bounds.
Must-See Panoramic Views at Utah Ski Resorts
Utah forecaster Evan Thayer has seen it all on Utah’s slopes. Here are some of the breathtaking places he keeps going back to again and again that combine incredible scenery on top of the mountain with Utah’s renowned downhill.
Utah's Bucket List Expert-Only Ski Runs
Utah is a great place to find extreme skiing thrills, so we’ve put together a list of the best skiing in Utah for experts—these runs need to be on your list!
Utah's Kid Ski Culture
Utah is happy to help you support your future skier or rider, and make things fun for parents, too. Read our guide to teaching kids to ski and plan a trip.
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.
When Ski School's in Session, Parents Head for the Powder
Utah offers the best winter vacations for families at some of the best ski resorts for kids. With plenty of children’s programs, activities and ski school. Let’s ski!
When to Ski and Eat and Play in Utah
From Thanksgiving to Memorial Day, travelers come to Utah to enjoy all that Mountain Time offers, but when is the best to time visit? The answer is: OFTEN!