Destination Ski City: Culture Élevé

Guide to High Culture and High Elevation in the One and Only Ski City: Salt Lake City

Downtown Salt Lake   |  Jay Dash

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City offers up the best of both worlds: world-class skiing by day and high culture after the sun goes down. Revel in the metropolitan lifestyle —world-class city with art, culture, and nightlife—and wake up to big mountain skiing in its backyard. Merging high living with vacation lifestyle is why locals and visitors alike have nicknamed this place Ski City.

Alta Magic.

Photo: Lee Cohen

Ski Salt Lake City

Ten resorts are within an hour of Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), so you don't have to waste any time getting straight to the slopes. You can even sample a variety of them, each featuring different terrain and atmosphere,  during your stay in Ski City.

Ski City's four resorts — Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude — are less than 45 minutes from the airport. Located in the city’s Cottonwood Canyons, these fabled resorts benefit from unique terrain and weather patterns funneling an average of 500 inches of snow to each resort annually.

Alta: Alta is a skiers-only resort features groomed and off-piste terrain for all abilities. High-speed lifts access over 100 runs (approximately 25 percent green, 40 percent blue, and 35 black diamond ). But it’s the deep powder lying beneath the majestic venerable Devil’s Castle and majestic Mount Baldy that keep visitors from around the world returning year after year. Alta packs in the powder with an average of 550 inches per year and 2,020 feet of vertical drop to explore. If you still want more, try cat skiing in Grizzly Gulch Bowl, or Nordic or skate skiing on the resort’s 5 km groomed track.

Alta's ski-in/ski-out lodges range from modest to monumental, including the four-star Snowpine Lodge, but most offer packages that include breakfast and dinner, not to mention cozy fireplaces and gathering spaces. Many home and condo rentals nearby also offer lift shuttle services. Chef service and food-stocking options are available and on-mountain dining options range from white tablecloth restaurants to places to grab a quick burger.

Corduroy runs at Solitude.

Photo: Adam Clark

Brighton: The unpretentious Brighton Resort is friendly and family-focused. Many local residents head here with their little ones so they can learn to ski. Lots of snowboarders flock to Brighton and the terrain ranges from mellow and forgiving beginner slopes to challenging expert runs. Access over 65 runs from multiple lifts and enjoy a 1,875 vertical drop. The park and superpipe area features 40 rails and boxes, a killer sound system, and a 350-foot-long super-pipe that's 15 feet deep. 

With 200 acres of lighted runs, Brighton is a great place to get post-sundown laps in and enjoy night skiing, including in the expanded Snake Creek area. This resort also shares a boundary with Solitude and the Sol-Bright pass grants access to both resorts. Stay slopeside at the 20-room ski-in/ski-out Brighton Lodge and spend time relaxing in the large outdoor Jacuzzi or cozying up by the fireplace. There are also vacation home rentals of just about any size, many right on the slopes.

Snowbird: If you love steep and deep, head to Snowbird for steep chutes and plenty of wide-open bowls sure to please any level of skier or boarder. The Aerial Tram lifts riders to 11,000 feet above sea level at the top of Hidden Peak. Step onto the 600-foot conveyor belt to head straight through the mountain on North America's only ski tunnel which accesses Mineral Basin.

Mineral Basin offers everything from easy cruisers to black diamond slopes complete with cliff-hucking options. Stay and play for as long as you like since this resort is typically open well into the spring and, some years, the Fourth of July. You'll have plenty of time to explore over 160 runs and the 2,900-foot vertical drop and, for even more powder, head out with Snowbird Mountain Guides for sidecountry snowcat skiing.

Temple Square's light show.

Photo: J Mathis/Visit Salt Lake

The Cliff Spa offers rooftop views and full amenities, including spa treatments, an outdoor pool and enormous hot tub. Onsite lodging options range from hotel rooms and suites at the Cliff Lodge to spacious condos at the Iron Blossom. Guests can find a range of dining options from coffee shops to fine restaurants throughout the resort on the mountain itself..

Solitude: Sneak away for some Solitude. The sister resort to Deer Valley features over 65 runs and three bowls spread out over 1,200 acres (20 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate, and 30 percent advanced terrain). Numerous high-speed lifts access varied terrain with a vertical drop of up to 2,047 feet.  Spend some peaceful time on 10 km of snowshoe trails, raise your heartrate on cross-country skiing on 20 km of trails at the Nordic Center, or glide across the ice skating rink to cozy fire pits nearby. 

Where to Stay

In Salt Lake City, you can stay at a luxury hotel, a charming bed-and-breakfast, or rent a condominium or home — lodging options are plentiful. Many of the slopeside accommodations offer convenience and luxury and are a great way to relax in luxury and soak up the ambiance of resorts.

For luxury accommodations in the city, Grand America in downtown Salt Lake City is known for its “old world opulence” and features 775 luxury rooms and suites complete with marble bathrooms. The property, which has a prime downtown location, has received numerous awards and is the only Salt Lake City property to receive the prestigious Forbes Four Star rating. Add the fact that the Grand Spa features a full menu of spa and salon services, including massage, steam rooms, saunas and an indoor pool, and you’ve got quite the relaxing retreat. The pet-friendly Hotel Monaco is home to a top restaurants and bar scene in Bambara and the Vault and is walking distance from downtown theaters, performing arts venues and an outdoor ice rink. Explore more top Salt Lake City hotels.

The Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall.

Photo: Scott Jarvie

Cultured Amenities After Dark

When the sun goes down and the ski slopes empty out, head downtown and soak up the metropolitan culture and nightlife of this world-class city. Salt Lake City offers high culture, entertainment, and a wide array of fine dining options. It also has over 350 nightclubs and bars, including places to dance, take in live jazz music, watch a comedy show, catch the game, or enjoy a local coffee, brew or a martini with your favorite people.

Arts lovers will enjoy catching a performance at the Utah Symphony or watching an opera singer belt out the tunes at the Utah Opera. The Tabernacle Choir also dishes up world-class performances on Temple Square, which also brightens up downtown with more than 800,000 lights every holiday season.  One of the best views of the show is from The Roof Restaurant. Though they don't serve alcohol at The Roof, they do serve the city's best gourmet dining buffet, packed with flavor and value. Don't worry — there will be plenty of time to walk, bike-taxi or Lyft to a downtown bar for a digestif, probably necessary following one of the finest buffets you'll ever stroll.

Fireside on Regent.

Photo: Austen Diamond

For a theatrical show, catch a family-friendly performance at the Hale Center Theatre or the Pioneer Theatre Company, the professional theatre in residence at University of Utah. Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC) is another local favorite for their irreverence and parody.

Dance aficionados can watch ballerinas perform at Ballet West or take in a contemporary dance performance by the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.

The Utah Repertory Theater Company is a nonprofit semi professional dance group that captivates crowds. Art lovers will also enjoy taking in the variety of galleries in the city as well as its many museums
Hundreds of restaurants offer up all cuisines and types of dining. Salt Lake City is alive with great local dining options. Not sure where to start? Check out this fantasy (and fantastic) 10-course journey through some of the best food and drink of Utah’s capital city to plan your night out. Sample some Salt Lake City culture for a thoroughly enjoyable après ski evening.

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