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Family and Budget Guide to the One and Only Ski City: Salt Lake

Written by Kristen Pope

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Snowbird Ski Resort   |  Marc Piscotty

Salt Lake City isn't your regular ski town. It's the only Ski City. With big city, world-class amenities galore and 11 different resorts within an hour of Salt Lake City International Airport, a trip to Ski City can satiate any skier's or snowboarder's bucket list. Best of all, it's family-friendly and budget-friendly. See what makes Utah one of the best ski destinations in the western U.S. for families on a budget.

Easy Access to Salt Lake City Skiing

Within an hour of the airport, you'll find 11 different resorts nestled in the Wasatch Mountain Range. Head to the slopes for big mountain skiing and enjoy the big city amenities between trips to the mountain. (See the itinerary: "Ski City Downhill + Downtown")

The city boasts well over 1,000 restaurants and 150 hotels, and Ski City's four resorts — Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird and Alta. These four resorts each see an average of over 500 inches of The Greatest Snow on Earth per year. The amenities, accessibility and affordability make these some of the best family ski resorts on Earth.

Alta Ski Area

Photo: Scott Markewitz

Alta: For Skiers Only

Alta is a skier's dream (no snowboarding allowed) that receives 550 inches of the fluffy white stuff per year on average. This powder skiing paradise offers challenging terrain as well as great beginner and intermediate skiing options with six lifts to access 116 runs. With a 2,538-foot vertical drop, you'll find plenty of elevation to get your laps in with a view you won’t soon forget. Snowcat skiing is available in Grizzly Gulch Bowl and Nordic skiers can enjoy 5 km of groomed track for classic or skate skiing.

The resort offers ski-in/ski-out lodges, with packages that include breakfast and dinner, as well as fireplaces and cozy gathering spaces. Home and condo rentals are available with convenient shuttle service to the lifts. Up high on the mountain, your dining options range from hamburgers to white tablecloth options for a fancy night out, if you've included it in your budget. Check out Alta Lodge, Rustler Lodge and the Peruvian, among other Little Cottonwood Canyon-area lodges (Alta is adjacent to Snowbird Ski Resort). The least expensive options on the slope are typically dorm-style rooms or browse accommodations in the nearby Salt Lake Valley, below.

Brighton Ski Resort

Photo: Jay Dash

Brighton: Family-Friendly Resort

This family-friendly ski and snowboard area is a great place to learn the sport and many locals take their first laps at this resort. With mellow runs and a friendly attitude, this is one of the best family Salt Lake City skiing destinations in the area, frequently drawing younger skiers and snowboarders and families. The 66 runs are accessed from six different lifts and you'll enjoy 1,875 vertical feet of exploration. This resort shares a boundary with Solitude and you can access both resorts with the SOLBRIGHT Pass. The park and super pipe area has 40 rails and boxes, a booming sound system, and a 350-foot-long super pipe that's 15 feet deep to practice tricks and catch a little air. 

Night skiing lets you explore after the sun goes down with 200 acres of lighted runs. Base area accommodation options include cabins and vacation home rentals, the 20-room Brighton Lodge where children under 10 stay free, Molly Green's Tavern and places to grab a burger and some nachos. Three miles down the road is the shuttle-served Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant, Big Cottonwood Canyon's only bed and breakfast. 

Snowbird

Photo: Scott Markewitz

Snowbird: For the Adventurers

Absorb the extraordinary view as you take the Aerial Tram to the 11,000-foot top of Hidden Peak and enjoy the fast, steep and deep runs on Snowbird's legendary mountain. Carve wide-open bowls, fly down steep chutes and make your way through the mountain itself on North America's only ski tunnel — a 600-foot underground conveyor belt to access Mineral Basin. Don't worry, intermediate skiers and boarders will find plenty of mellow terrain here too.

And the snow sticks around for a long time — some years you can ski on the Fourth of July. The resort offers a 3,240-foot vertical drop with 168 runs, fairly evenly spread among between beginner, intermediate and expert terrain. Take a mountain tour, go snowcat skiing in the Upper American Fork Canyon, go snowshoeing, or take a snowmobile tour. With all of these options, there’s something for everyone to create special memories to value for a lifetime. Condos and lodges are available to rent slopeside — including the Lodge at Snowbird, Inn at Snowbird and iconic Cliff Lodge — and mountain dining options including burgers, chili, pizza and salads.

Solitude Mountain Resort

Photo: Adam Clark

Solitude: Skiing, Snowshoe Trails, and Campfires

You can find peace and quiet at this 1,200-acre resort with 82 runs to explore. Enjoy eight lifts and a 2,494-foot vertical drop with six percent beginner runs, 43 percent intermediate, and 51 percent advanced/expert terrain. Spend some peaceful time on 10 km of snowshoe trails or cross-country skiing on 20 km of trails at the Nordic Center. Solitude was acquired by Alterra Mountain Company in 2018 and continues to maintain a whole European-style village of great accommodations and activities to explore.

Stay and Play Downtown

Salt Lake City offers over 150 hotels and a wide array of other lodging options, including home and condominium rentals. Stay slopeside or rest your head in Salt Lake City proper — each option offers a huge number of perks. Basically, along the I-15 corridor of Salt Lake County there exists a continuous stream of potential accommodations with balanced access to Ski City resorts or the Olympic Oval, described below. Or stick to downtown to enjoy an impressive performing arts portfolio, established breweries, a burgeoning craft cocktail scene and great cultural experiences. (Read: "Destination Ski City: Culture Élevé")

With public transportation to all four resorts you won't even have to worry about slick roads if you stay in town. Others prefer to stay slopeside to be first in the morning lift lines. The city is minutes away from the Wasatch Range and the options are endless. Between all the great places to stay you’ll uncover dining options ranging from locally renowned taco carts in the Sears parking lot to an array of can’t-miss sit-down dining, including a number of hot spots featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" (Read: "The Best Restaurants in Salt Lake City"). There's also a thriving performing arts scene, part of Salt Lake City's cultured amenities after dark and much of it is connected by TRAX, Salt Lake's light rail service. (Read: "Digging Salt Lake City for 48 Hours")

Downtown Salt Lake City offers an impressive performing arts portfolio, established breweries, a burgeoning craft cocktail scene and great cultural experiences.

Photo: Derek Smith

Set against the Salt Lake City's foothills, the Natural History Museum of Utah contains exhibitions exploring over 150 years of Utah's ancient past.

Photo: Mark Osler

Alongside its brews, A. Fisher Brewing Company features rotating food trucks, making it a great place to spend an afternoon or evening.

Photo: Shay Read

Don't Miss Ski City's Museums and Entertainment

In addition to Salt Lake City skiing, you'll find entertainment galore with world-class amenities and great options for the whole family.

  • If you're seeking more outdoor adventure, head out on snowshoes, cross-country skis, or snowmobiles to explore the Wasatch Range, hop on a snow tube, or lace up your skates for some time out on an ice rink. (Read: "10 New Things To Do This Winter")
  • The Utah Olympic Oval is the headquarters for the U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team and it offers a wide array of cool ice options from public skating to curling classes for adults and kids ages eight and up. The Olympic Oval is part of a comprehensive Gold Medal Experience that Utah offers, extending 45 minutes north to Snowbasin and 30 minutes east to Park City.
  • Spend a day indoors at one of the many museums the area has to offer, including the Natural History Museum of Utah, where you can explore everything from dinosaurs to gems to ancient history and the wonders of the sky, and the Discovery Gateway Children's Museum with 60,000 square feet of fun and interactive hands-on exhibits.
  • The Leonardo will engage the whole family with its fascinating blend of science and art, or you might bundle up and see what Red Butte Garden has to offer in winter.
  • During the holiday season (beginning November 27, 2015), Salt Lake City's top tourist attraction, Temple Square, lights up with more than 800,000 Christmas lights.
  • Visitors to downtown may ride TRAX light rail and buses for free in the Free Fare Zone, including between the family friendly ice skating of Gallivan Plaza, the lights of Temple Square, City Creek shopping, and the Vivint Smart Home Arena where the Utah Jazz play, and near the children's museum, Discovery Gateway.

Discounts and Deals

A big part of what makes Utah home of the best family ski resorts is its affordability: families with a fifth or sixth grader are eligible to participate in the Ski Utah Passport program. For $45, fifth graders can ski or ride three days at each of Utah's 15 resorts and sixth graders can enjoy one day at each resort. This offer isn't just for Utah-based families — all families can take advantage of this opportunity to ski The Greatest Snow On Earth®. See more beginner and kid ski deals.
 
The Salt Lake Ski Super Pass is your discounted lift ticket to Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, or Solitude — with prices starting at $426 for three days in a 14-day window ($219 for children 12 and under). Afternoon skiers can also take advantage of Alta's Sunnyside at 3, which includes four afternoons of skiing on Alta's Sunnyside and Albion lifts for $59. 

Frequent skiers will love the Ski Utah Yeti Pass which allows access to all Utah resorts for just $649. This pass provides one ticket to each resort, which comes down to $43 per ticket — a great deal for frequent riders. Snag a transferable Ski Utah Gold Pass and share it with family and friends. Seniors and military members can also receive reduced price passes at some Utah resorts.

Salt Lake City Skiing

Plan Your Trip

You can practically see the slopes from the tarmac at Salt Lake City International Airport. Unlike other ski destinations, once you’ve deplaned and grabbed your bags, you’re less than an hour away from The Greatest Snow on Earth®. There are 11 ski resorts along the Wasatch Mountain Range. Less time in the car, more time on the mountain.

Utah's Easy Access

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