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

Written by Kristen Pope

Snowbird Ski Resort   |  Marc Piscotty

Winter in the Wasatch.

Photo: Adam Clark

Photo: Austen Diamond

Family-Friendly Options in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City isn't your regular ski town. It's the only Ski City. With big city, world-class amenities galore and 10 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 Salt Lake City International Airport, you'll find 10 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.

The city boasts well over 1,000 restaurants and 150 hotels, and Ski City's four resorts — Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird, and Alta — are each a little more than 30 minutes from downtown. 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: 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 10 lifts to access 116 runs. With a 2,020-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 LodgeRustler 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: 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 Sol-Bright 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. See the snow report.  

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. (Brighton is next to Solitude Resort.)

Food truck love in downtown Salt Lake.

Photo: Shay Read

Photo: Scott Markewitz

Snowbird's conveyor belt-equipped Peruvian Tunnel

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 2,900-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 SnowbirdInn at Snowbird and iconic Cliff Lodge — and mountain dining options including burgers, chili, pizza and salads.

Solitude: Skiing, Snowshoe Trails, and Campfires

You can find peace and quiet at this 1,200-acre resort with 66 named runs and three bowls to explore. Enjoy eight lifts and a 2,047-foot vertical drop with 20 percent beginner runs, half intermediate, and 30 percent advanced/expert terrain. Spend some peaceful time on 10 km of snowshoe trails, cross-country skiing on 20 km of trails at the Nordic Center, or ice skating at the rink with cozy fire pits nearby. Deer Valley now owns Solitude and plans on upgrading the chairlifts, lodges, and more. While that's something to look forward to, there's still 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.

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. 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.

The Natural History Museum

Photo: Matt Morgan

Natural History Museum of Utah

Photo: Mark Osler

Photo: Austen Diamond

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.
  • 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. With this passport, fifth graders can ski or ride three days for free at each of Utah's 14 resorts and sixth graders can enjoy one day at each resort gratis. This offer isn't just for Utah-based families — all families can take advantage of this opportunity to ski The Greatest Snow On Earth®.

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 $46 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 many resorts.

Beginners will love January in Utah since it's Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month and Utah resorts offer some of their best travel deals for families this month. Each resort offers unique introductory packages that can be as low as $45 for a lesson, beginner lift ticket, and gear rental.

Afternoon skiers can take advantage of $10 lift tickets after 3 pm at Alta that are good for the Sunnyside, Albion, and Cecret lifts. Three of Alta's base-area tow ropes (Grizzly, Transfer, and Alta Lodge) are also free all day, every day.

Explore more Ski City and book a trip today! Ski Utah offers up-to-the-minute snow reports, forecasts and other weather information that can help you plan your getaway.

Utah Ski Deals January 2018

Stay in Salt Lake during the month of January and ski for free: Book lodging in any participating Salt Lake area hotel during the month of January 1-31, 2018 and receive up to two (2) Ski City Super Passes for each room night booked

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