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?
Who is going on this trip?
Experienced powder skiers, families, snowboarders, nonskiers? Utah has a wide range of resorts in urban to remote locations catering to beginner to Olympic skiers and snowboarders looking for powder paradise and everything else (Read: Which Utah Ski Resort is Right for You). Although there’s no guarantee you’ll see fresh pow, especially if planning your vacation months in advance, there are seasonal indicators (i.e., El Niño, La Niña) that may help predict which areas of Utah are more favorable for big storms. Check Utah ski weather forecasts for daily and long-range reports.
Yes, you can stay at one resort and chase powder at another! Transportation and lodging options are plentiful throughout the state making it easy to become a Utah powderhound. So, stay a few nights in Park City and, if a storm is predicted in the Cottonwood Canyons, then move to a lodge there and wake up to powder.
Pro Tip: This is a great way to avoid traffic on a powder day, as well. If Little Cottonwood Canyon has a powder day on a Friday night, consider skiing Park City or Snowbasin on Saturday morning instead. Planning on going to Brighton? Head north to Powder Mountain or south to Sundance Resort to find fresh tracks and fewer crowds.
Although snowplows and avalanche patrols clear the highways as quickly as possible (Utah schools rarely close for snow), winter driving conditions should always be monitored and respected (Read: How to Prepare for “The Greatest Snow on Earth”).
All-wheel drive cars, SUVs or chains are required in the Cottonwood Canyons all season long and recommended everywhere else in Utah. Request one in advance when renting. If you don’t want to drive or aren’t comfortable driving in winter snow conditions, then consider a transportation shuttle service, Lyft, Uber or Uber Ski (with ski racks). The UTA Ski Bus can take you from Salt Lake Valley to the Cottonwood Canyon resorts and from Ogden to its neighboring resorts and, in Park City, the city bus is free as well as a great way to find out where to ski, dine and listen to great music. To help keep traffic Utah ski moving, especially in the Cottonwood Canyons, consider mass transit and carpooling options where available. If you are behind the wheel, remember to take it slow in the snow.
If you really, really want to ski Utah powder but have only skied East Coast ice, then consider starting low and slow before heading to the 11,000 foot summit at Snowbird. Skiing deep pow in Mineral Basin is incredible but sledding down in a toboggan with ski patrol is not. A white out powder day is not the time to “go big or go home.” Everyone else is going big and will run you over! Even the sweetest Utah mom will shout, “There are no friends on a powder day,” to her dawdling kids. Give yourself a few introductory turns or, even better, take a lesson so you can crack the powder code quickly (Read: Learn to Ski (and Ride) Better).
Pro Tip: Get your friends to take a group lesson on a powder day. Not only does this get you to the head of lift lines, but your instructor can show you where the secret stashes of snow are hidden throughout the resort and how to ski them well. The per person price yields a huge benefit.
Relationship Tip: Do not try to teach your spouse, fiancée or significant other to ski. Period. Pay for a lesson. It’s cheaper than couples counseling.
If you have nonskiers, then the Cottonwood Canyons resorts (Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton) near Salt Lake City or Snowbasin and Powder Mountain near Ogden provide numerous entertainment, cultural and shopping activities to give them a fantastic vacation while you’re snorkeling through the State’s deepest powder. Also, although Deer Valley and Alta are skier-only resorts, snowboarders will find their big snow bliss at adjacent Park City and Snowbird.
If you’re trying to make everyone in your group happy, then check out Woodward Park City, a sports action hub filled with indoor and outdoor activities for all.
If you want powder, powder and more … then consider catskiing at a resort for one run or an entire day, or reserve a spot for heli-skiing and a luxe yurt at Whisper Ridge, Utah’s only backcountry ski resort.
For someone hoping for a beach vacation (or just big open spaces with fewer people), suggest the Southern Utah resorts including Brian Head and Eagle Point. These aren’t on the beach, but if you fly into Las Vegas and spend a few days by a pool in St. George or canyoneering near Zion National Park before you dive into the nearby powder, they might forgive you.