Have a passion for NBA basketball? Use your team's away game in Salt Lake City to show your support, while experiencing the only Ski City.
It's no secret Utah is a basketball town. The Utah Jazz were Utah's first professional sports franchise, this town shows up big time to support them — making for a great arena experience. And the arena itself is newly renovated and boasts 30 dining options, many of them local favorites.
But the game itself is just the beginning. Salt Lake City provides all the landmark establishments, high-rated dining and nightlife (yes, Steph Curry — you heard right), mass transit, creative culture, urban edginess and local events you expect to find in a thriving metro area, with the convenience and affordability of a place that hasn’t been discovered by the masses. In fact, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr admitted his favorite NBA road restaurant is none other than Salt Lake City's Valter's Osteria.
The city's official elevation is 4,330 feet and looking to the east, the foothills quickly give way to the airy 11,000+ feet peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, home to the world-renowned ski areas of Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude, just 30 minutes from downtown. And while each resort offers slopeside accommodations running the full spectrum of amenities and budget, you can also ski like a local and make the easy run back down the mountain for the game paired with dinner, a drink, a concert, a show or whatever suits your mood.
In this itinerary, we've given you enough ideas to fill at least four days, whether or not you ski everyday and whether you choose to apply your skills at a single resort or try sampling all four. (For the latter choice, we recommend the Ski City Super Pass.)
- Quick Guide: High Culture in the One and Only Ski City
- Quick Guide: Family-Friendly Options in Salt Lake City
How to use this itinerary:
- Day 1, take care of what you came for. Cheer your team on and experience the atmosphere of Vivint SmartHome Arena. In addition, experience the city's culture and urban vibe.
- Days 2 and 3 offer up ideas for two days of skiing the backyard Wasatch Mountains that can easily expand to four or more days.
- Day 4 rounds out the itinerary's options with an overview of Salt Lake City's dining, drinks and live music. In other words, the essentials.
- More Than Coffee
- Shaping Temple Square
- Utah Jazz
Start your day getting to know the city's caffeinated brew scene. Then take a fantasy journey through a day's worth of indulgence. Visitors to Salt Lake could certain spend a day exploring the best in craft coffee, cuisine and cocktails alongside a chocolate and cheese tasting or a trip to one of multiple local breweries or brewpubs.
Before the big game, first-time visitors might enjoy a trip to Temple Square. The spiritual center for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Temple Square offers free walking tours of the Temple grounds available in forty languages. The area also provides access to one of the most extensive collections of genealogical records in the world and frequent performances by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Oh, and here's a pro tip: As you're navigating the city (walking, bike share, taxi, Uber, Lyft, public transit or car), if you know that part of Temple Square is essentially (0,0) on the grid, each street heading north or south adds 100 and each street heading east or west adds 100. Thus, nine blocks south and nine blocks east you'll be at 900 South and 900 East, locally known as 9th and 9th. (Read about more Salt Lake City neighborhoods here.)
Vivint SmartHome Arena isn't lacking when it comes to experiencing the local food scene. More than 30 restaurants and vendors (many of them local) occupy the arena, with the four corners of the arena each featuring a specialty menu, including barbecue from R&R, philly cheesesteaks and hand-tossed pizzas from Maxwell’s, fresh Mexican food from El Chubasco, and gourmet hamburgers and signature beef sandwiches from Cubby’s. Check out local favorites Cup Bop, Hires Big H (try the root beer freeze!) and dessert from Iceberg or Farr's.
No coffee shop in Salt Lake City ever feels wrong: "Every time I step into The Rose, Three Pines, La Barba or Blue Copper, I know exactly what experience I will get." Follow author and former barista Austin Wright as he explores the emergent coffee scene along the path of some of its most dedicated baristas.
Temple Square in Salt Lake City is Utah's most popular tourist attraction. The 35-acre area contains more than 15 attractions related to Mormon heritage and beliefs. Whether it’s the rich history, the gorgeous gardens and architecture, or the vivid culture, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience.
Utah sports fans are known for their passion and loyalty to their teams. No other team in the state has fans that exemplify such dedication than the fans of NBA's Utah Jazz. Vivint Smart Home Arena, the raucous home of the Utah Jazz, is located in downtown Salt Lake City within the Free Fare Zone of TRAX light rail or a couple of blocks' walking distance from Temple Square.
- Alta or Snowbird
- Curry & Fine Wine, Dining at 11,000'
- Performing Arts
Little Cottonwood Canyon offers quick metro-to-mountain access and the option to pick a single resort, or purchase a combined pass. You’ll also find plenty of gear rental outfitters if you don’t have your own equipment.
The AltaSnowbird Pass enables skiers to access both resorts' terrain via a connection gate at the saddle separating Alta's Albion Basin and Snowbird's Mineral Basin. The result is a combined 4,700 acres and some 283 runs. Though there’s a good balance among beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain (with the edge going to intermediate and advanced), both resorts offer some of Utah’s best steep and deep.
Alta Ski Area is a skier's paradise (no snowboards allowed) that receives 550 inches of the fluffy white stuff per year on average and features a vertical drop of more than 2,000 feet and some of Utah’s most storied ski runs, like the infamous High Rustler. Rustic lodging, old-school bars and a range of accommodations round out the resort.
While there’s great terrain for beginners at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, expert skiers and riders can carve first tracks in wide-open bowls, fly down steep chutes, and make their way through the mountain itself on North America's only ski tunnel. Check out Snowbird's Hidden Peak, which offers a local-inspired menu with an 11,000-foot view and the flagship Aerie Restaurant (home to one of Utah's most impressive wine collections), among seven sit-down restaurants, four bars, four cafeterias, and three windows restaurants, not to mention room service and 50,000 sq. ft. of banquet facilities.
After two days of skiing, relax at a spa and loosen up for an evening out on the town. Salt Lake City boasts the metropolitan culture and nightlife of a world-class city— including a complete portfolio of professional performing art companies.
In this Citizens of Mountain Time profile, local writer and photographer Austen Diamond spends a day getting to know Fred Barbier, the director of resort dining at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort. Barbier has amassed one of the largest wine collections in Utah to support seven sit-down restaurants, four bars, four cafeterias, and three windows restaurants, not to mention room service and 50,000 sq. ft. of banquet facilities.
Explore a thriving metropolis with amenities and entertainment comparable to cities twice its size — including the professional companies of Ballet West and Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, multiple theater companies and Broadway-style performances.
- Brighton or Solitude
- Après-ski at Utah's Vintage Bars & Modern Classics
- A Night on the Town
The neighboring Big Cottonwood Canyon also offers easy access, combined resort passes (SolBright or Ski City Super Pass) and gear rental outfitters, if required.
The amenities, accessibility and affordability of both resorts make Brighton and Solitude a great deal. Brighton, in particular, is renowned locally for its ski school and Solitude's Deer Valley ownership ensures incredible customer service and dining. Between the two resorts, you'll have access to 15 lifts and over a combined 2,250 skiable acres and 130 named runs.
Brighton Ski Resort has one of Utah’s longest ski school traditions, multiple terrain parks for riders and excellent night skiing. Milly Bowl is a powdery playground that can keep you interested all day.
Solitude Mountain Resort starts with a European-style village and base (complete with
The après-ski feature below highlights a number of popular spots for unwinding, including choices near the mouth of the Cottonwood canyons or in downtown Ski City. From there, the town is yours. Book a second show, check out some live music, sneak in some shopping or just explore the city. You'll find more inspiration on Day 4 of this itinerary.
The Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts — Solitude and Brighton — are the closest to Salt Lake City and see an average of over 500 inches of snow per year. Enjoy one incredible day at either resort, or take advantage of the combined SolBright Pass, which enables you to access your choice of 15 lifts over the resorts’ combined 2,250 skiable acres and 130 named runs. Or try out Solitude in the day and Brighton at night.
An act of celebration and relaxation, one simply must make time for apres-ski with your carving compadres after the lifts have closed.
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. Whether you're looking for family-friendly activities on a budget (ice skating, Christmas lights, a Utah Jazz game or children's museum), or high-class culture élevé (Utah Symphony or Opera, Ballet West, art gallery stroll) wander down from the slopes for vibrant downtown life.
- The Perfect Meal
- The Salt of Sound
Below are a few more stories and ideas to flesh out your itinerary:
Take a fantasy journey through a day's worth of indulgence in The Perfect Meal, a story that might help you narrow down your choices — in 2014, Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Salt Lake City one of America's 5 New Foodie Cities and things have only gotten bigger and better!
Finish things up with a distillery tour for a behind-the-scenes look at craft distillation in Utah or drop into one of downtown Salt Lake's popular cocktail bars to see these libations put to work.
If you've got one more evening activity in you, check out Salt Lake's music scene. We're particularly partial to the video The Salt of Sound, which visits some of the city's best music venues.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently named Salt Lake City one of America's 5 New Foodie Cities. Settle in for comfort food at historic dives or get gussied up for multi-course wine-pairing dinners over white tablecloth. Relax with award-winning beers or be amazed with cutting-edge modern gastronomic fare.
The business and craft of distilling is booming in the Beehive state. Visitors can experience a growing variety of unique spirits from local fruit brandies to “Valley Tan” whiskey made using best guesses of historic pioneer-era recipes. There’s a diverse and ever-growing spectrum of spirits to suit any palate.
Video: Once you get "Bad" Brad Wheeler talking about music-related experiences, traditions and lore in Utah, it’s difficult to get him to stop — but you wouldn’t want him to. Watch the former public radio DJ and blues musician as he tours some of his favorite music venues in downtown Salt Lake City, and plays some blues along the way.