Skiing in Utah
November 19, 2008 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I need help planning a ski trip to Utah in February - where should we stay and how should be get around?

We're doing a Saturday to Saturday trip, so we're looking at getting 5-5.5 days of skiing in. Our #1 priority is time at Snowbird/Alta, but we would be interested in going to Park City or The Canyons for a day or two if it's convenient. There are only two of us and we'd like to do the trip as inexpensively as possible, but we aren't averse to spending money if it's what it takes to have a good trip.

Are there convenient transportation options from Salt Lake City to the ski areas? I assume there must be some shuttle bus services, but these can be a crapshoot in terms of quality, convenience, and cost so I'd appreciate a testimonial. We would also consider renting a car if it turns out to be more cost-effective.

Or are we better off trying to stay closer to the mountains? Ideally we don't want to pay more than $150/night at the most, preferably less. Recommendations for specific hotels and lodging options to check out would be appreciated.

One more thing - what is the alcohol situation like in Utah? Can we buy non-watered down beer and/or liquor? Do bars serve normal booze? Is it ungodly expensive? We don't have great expectations for nightlife, but hitting a bar for a few nights would be a nice option.
posted by prozach1576 to Travel & Transportation around Utah (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We thought we were clever to stay in Salt Lake City last year--we'd just drive to wherever the snow was best! Two problems: first, at the end of January, we had to bribe a car rental agent in order to get a vehicle that could carry skis, despite having reserved a car with a ski rack; they were in very high demand. Second, we were nearly done in by an overnight snowstorm that closed most of the roads to the ski areas. We did make it to Park City (after a very unpleasant slow, icy drive) and had a great day of skiing there, but it's something to consider.
posted by magicbus at 8:18 AM on November 19, 2008

i have to ditto magicbus. we stayed at some condos just near the turn off to little cottonwood (snowbird/alta), and a big snowstorm robbed me of a morning of the best skiing ever.
posted by alkupe at 8:28 AM on November 19, 2008

SLC is about 45 minutes - 1 hour away from the ski areas, you will pay a lot more to be close to the mountains and the nightlife will suffer a bit as a result, but you will get a much better skiing experience as a result.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:52 AM on November 19, 2008

If you stay in downtown Salt Lake City or any of the neighboring areas you will have access to UTA Ski Buses, and for a couple bucks they will take you up either Little or Big Cottonwood canyon (which gives you access to a total of 4 different resorts - Alta (skiing only), Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude. With your budget I don't think you'll be able to find a room for that cheap next to the resorts.

Regarding the alcohol situation -- Yes you can buy regular strength beer, but only at State Liquor Stores. Liquor is served at some restaurants, but by law you must order food with the liquor (even if you're at the bar). There are "private" bars/clubs that don't have these imposed regulations, but I am not sure how easy it would be to get inside.
posted by arjuan at 8:57 AM on November 19, 2008

On the booze front: drinking was easy and prices were unremarkable. There's more than one kind of restaurant liquor license, but most every place we went had the "good" one that lets them serve full-strength beer, wine, etc. Bars/clubs are nominally private; you buy a temporary membership for a few bucks that will let your whole group go in. This page looks like a decent summary.
posted by magicbus at 9:30 AM on November 19, 2008

Snowbird is easily the best mountain in Utah overall. I second The World Famous' comment, stay at Snowbird. Then if it does have a huge snow storm you will be one of the only ones enjoying the fresh snow while the rest of Utah sits on the side of the road.

If I had to pick a mountain that I would recommend to an out-of-towner on a good powder day, it would be Snowbasin. It is hands down the best mountain in North America on a fresh powder my opinion of course.

I would honestly avoid the Canyons. It does not really get that good until later in the season because of its altitude. I would instead go to Brighton. If you are a snowboarder (I assume not because you mention Alta) Brighton is the best place for hits and parks.

Don't worry about the liquor laws you will have no problems getting great beer.

As a side note make sure you check out Market Street for breakfast and Porcupine lodge for after skiing beer and food.
posted by birdlips at 10:10 AM on November 19, 2008

I didn't realize you said February, so ya, the Canyons would be okay at that time of year....but I still suggest avoiding it because there are so many other better resorts.
posted by birdlips at 10:11 AM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: I love it when I find these questions. Disclaimer I work for Ski Utah.

If you want to primarily ski Snowbird and Alta your best bet is to stay up there. Snowbird has lots of lodging but it is pricey. There are several nice lodges around Alta also, but, they are also going to be more expensive. For the classic ski vibe, I recommend the Alta Lodge. Keep in mind that Alta and Snowbird are right next to each other and you can buy a joint lift ticket and ski from one resort to the other very easily. I don't think you'll be able to pull off a $150/night, but check out the Hot Deals page on You never know.

Staying in Salt Lake City is a much more affordable option. If you want to be closer to the resorts you can get lodging at the base of Little Cottonwood (Alta/Snowbird) and Big Cottonwood (Brighton, Solitude) Canyons. There are nice rental houses there and you'll only be about 20 minutes from the slopes. If you stay downtown you'll have more nightlife options, but, it'll take you around 45 minutes to get to the slopes. There are busses that run from downtown and from the mouth of the canyons to the Salt Lake Area resorts. But from downtown it takes a little while longer. When it snows hard, which I hope it does, there can be avalanche closures in either canyon, though Little Cottonwood is more susceptible to these closures. So, if you can't get up Little just drive up Big Cottonwood and head over to Brighton or Solitude. (Solitude is my personal favorite.) If you're not used to driving in snow, sometimes driving up the canyons can be pretty harrowing. Just park at the bottom and take the bus.

Getting to Park City is not too big a deal. You just hop on I-80 and drive over Parleys' Canyon. From downtown it'll probably take about 40 minutes on good roads to get over to The Canyons. More like 50 to Park City, Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley. No busses though, but, there are transportation companies. Because this is an interstate they do a pretty good job of keeping the road open, but, it can get hairy. These mountains are fun, but, to me they remind me of east coast resorts. For the most part pretty mellow terrain and wide runs cut through the trees. Beginner and Intermediate skiers love these resorts.

My personal favorite hidden gems are Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. Snowbasin is about 45 minutes from downtown SLC and Pow Mow is about an hour. These resorts see very little traffic but can have epic snow. Snowbasin is HUGE and STEEP. That's why I love it. Cat skiing at Pow Mow is very affordable and super fun.

Drinking in SLC isn't very hard and hopefully some of these laws will be changed (FINALLY!) by the time you get here. If you go into a bar that doesn't serve food then you need to have a membership. You can get a temporary one for about $5. If you are in a restaurant they will generally have a full bar and you won't need a membership. If you buy beer in the grocery store it is going to be 3.2% alcohol, which isn't very much lower than normal, and if you are from closer to sea level you probably won't notice the difference and we have a lot of great local micro brews. If you go to the liquor store you can get full stregth beer, wine, and liquor. Most state liquor stores close around 10 pm.

Anyway, I hope that helps. I think my email is in my profile, so hit me up if you have any other questions. Also, check out (shameless self link, but it really is the one stop info source) for info on lodging, rentals, the snow report, etc... We have resorts open already, but, the snow has slowed down a little, so pray for snow. Last year we started out similarly and ended up with one of the best winters I had ever seen with over 600 inches of powder. Thanks for coming to visit us and I'll look for you on the slopes.
posted by trbrts at 10:55 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the information, everyone!

It looks like staying at Snowbird or Alta might be a little out of our price range. I found ski packages through a Super 8 that looks to be conveniently located.

It's probably a dump but the rates for a room, lift tickets, and a car rental look outstanding.
posted by prozach1576 at 12:14 PM on November 19, 2008

I just want to give a shout-out to Deer Valley, which is the best skiing (IMO) of any resort in Utah and Colorado combined. If you did do Park City, it's an easy free shuttle bus from there to Deer Valley. We stayed in a Park City condo directly across from the ski lifts, but after the first day we just started taking the bus to Deer Valley and never went back to Park City, because it was just that much more awesome of a resort, with better runs, no snowboarders (sorry guys!) and very upscale facilities.
posted by np312 at 12:17 PM on November 19, 2008

np312, you're welcome to your opinion, but that's insane. have you skiied snowbird?
posted by alkupe at 1:12 PM on November 19, 2008

I HAVE skied snowbird, and it's great, but I'm not insane for preferring Deer Valley. To prove my sanity, I'll remind you Deer Valley was named the number one ski resort in North America by readers of SKI magazine in 2008 and recently again for 2009. To each their own.
posted by np312 at 6:41 PM on November 19, 2008

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