Hidden Gems: Utah's Secrets
Everyone knows that Utah has some of the best skiing on the planet.
Snowbird and Alta, which sit at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, attract some of the most devoted diehards in skidom. Then there’s the Park City cluster, including Park City Mountain Resort, the high-fallutin’ Deer Valley, and the sprawling Canyons, all of which make this town bustle any time of year. But Utah is a big state, and there are so many other spots that get all the snow with none of the crowds. Here’s a roundup of our faves.
Solitude boasts some impressive terrain. Photo: Adam Clark/visitutah.com
Solitude, which sits in Big Cottonwood Canyon just 40 minutes from Salt Lake, is on the Ikon Pass, which means it’s no longer completely undiscovered. It is still, however, a far cry from the crowded mazes of its more famous brothers, Alta and Snowbird, and its small town–local vibe is mostly unchanged. With 1,200 skiable acres, real-deal terrain, and a staggering 500 annual inches of dry Utah pow, Solitude is certainly destination-worthy. Built over three impressive ridgelines, it’s black diamond–studded map includes cliff hucks, chutes, powder aprons, and some of the best tree skiing in all of Utah. It has slopeside lodging, too. (You can also access Silver Fork, some of the best backcountry terrain in the state, via the lower parking lot.)
Brighton sits just a little farther up Big Cottonwood than Solitude, and might get just a little more white stuff—and fewer skiers—as a result. It’s best-known for its world-class ski and snowboard school, or as “the place where Utah learns.” It boasts 1,050 skiable acres inbounds, plus tons of excellent sidecountry in areas like Hidden Canyon and Mt. Millicent. This place has every terrain you could ask for—experts will love the double-diamonds off the Milly and Great Western Express lifts. Like its sister, Solitude, Brighton is also on the Ikon Pass.
Snowbasin is our Graphic Guru's favorite Utah resort. Map: skiutah.com
Snowbasin lies 45 minutes north of Salt Lake by Ogden, a cute little outpost that’s become a true ski town thanks to brands like Rossignol, Salomon, and Armada making it their HQ in recent years. With 3,000 skiable acres and 3,000 vertical feet, Snowbasin is bigger than Solitude and Brighton combined, and it’s rife with powdery steeps that will keep any expert happy for days. Thanks to the 2002 Olympics, it also boasts the nicest base lodges in skidom (replete with chandeliers in the bathrooms), but it does not have any dedicated lodging or nightlife. (Though it’s only a few miles as the crow flies from Ogden, it takes about 30 minutes to drive there, which means staying in Salt Lake is also a reasonable option.) The lack of a base village may be a detractor for some, but others love that it also keeps the crowds away and the powder untracked. Snowbasin is on the Ikon Pass.
Thirty five minutes northeast of Ogden, Powder Mountain is the largest ski resort you’ve never heard of. With 8,464 skiable acres, which remarkably ousts even Whistler Blackcomb, and only nine lifts to access it all, it’s the biggest resort in the North America. It’s aptly named, boasting 500 inches of the stuff each year, and has a staggering number of runs in all terrain types. So why is it such a secret? Well, it’s had new owners four times since 2006, the latest being entrepreneurs with visions of making it into an exclusive utopia for billionaires. Billionaires or no, this place is amazing—and lift tickets cost $139 for adults during peak periods.
If you time your visit right, you'll get the deepest powder at Eagle Point. Photo: indyskipass.com
Far from Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons and the bustle of Park City, Eagle Point sits roughly three and a half hours south of Salt Lake. With four lifts, a handful of blues and greens, and a dozen or so expert runs, this place isn’t known as a destination resort. Which means if you time it right, you’ll get some of its 350 annual inches of snow all to yourself. (After Jan. 3, it’s only open Friday to Monday, too, which gives the snow most of the week to stack up.) All the expert terrain spills off Lookout, which keeps ability levels separated and the moguls perfectly formed. It has 650 skiable acres, 1,500 vertical feet, and slopeside lodging starting at $149 per night.
A little farther south than Eagle Point, three hours and 45 minutes from Salt Lake or three hours from Vegas, sits Brian Head, a little resort known for its stunning views of red rock formations and the ledges of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It only has 650 skiable acres and 1,320 lift-served vertical, but its high elevation (9,600 feet—the highest in the state) means its snow is drier than smoke. There are more than a dozen blacks peppering the trail map, but they’re mellow in comparison to other resorts, cruising over undulating terrain. No matter—you get the views and the powder for less than $30 on off-peak days. And you’ll have it all to yourself.
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Steamboat, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.