Last year, we headed to Utah for the first time. We loved the skiing so much that we returned again this winter. I have rarely returned at any destination for a holiday so this underlines how special the American state is for skiers.
In 2015, I wrote a blog 44 things to know about skiing in Utah. This time I want to tell you why I think Utah is such a great place for a skiing holiday.
28 reasons to book a ski trip to Utah
1) Access to ski resorts is very easy in Utah. Flights take you to Salt Lake City. Within an hour’s drive of the city you can reach at least six ski resorts, including Deer Valley, Park City & Canyons, Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird and Alta.
2) The state is home to more than a dozen ski centres.
3) The range of skiing in the ski resorts is breath-taking. There are easy graded green runs, intermediate blues and black runs that vary from quite difficult to jaw-droppingly daunting.
4) There are lots of fantastic mogul runs to enjoy. Last year, I learned the basics of mogul skiing. This year, I improved immensely and I now choose mogul runs over groomed runs where possible because they are more challenging and great fun.
5) Annual snowfalls are stunning. Most years the resorts get at least five metres, sometimes eight metres. Each week, we were told, some 2ft can fall.
6) When the snow is fresh it is light, fluffy and powdery. Skiing on this type of snow feels like surfing on smooth waters.
7) Utah is the place here you can “hero” ski all day long. Hero skiing usually takes place on fresh snow and even if you are not a great skier this type of powdery snow makes you look awesome.
8) In Utah you rarely come across the icy type of snow that you would normally associate with wetter Europe. The snow is drier and less likely to be icy.
9) A takeover by Vail Resorts has seen the two ski resorts of Park City and Canyons become one thanks to a new gondola link. With 7300 acres of skiable terrain, this joined resort is now the biggest in America.
11) You can ski from the resort into the centre of Park City town. We stepped off our skis, crossed one road and walked straight into Park City High West Distillery for a drink and a meal.
12) Up market Deer Valley Resort neighbours Park City and is exclusively for skiers (no snowboarders allowed). The resort limits the number of skiers to 8,500 per day. It’s where the rich and famous ski on beautifully groomed slopes and eat in fine dining mountain restaurants. But don’t let this put you off because it’s a great resort to ski, with wonderfully groomed slopes, lots of variety of terrain, lovely and helpful on-slope mountain guides and not a single boarder to scare you by whizzing by at scary speeds.
13) Deer Valley is also home to some impressively luxurious hotels. We enjoyed five wonderful nights in a bedroom suite (this means huge bathroom, kitchen, living and sleeping area, as well as balcony) at Chateaux Deer Valley. The hotel also has a beautiful pool and spa and its own ski hire shop Ski ‘n’ See.
14) Ski ‘n’ See were kind enough to give us a demo ski package. It was a lot of fun trying the latest piste skis and being able to carve nicely on groomed slopes.
15) Deer Valley played host to the 2016 FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup. It was an amazing experience watching the moguls and aerials events. The G-Force and I were lucky enough to have VIP tickets, which meant we were treated to fantastic food and free drinks in a mountain tent located next to the competition slopes.
16) The four resorts closest to Salt Lake City, Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird, can be reached by free bus or TRAX light rail train if you purchase a Ski City Super Pass. This pass also means you avoid queuing to buy a lift ticket at the resort. You can also save up to 40% on ski rentals.
17) These four resorts are much quieter than the bigger resorts of Deer Valley and Park City.
18) Alta is coveted by skiers who like steep and testing terrain. (No snowboarders are allowed.) It also offers great access to a wealth of back country routes. Alta and Snowbird receive the biggest snowfalls of all the Utah resorts.
19) Snowbird is my favourite of the four SLC “local” resorts. I love the huge expanse of the resort, the amazing Mineral basin with wide, wide blue runs and steep but just-about-manageable black runs. The views are incredible and the snow is superb, especially after a night of snowfall. This resort boasts a huge 100-person Tram that takes you from the base to Hidden Peak, some 11,000ft above sea level, and a one-of-its-kind ski tunnel.
20) Brighton is mellow and beautiful. The wide and open slopes are perfect for hero skiing and lots of breathers to look at the views.
21) Brighton is linked to Solitude, so you can ski both resorts in one day. I love the stats that go with gorgeous Solitude: “An average of 500 inches of annual snowfall, 1200 acres of terrain, 77 named runs and three bowls.”
22) The four resorts rarely feel busy despite being so close to Salt Lake City.
23) If you think that Utah is a dry state you should think again. Draft beer is a bit weedy at 3.2% (the law keeps it this way) but bottled beer is usually very strong. The G-Force enjoyed trying a range of bottled beers from 6% to 9% alcohol content. (After a Dry January it took only one or two bottles of the strong stuff to make him giggle!)
24) The strange bra trees will make you laugh. For some reason, people throw bras and beaded necklaces on to trees that sit below the chairlifts.
25) Ski mountain cafes and restaurants sell an impressive range of meals and snacks. A single serving of salad, chilli, pizza or soup is often enough to feed two people.
26) The ski resorts are super friendly. Fellow skiers talk to you in chairlifts. Ticket sellers, ski hosts, guides, check-out workers etc are wonderfully welcoming and very cheerful. At first I thought they were being fake and disingenuous but I believe now that most people want to be friendly and helpful so as to make your stay a great experience.
27) Last year, we laughed at the name of bourbon made in Utah called Knobs Creek! This year, the name of a back country route, Gobblers Knob, made as giggle. A lot!
28) The G-Force and I now own our own sets of back country touring skis and boots. This year, we enjoyed some amazing off-piste skiing and tours. Utah is home to numerous routes. You need to go with a guide or have the experience to be avalanche aware and capable of skiing tricky terrain. But once you try back country skiing you’ll be hooked. The freedom, amazing routes, fantastic snow and views are out of this world.
See SkiUtah #skiutah