The Park City & Deer Valley Guide
Skiing in Utah certainly has its draws: wide-open terrain, more bluebird days than we can count, and some seriously good, consistent powder. (Case in point: This January alone, Deer Valley had already received more than 294 inches.) Another draw is the proximity to the airport—New Yorkers can be on the mountain by 1pm, and West Coasters can carve turns before lunch. And now, thanks to an alliance with mountain behemoth Vail Resorts, which owns Beaver Creek, Vail, Heavenly, and more, it seems that Park City, the laid-back mining town that many have known (and loved) for years, is finally getting the attention it deserves. The biggest news is that Park City Mountain Resort has merged with neighboring Canyons, resulting in a 7,300-acre mountain complete with a high-speed gondola called Quicksilver, as well as a handful of new on-mountain upgrades. The town itself continues to thrive, with new restaurants, shops, and even a performance venue popping up on Main Street.
The big news in Park City this year is that the town's namesake resort was purchased by Vail, which could be good or bad news depending on who you talk to. Vail already owned the formerly-named Canyons, Park City's northern sister, and the acquisition gave them the opportunity to install a brand-new, eight-person gondola connecting the two resorts from peak to peak and expanding the ski-able terrain to an (astonishing) combined 7,300 acres. Über-convenient for people staying near Main Street, you can actually access Park City from right downtown, making the entire town virtually ski-in, ski-out. A mountain this huge is guaranteed to have a wide range of terrain, but considering the unbelievable number of groomed runs, the sweet spot here is for intermediate skiers. Needless to say, it's also great for littles who've graduated from the magic carpet. Tip: If you're planning on multiple ski trips this year, consider investing in the Epic Pass, Vail Resorts' multi-mountain pass, which gives you unlimited access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Whistler-Blackcomb, and plenty more for a fixed price.
Snowbird & Alta
While Alta and Snowbird are distinct mountains (note that Alta isn't snowboard-friendly, while Snowbird is), the next-door-neighbors offer a joint pass called the Altabird, so it's fun to hit them both on the same day if you can. Alta is Utah's classic advanced-skier mountain, with some of the steepest terrain in the Wasatch—it's here that you'll find a lot of hardcore locals, in part because you can access plenty of backcountry via Catherine's Pass. Snowbird is famous for its aerial tram, which takes you all the way to the top of the mountain in one ride and has stunning views—like Alta, it's also home to some steeper, more advanced terrain than the other mountains in the area. Both of these mountains are excellent on a powder day, but you'll have to beat the locals to get any of the good stuff—expect them to be tracked out by 11am at the latest.
Brighton & Solitude
Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton & Solitude (which are separate mountains, though you can access them with one pass if you choose) feel a little less commercial and a little more local than their bigger counterparts in other areas of the Wasatch. It's true that you won't find the same masses of terrain, but you will find shorter lift lines—in fact, this can be a great place to come on a powder day, since you won't be battling for fresh turns with the rest of Utah. Brighton's on-mountain terrain isn't huge, but they've got a great terrain park and an open-bounds policy that makes it remarkably easy to cross over into the backcountry. Solitude has historically been a locals' secret for great powder, and a recent buyout by Deer Valley means big infrastructure upgrades are likely in the works.
Nestled in the Wasatch Mountain range, Deer Valley Resort consistently tops lists for its customer service. In skiing parlance, that translates to on-site ski valets to help you unload your gear, immaculately groomed slopes, and well-appointed lodges. (Stop for lunch at Royal Street Café at Silver Lake Lodge—it's far cry from the cafeteria-style dining you're used to mid-mountain.) What's nice about Deer Valley is there's a little something for everyone, making it a great mountain for families—there are easy cruisers like Bluebell and Lucky Jack, plus some solid steeps like Daly Bowl and Lady Morgan. Deer Valley is one of the last skiers-only holdouts, so like neighboring Alta, no snowboarders are permitted. Photos courtesy of Deer Valley Resort