Choose Powder… Choose Utah!!
With well over 500 inches of snow falling on the Wasatch mountains each year, Utah can lay claim to some of the best and most consistent conditions in North America. This is due to a natural phenomenon called the ‘Lake Effect’. As the cold winds move across the warmer waters of the Great Salt Lake, they build in energy, turning into giant thunderheads that pick up vast amounts of water vapour. Due to the high altitude and winter months this freezes and then, something unique happens… because of Utah’s dry desert climate, up to 95% of the moisture is sucked out of the snow particles and then this falls to earth as the driest, deepest and fluffiest powder you will ever have the pleasure of experiencing, as the locals say, “Powder! it just dumps in Utah”
There are 7 main resorts all within easy reach of the town of Park City. In the Park City Valley you have Deer Valley, Park City and Canyons all on your door-step – you could throw a snowball between them but as they are all individually owned you have to ski them on separate days. This is not a problem, however, as the resort shuttle buses are really efficient - click here to view a map of the 3 resorts.
Park City is our most popular resort in Utah, a very picturesque historic town with a wide variety of shops, restaurants, bars (the snow might be dry but the beer is not!) and accommodation to suit all budgets and group sizes. The free shuttle bus service picks up from outside most accommodation and can take you downtown Main Street, Deer Valley, Canyons and Park City Mountain - it will even take you as far as Kimble Junction where there is an amazing selection of Factory Outlet stores.
The terrain at Park City is world class with 3,300 acres for you to explore - from beginners to advanced there is plenty to choose from. If the snow is falling many of the runs will be left un-groomed ensuring you run after run of epic deep powder. For the advanced - check out Jupiter bowl and Jupiter access trees where you can find fabulous deep turns. For those learning the basics or looking for an easy day then head to the Payday lift which will access plenty of greens and easy blues, and for something consistently blue then the runs of the Silverlode chair are great fun.
Located only 4 miles from downtown Park City and on the free bus route, Canyons has some great value, high quality ski-to condo accommodation at its mid mountain base area. There are also a handful of shops, restaurants and bars, but with such easy access to downtown Park City you can have the best of both worlds.
Canyons is predominantly intermediate and advanced terrain, though some of the long blues on Tombstone are very mellow. The best terrain is almost certainly found on Ninety-Nine 90 Express, areas such as magic lines and fantasy ridge will challenge the best of you out there.
Deer Valley is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year and, for almost as long, has been ranked #1 for its on-mountain dining, guest service and piste-grooming. Considered somewhat exclusive Deer Valley does live up to its reputation and is a more expensive option than Park City or Canyons, but then again it does have some truly incredible accommodation. The terrain is best suited for beginners and intermediates, the impeccable grooming really helps instill confidence when learning, and if it gets bumpy, out come the groomers once more to comb the slopes.
Deer Valley Resort revolutionized the ski industry by being the first North American resort to provide the first-class service one would find at a five-star hotel. The resort is located five minutes by the free bus from the town of Park City and is on the ‘Three Resort International Lift pass’ making it an ideal choice for this Safari.
Snowbird, Alta, Solitude and Brighton
The Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, where these resorts are located, are only a 45 minute drive away or approximately 1 hour on the 'Canyon Hop' transfer bus, which costs $95 return (including lift pass). Whilst it is a luxury, I do always suggest hiring a car - split between 4 people your holiday will cost around £65 pp more, but it enables you to chase the powder and the glory!
The Cottonwood Canyons can get more snow than Park City and though you may find 8" of snow on your car in the morning, you will find from the Resort Sports Network (RSN – local ski TV) that Solitude has had 12" and Snowbird 16" of snow!
Snowbird and Alta are Big Mountain Powder Meccas and although they are not as well known by UK skiers, they are equivalent to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in terms of ‘gnarl factor’! Both Mountains have a huge variety of steep chutes, alpine bowls, incredible tree lines, pillows and huge cliff drops, the latter often into blankets of neck deep powder. Highly recommend is Snowbird’s 'Mountain Experience' - a superb package, allowing you priority lift access, a guide to the best snow and secret spots, as well as some great tips to hone your skills and build your confidence.
Solitude, like the name, is so quiet and absolutely stunning. This is one of my favourite mountains in North America proving that it doesn’t have to be the biggest to be the best. Solitude has the Honeycomb Canyon, an ‘in bounds off piste’ area of advanced terrain that is truly world class, and, due to the fact that this resort is the quietest in the Cottonwoods, you can ski untracked powder all day long. Solitude also has some incredible groomers for those looking for an easy day cruising around and its terrain provides an ideal environment for getting to grips with powder. It is a smaller resort with limited runs and lifts and is known more as a family resort…BUT….whilst all the locals are tracking out Alta and Snowbird, the beautiful 'Honeycomb Canyon' is empty – so there are freshies all day and no lift queues - just non-stop powder heaven!
Brighton is where you will find Utah’s Snowboarding Soul. The atmosphere in Brighton is very relaxed and the ski and snowboard terrain here is awesome with a 1000 acres+ of steeps, chutes, mellow powder, bowls, trees, cliffs and some of the most progressive terrain parks going.
Although Deer Valley and Alta do not allow snowboarders there are still loads of options. Park City has won the 'North America's best Terrain Park' award a number of times. Canyons hosts the World Cup Boardercross and has some fantastic tree lines in their newly opened Dreamscape area. Brighton, as we've mentioned, is also a local snowboarder’s hang out and is often featured in magazines because of its powder lines and parks.