The Best Snow on Earth
Utah claims to have the "Best Snow On Earth." Snowriders must believe it, because every year, there are more tourists visiting the vast snowfields of the Wasatch Front. But it may be more than the snow that draws them.
One big draw is easy access. Salt Lake City's airport is only about 40 minutes away from most of the major Utah resorts. Put your boots on in the van, grab your gear and you can be on the lift less than an hour after your plane lands.
The other draw is personality. Each Wasatch Front resort has a different personality, a different ambiance. Instead of choosing a resort just for its famous name, you can find one that perfectly fits your desires and style. Here's some inside info on the major resorts, to help you make the decision.ALTA: Their motto is; "Alta Is For Skiers," and it's one of the few areas that still don't allow snowboards. The resort is vast, with some of the best expert terrain in the world, long steeps that allow skiers to test their daring. A novice black diamond skier can develop confidence on wide slopes like Sunspot. But here's the secret of Alta: it has the best beginner terrain you could ever find, a huge area as big as an entire resort. Beginners can choose a flat, easy line, but right beside it will be a more intermediate line, so better skiers won't be bored skiing with a less experienced friend. Alta's ambiance is slightly old fashioned, skiing as it used to be, but with high speed lifts, good grooming, and more powder than other Utah resorts.
BRIGHTON: This is the playground of resorts. You can take side trips through the trees, carving your own trail or following one already cut. The trees that line the runs have been thinned, so there's little danger from tree skiing. There are impromptu jumps built everywhere, and many little parks. The resort is naturally divided into separate sections with unique features---the always deserted runs of Great Western, the rolling terrain off Crest Express, and the entirely separate mountain, with cliffs and jumps, served by the Millicent lift. The snowriding at Brighton is fun and playful, and the snow coverage is the best of any Utah resort. But the biggest plus is the night skiing; with more lighted terrain than any other ski resort in the world; so well lit that snowriders can see perfectly.
THE CANYONS: It's a mountain that ripples and rolls. Just when you think you've reached the bottom of a run, you find there's a whole other slope still to explore. It goes on forever. It's also the best resort to learn to snowboard, because the lift to the left at the base serves a wide, easy run with several flattish areas that encourage riders to try carving instead of just dong the 'falling leaf.' The Canyons gets less snow that the other major Utah resorts, so coverage isn't always great, but when it is, snowriders can spend an entire day exploring without repeating the same run twice.
DEER VALLEY: This resort is a self esteem builder for the intermediate who wants to feel like an expert or the middle class skier who wants to feel like a millionaire for a day because they skied Deer Valley. No snowboards allowed. The food is gourmet excellent, but the terrain is not exciting---mostly long straight blue trails with very little challenge. Two nice touches: free ski check, and you can leave your skis overnight; and a drive-up valet who will take your skis from your car and place them in a rack to await your return after you park. This is a good thing, because it can be a long walk from your spot in the parking lot to the base area. A lot of celebrities ski here, so star gazers will be in heaven.
PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT: This is the resort for racers. The Intermountain Masters train here every weekday, and expert skiers can buy a day pass to train with them. The nearby U. S. Ski and Snowboard team sends its athletes here to work out in the Eagle Race Arena. The resort has Jupiter Peak, the highest expert area in the state. There are a plethora of lifts, so once out of the base area, there are never any liftlines. Not much beginner terrain, but a long of long intermediate runs. The parks are always voted number one in the country every year, and there are five big slopestyle parks, plus the 2002 Olympic superpipe. Try the new Crescent lift, it goes right to the top of the mountain.
SNOWBASIN: Is there an end to this resort's terrain? Probably, but you'd be hard pressed to find it. It has the longest runs of any Utah resort, both intermediate and expert. The 2002 Olympic downhill course is on the list of National Geographic's "25 Things To Do Before You Die," and rightly so. People have been known to stand frozen at the top for an hour, working up the courage to make that first turn. You can always find untouched powder if you don't mind hiking to get to it. Several glass-walled gondola lifts provide a comfortable ride up the mountain, and the base lodge is utter splendor, with glorious antiques and a four-foot wide, always blazing, fireplace with couches and easy chairs. Gourmet food at reasonable prices in Earl's Lodge. The Snowbasin ambiance is adventure and elegance. Best of all, the vast terrain means you'll often have an entire run to yourself.
SNOWBIRD: The resort with the famous tram. The terrain is make-your-own-run, with a variety of bowls that invite dropping in anywhere. The 'Bird also has the Peruvian Tunnel, the only tunnel through a mountain in America. Snowriders stand on a wide moving belt, and come out in Mineral Basin; a huge bowl totally separate from the rest of the mountain. The base area plaza has live bands to entertain, restaurants and burger places, plus shops. Terrain may be a bit tricky for beginners, but experts and those who love extreme terrain will be in heaven.
SOLITUDE: Not very crowded, but not very much terrain, either. You can ski it all in half a day; the trails are not very challenging. But there are nice adventures, like delicious dinners; nighttime feasts served in a yurt, a base area of condos built to look like an old Euro ski village. It's a nice place to wander around. The ambiance is more the European atmosphere than endless skiing, but older skiers will be delighted.
Updated and more inside information on Utah resorts can be found on Adventuresportsweekly.com.