48 Hours In Little Cottonwood Canyon

By Powderhound Dane Mar 26, 2019
How to navigate Snowbird and Alta during a weekend trip to Little Cottonwood Canyon.
48 Hours In Little Cottonwood Canyon

Utah is getting hammered with snow and you are ready for a little ski vacation. Buy a plane ticket or hop in the car and head to Little Cottonwood Canyon, home to Snowbird and Alta. With over 5,100 skiable acres between the two, you can be sure to find plenty of new spots to explore all over the mountain. In reality, it would take years to ski everything that LCC has to offer, but here is a little starters’ guide to make the most out of your weekend trip.

Friday Night

6:00 pm: Your flight lands at the Salt Lake City International Airport and its time to sort out your transportation up to the mountain. If you are going to go the rental car route, be sure to get something with all-wheel drive and snow tires just in case it is going to be snowing during your trip. Otherwise, there are a variety of shuttle services and buses that can take you right to your hotel. On a typical day, the trip from the airport to Snowbird or Alta Ski Area will take about 45 minutes. Pro tip: if you can get on an earlier flight, you should be able to catch a couple of hours of skiing before the resorts close.

7:00 pm: Check into the The Cliff Lodge at Snowbird and head upstairs to The Aerie, a bar and restaurant located on the top floor of the hotel. The Aerie offers a variety of smaller plates and appetizers like edamame and shishito peppers, to sandwiches, pasta and larger entrees. I recommend going for the grilled chicken sandwich or the elk meatloaf. 

10:00 pm: Get yourself to bed and rest up for a big day of skiing.


7:30 am: Wake up and sort out some breakfast. Staying in the Cliff, there are a number of easy options within steps of your room. You could head back up to The Aerie for the breakfast buffet, go down to the lobby level for more grab-and-go style foods at The Atrium or walk over to The Snowbird Center and check out the burritos and bagel sandwiches at General Gritts.

9:00 am: Provided ski patrol is done with their morning routes, Snowbird’s lifts and the Aerial Tram start running at 9 am. When staying in the Cliff Lodge, the easiest/best options for you to start your day are either the Tram or the Peruvian Chairlift. You can ski right to either of them from the hotel. If it’s a sunny morning, I recommend taking the Peruvian Chairlift up and going through the tunnel out to Mineral Basin. Mineral gets the most direct sunlight, so when the skies clear it is definitely worth heading back there for some groomers and wide-open bowl skiing.

12:00 pm: Once you have done a fair bit of exploring in Mineral Basin and Peruvian Gulch, head down to the base area and get on the Tram. At the top of the Tram is Utah’s highest restaurant: The Summit. Not only can you get some really great food, but the views are incredible. The Summit sits at 11,000 feet and there are enormous windows surrounding pretty much the entire building providing excellent views of Little Cottonwood, the Salt Lake Valley and Mineral Basin.

1:00 pm: After lunch, I recommend following the sunshine over to Little Cloud and Gad Valley. The Little Cloud chair accesses similar terrain to Mineral Basin and the Gad Valley chairs service some of the best tree skiing and groomed runs on the mountain. If you’re looking for a nice long groomed run, head out towards Road to Provo off the top of the Little Cloud Chair, drop into Mark Malu Fork and from the bottom of that you can choose a couple of different groomers that will bring you all the way down to the bottom of the Gadzoom Chairlift.

4:00 pm: Call it quits for the day and head back to the base area for some après drinks. If you’re looking to sit outside, I recommend getting something to drink at either The Forklift or The Birdfeeder. The Forklift is more of a sit-down setup while The Birdfeeder is a walk-up window. Both of these are located on the top level of The Snowbird Center. If you’re looking for a bit of a rowdier local scene, head downstairs to The Tram Club, a full bar with TVs showing sports and ski movies. If you need a snack to hold you over until dinner, try some of the nachos or spicy cheese fries. Pro move: the Tram Club serves a $5 shot + beer combo which is hard to pass up—but be wary, too many Tram Club "laps" can put a damper on your skiing plans.

5:30 pm: Head back to the Cliff Lodge, change into your swimsuit and head upstairs to The Cliff Spa. Situated at the top of the hotel, the Spa features a rooftop pool and hot tub that provide some of the better views of Snowbird and Mt. Superior just across the road. Additionally, the Spa features a wide variety of services such as massages and facials, as well as classes in yoga and pilates. There is also an exercise room if you feel like you didn’t get quite enough fitness after your day on the mountain.

7:00 pm: Arrange for the front desk of the hotel to give you a ride up the road and grab dinner at The Goldminer's Daughter Lodge, just at the base of Alta. The GMD has two options for dinner: The Top of the Lodge and the Goldminer’s Saloon. If you’re after more of a dining room feel, I recommend going upstairs to the Top of the Lodge, but if pizza and beer is more your scene, the Goldminer’s Saloon is the spot for you.

9:00 pm: Walk across the parking lot and check out the Alta Peruvian Lodge, which is home to the Peruvian Bar, an Alta favorite for après drinks, known to the locals as "The P-Dog." Be careful not to get too comfortable as you may end up sleeping through your alarm Sunday morning after one-too-many shotskis.


8:00 am: Get breakfast at the Aerie’s buffet. Nothing helps a hangover like some biscuits and gravy after all. Once you’re feeling semi-human, check out of your room and drive or catch the shuttle back up to Alta Ski Area for another full day of skiing. If you’re a snowboarder, keep in mind that Alta is a skiers only mountain so you'll want to stay at Snowbird. That being said, Snowbird is huge, so there is a good chance you didn’t ride everything on Saturday and are sure to have another great day ripping around there.

9:15 am: Following the sunshine throughout the day worked well on Saturday, so start your day over at the Albion Base area for a same-same-but-different experience. The Albion and Sunnyside Chairlifts are great for some mellow cruiser laps and getting you up to the Supreme and Sugarloaf Chairs. The terrain off Supreme has some of Alta’s steeper, more easily accessed tree runs and provides excellent views down Little Cottonwood Canyon.

11:00 am: Head back down to the Albion Base and say hello to the ladies in Alta Java, a walk-up window that serves coffee, hot mulled cider and a variety of snacks and smaller meals to keep you going through the morning.

11:15 am: Take the Transfer Tow over to the Wildcat Base and hop on the Collins Chairlift. From the top of Collins, you can easily get back to Sugarloaf if you’d like, or really test your ski legs off the High Traverse. If playful terrain is more your scene, take a few laps off Wildcat before lunch.

1:00 pm: Stop into the Watson Shelter for lunch in the Collins Grill, a full-service restaurant that offers dishes such as French Onion Soup, Spicy Lamb Skewers and Grilled Utah Trout. Be sure to call in that morning and make a reservation as it has a tendency to get busy around the mid-day lunch hour. Bonus: slip into complimentary slippers while you enjoy your meal to give your feet a much-deserved break from your boots. 

2:00 pm: Close out a final couple of hours on the Collins and Sugarloaf Chairs. The afternoon sun can be especially nice on the terrain Collins accesses, but if your legs are shot from two days of skiing, make your way back over to Sunnyside or Sugarloaf and cruise the groomers. You can also get back over to Snowbird for a little bit if you’d like via the connector off the top of Sugarloaf.

4:30 pm: If you’re looking for one last drink before heading to the airport (preferably someone else is driving you there), stop into the Sitzmark in the Alta Lodge and have yourself a cocktail.

As you may have figured out by now, there is quite a lot that can be done with 48 hours in Little Cottonwood Canyon. If you are able to come for longer, great! But this should be a good start to giving you an idea of the seemingly endless opportunities for some of Utah’s best skiing. By the way, its not unusual for LCC to receive over 500 inches of snowfall in a single season…

I also wrote a similar piece earlier this year called 48 Hours in Southern Utah. Definitely worth checking out if you're a Utah local looking for a road trip or a Southern CA or Las Vegas resident looking for an affordable ski getaway nearby.