Family Ski Resort Guide | Snowbird

By Local Lexi Sep 8, 2021
Impossibly deep snow, sunny days, and a recent expansion to Snowbird’s Mountain School make this jewel of the Wasatch an irresistible draw to families.
Family Ski Resort Guide | Snowbird

Piecing together old, forgotten mining claims, including a claim called Snowbird, Ted Johnson realized his dream to open a second ski area in Little Cottonwood Canyon in 1971. With a new-fangled aerial tramway, Snowbird brought a futuristic and entirely new vibe to the canyon where Alta had been spinning lifts since 1939. For more Bird history—click here.

These days, Snowbird remains famous for its incredible powder skiing, endless storm cycles, advanced terrain and the iconic tramway. Snowbird has recently expanded their Mountain School program, offering lessons out of both the Snowbird Center and the Creekside Day Lodge. With a huge amount of terrain, Snowbird is ideal for families of varied ability levels. Hair-raising steeps, breathtaking bootpacks and gently swooping blue and green runs along the Baby Thunder chairlift can all be discovered at Snowbird.

Snowbird is located along Highway 210 in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Approximate driving times (in favorable driving conditions) and distances are listed below:
Salt Lake City: 27 miles – 40 minutes
Provo: 43 miles – 1 hour
Ogden: 63 miles – 1, 10 minutes
Logan: 108 miles – 2 hours, 10 minutes
St. George: 300 miles – 4 hours, 40 minutes

Pro Tip: If you are renting a car, don't skimp. Trust us on this one, you're going to want the 4WD. It can snow as much as an inch per hour up Little Cottonwood Canyon and many an unprepared visitor has caused an hours-long traffic jam by sliding off the road. If driving a 9% grade in a howling blizzard with whiteout conditions isn't your jam, consider public transport or one of the many available shuttle services.

In a 5th Grader’s Words:
“Snowbird is the best place of all to learn. Regulator Johnson is really scary and if you are a good skier, you ride the tram. Make sure to get a window seat!” - Andi, Age 11


Skiable Acres: 2,500 Acres
Vertical Drop: 3,240 Feet
Number of Runs: 168
Terrain: 27% Beginner, 38% Intermediate, 35% Advanced, 1 Terrain Park
Chairlifts: 11, 2 Surface Lifts, 1 Conveyor Tunnel
Night Skiing: Yes, Friday & Saturday on the Chickadee Chairlift from 5:30 to 8:30 PM. (Also open on select holidays) Check web for more info—click here
Deals for Kids: Kids 6 and younger earn a free day ticket

Snowbird is located six miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon and is considered a world-class destination for powder skiers and snowboarders. The incredible scenery, terrain, snow and iconic aerial tram are what most attract people to Snowbird’s slopes.

Beginning skiers or shredders will start their day in Chickadee Bowl on the Magic Carpet or the slightly steeper terrain accessed by the Chickadee chairlift. This zone is easily reached from the Snowbird Center. Those ready to push their progression should start in Gad Valley and catch the conveyor tunnel to the Baby Thunder chairlift. Lots of uncrowded groomers and gentle terrain can be found off Baby Thunder. One of the best runs around for adventurous kids is Mini Miner’s Camp. The fun wooden cutouts feature old time mining villages, crazy miners and silly scenes, as the trail whipsaws back and forth through the trees. Kids will want to lap this zone on repeat.

More good zones for intermediates can be accessed from the Wilbere and Mid-Gad chairlifts—but be sure to unload at the mid-station on Mid-Gad! Wilbere Ridge is a steep but wide slope where intermediates can adjust to the steeper pitches of Snowbird’s bigger slopes.

Steeper blues can also be explored from the Mid-Gad chairlift, but be warned that many people consider Snowbird’s trail rating system to skew more difficult than other resorts. If you choose to offload at Mid-Gad’s top station, be warned that the blue-rated Big Emma is actually quite steep. Unload at the Mid-Gad mid-station if you want gentler terrain and the green-rated Lower Emma run.

The rest of Snowbird is generally considered fairly difficult and steep terrain. Experts spend their time exploring runs off the infamous Cirque, the steep tree runs off Gad II and the long, steep groomers off Road to Provo near the Little Cloud chairlift. While the Mineral Basin area does have some nice blue cruisers, it’s really not appropriate for beginners. Snowbird connects to Alta via the Badly Express chairlift in Mineral Basin.



Snowbird has recently developed a very cool app to promote carpooling in an effort to reduce canyon congestion, traffic jams and carbon emissions. Please see our article about the R.I.D.E. App for more info about carpooling with friends or family. 

Little Cottonwood Canyon can experience road delays in the event of big storms or necessary avalanche mitigation. You should always check road conditions in inclement weather and never attempt a drive up either of the Cottonwood Canyons without 4-wheel drive or chains. For current road status, you can check Snowbird Alerts on Twitter.

Consider riding the UTA Ski Bus to avoid driving and help reduce canyon and parking congestion. In the winter months, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), runs daily service from November or December until March or April. Routes 990, 953, and 994 service Little Cottonwood Canyon at 15-minute intervals during peak hours from West Valley, Midvale, Downtown, Cottonwood Heights and Sandy. Check the UTA website for a current schedule and read our Guide to Ride the Ski Bus.

Snowbird has recently changed their parking policy, offering a number of options from carpool lots, paid parking, reservations, and first-come-first served. Be sure to brush up on the policy and your options before making a trip up Little Cottonwood. Click Here for current parking information. Snowbird has four different numbered parking zones. Families should park at Entry 1 or Entry 2. There is a complimentary parking lot shuttle to transport guests between the two base areas. Tickets, ski shops, rentals, repairs and mountain school are located at both base areas.



There are two main base areas at Snowbird, the Snowbird Center and the Creekside Day Lodge. Creekside and Gad Valley are most easily accessed via Entry 1; the Snowbird Center and aerial tramway can be reached via Entry 2. Note there is preferred parking for those who carpool with four or more passengers. (For more info on carpooling parking, please see the R.I.D.E. program or click here).

The Snowbird Center is the aerial tram terminal and the heart of the resort, housing the greatest number of eateries, shops and a lounge. Most ski lessons will meet in Chickadee Bowl near the Snowbird Center though some do meet at the Creekside Center. On sunny weekends in the spring, live musical acts will often perform on the plaza and it’s a pleasant place to grab a snack or rest between runs. 



Snowbird Mountain School can be found at two convenient locations—each next to rental shops—at both the Snowbird Center and the Creekside Day Lodge. Use Entry 1 to access the Creekside Lodge and Entry 2 to park near the Snowbird Center. A number of parking lot shuttles will be making laps around the various lots to transport guests between Gad Valley (where the Creekside Lodge is located) and the Snowbird Center. Snowbird has practically endless types of lessons, clinics and programs, so there is something for everyone at The Bird. Reservations are recommended.

Pro Tip: It is highly recommended to make lesson and rental reservations well in advance. During peak periods, rental reservations may be required.

Private Guiding
Available for all ages, Snowbird’s Private Guiding service can be booked for one to five people in full or half-day sessions. Snowbird’s expert guides will reveal the resort’s hidden nooks and crannies and show you an awesome time on the mountain.

Chickadees (Ages 3-4 Skiers & Riders)
From Camp Snowbird in the Cliff, Chickadees deploys expert instructors on one hour of one-on-one instruction. These specially designed classes are meant to introduce children to the fun of skiing with a mix of on-snow fun, indoor activities and on-snow instruction. Package includes a full day of daycare, snacks and lunch and equipment rental.

Kinderbirds (Ages 5-6 Skiers & Riders)
For ages 4-6, Kinderbirds engages youngsters with groups of three or less. Kinderbirds will also accept 7-year olds who have never previously skied or snowboarded. Package includes lift access, lesson, lunch and equipment rentals.

Mountain Adventure (Ages 7-15 Skiers & Riders)
Lessons for kids 7-15 are built to boost progression, safety awareness and fun on the mountain. Riders are grouped by age and ability level and meet in Chickadee Bowl near the Snowbird Center for a full-day lesson from 9:00 to 3:00 PM. Package includes lift access, lesson and lunch. 

Adult Beginner Special (Age 16+ Skiers and Riders)
Try your hand at skiing or snowboarding on the slopes of Chickadee and Chickadee Bowl with these all-inclusive packages for ages 16 and up. Equipment rentals, lesson and Chickadee lift tickets are included. Package includes 2.5-hour lesson, lift ticket (access to beginner chairlift only) and equipment rentals.

Adult Programming
Snowbird offers a handful of experiences, lessons, workshops and clinics for adult skiers and snowboarders. The Adult Mountain Experience provides priority lift line access and a fast-paced, guided session around the mountain for advanced and expert skiers or snowboarders. Adult Mountain Workshops service skill levels of green through black to promote progression and confidence on Snowbird’s steeper terrain. Visit Snowbird’s website for a current offering of workshops like Women’s Wednesdays, photography camps and Freeride camps.

Adventure & Expedition Teams
These multi-week programs provide coaching on Saturdays or Sundays over the course of 5 or 10 weeks. The Adventure Team caters to children of all abilities from ages 7-15. The Expedition Team focuses on fostering confidence in big mountain terrain in small groups for advanced and expert level teens from ages 12-17.



Snowbird has a plethora of cool shops to snag unique logo gear, gifts and just about any ski or snowboard necessity. Wings, Christy Sports and Pipeline all offer great shopping from the Snowbird Center. Snowbird Creekside Sports has a small selection of gear at the Creekside Day Lodge.

Equipment rentals are available at either base area and the friendly staff will gladly assist you in selecting the best gear package for your needs. Creekside Sports is located at the base of Gad Valley and provides rental equipment packages, tuning and demos from Dynastar, Rossignol, Atomic, Volkl and Burton. Snowbird Sports is located on the plaza at the Snowbird Center next to Christy Sports. Both locations offer rentals, demos and equipment tuning and repair. For those staying in the Cliff Lodge, rentals and repairs are available in Snowbird Cliff Sports.



Snowbird operates four lodges located conveniently close to the Snowbird Center and the slopes. Diverse options range from suites to rooms, to condominiums with full kitchens and private hot tubs.

The Cliff Lodge & Cliff Club
The largest of Snowbird’s lodging options, the Cliff Lodge offers true ski-in/ski-out access, newly remodeled rooms and an expansive outdoor swimming pool and hot tub deck. The views of the mountain or Little Cottonwood Canyon are stunning. The Snowbird Center is accessible from The Cliff via a new pedestrian walkway that soars above the Chickadee learner’s slope. Suites and bedrooms are available. The Cliff Club encompasses 54 luxury condominiums within The Cliff.

The Inn
Snowbird’s coziest lodging option provides accommodations for groups of 1-10 and includes single bedrooms, studios, and studio lofts. Most rentals include fireplaces and kitchens. Ski lockers, a fitness center, a steam room, a heated outdoor pool, and a hot tub keep guests in vacation mode. Note that units in The Inn are individually owned and availability can vary.

The Lodge at Snowbird
A variety of condominium floor plans are available at the Lodge at Snowbird which is a short walk to the Snowbird Center. Accommodations range from standard hotel bedrooms, to studios, or condominiums with a loft. Ski lockers, coffee and games are available to guests. A steam room, fitness center, dry sauna and heated outdoor pool are additional features of The Lodge.

The Iron Blosam
The Iron Blosam, named after an old mining claim incorrectly spelled, is Snowbird’s shared-ownership condominium. Suited for a self-contained vacation, the Iron Blosam features 16 different floor plans that can comfortably lodge 1-8 guests. Some rooms can be connected to suit larger groups. A heated outdoor pool, indoor hot tub, steam room, fitness center and dry sauna are provided to guests. Most rooms come with a fireplace and kitchen.


For families exploring the Baby Thunder chairlift or Gad Valley, the easiest places to grab a bite include the Creekside Café and the Mid-Gad Restaurant. The Creekside Café serves salads, sandwiches, burgers, burritos, soups, breakfast and baked goods for diners to enjoy indoors or outside on the patio. Mid-Gad is a cafeteria-style eatery that can be accessed via the Mid-Gad or GadZoom chairlifts and offers ski-in/ski-out convenience and fantastic views. Find delicious grilled food, beer on tap and ample seating indoors or outside on the patio.

For families with kiddos using the Chickadee learner’s area or the Wilbere chairlift, the Snowbird Center is the best place to grab a snack or bite. Amazing soups and sandwiches (and enormous breakfast burritos) are made to order at the General Gritts grocery store (also home to a state-owned liquor store). A quick slice of pizza can be found at Snowbird Tram Car Pizza and warm drinks or smoothies can be ordered at Baked & Brewed Café. The Rendezvous, a full-service cafeteria where families can enjoy a sit-down meal, is located on Level 2. If the weather is nice, consider a quick burger or grilled food from The Birdfeeder or Forklift.

Be sure to check out the newly-opened restaurant, SeventyOne, located in the bottom level of the Cliff Lodge. Infused with a retro ski vibe, SeventyOne celebrates the age of skiing around the year of Snowbird’s birth: 1971. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will feature a menu of contemporary mountain cuisine. The newly expanded patio, amazing mountain views and games are enough to keep the entire family delighted. This is the best place to grab food later in the evening as Little Cottonwood Canyon tends to shut down early.



Operating out of the Cliff Lodge, Camp Snowbird is a state-licensed childcare facility welcoming children from ages 6 weeks to 12 years. The childcare center is open daily and in-room babysitting services are also available in the evenings for lodge guests. Reservations are required.



For a memorable visit, consider these unique points of interest when planning a trip to Snowbird.

Spy the Mountain Goats
In the spring months (March-May), pull over into the Park-N-Ride at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon and play a game of I Spy to spot the elusive mountain goats that often dot the southern slopes. Look for groups of white dots and use the viewfinders near the UTA bus stop to view these amazing creatures.

Temple Quarry
If the base of the canyon is clear of snow, consider checking out the Temple Quarry nature walk. This short interpretive trail provides a bit of history and insight about how the Mormon pioneers chiseled huge blocks of granite and transported them with oxen to downtown Salt Lake City to construct the Salt Lake Temple.

Aerial Tram Ride
Even if you don’t have strong skiers or shredders in your family, a scenic ride on Snowbird’s iconic aerial tramway provides the quintessential Snowbird experience. Foot passengers are provided with priority loading, so snag a space near a window and prepare to be amazed by the jaw-dropping scenery, granite spires and gnarly terrain off the Cirque. Offload up top, admire the 360-degree views and grab a snack in The Summit restaurant. You can catch a tram ride down approximately every 10 minutes. Due to Covid-19, this service may be suspended during peak periods; inquire with a Snowbird ticket office.


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