Ikon-ic Utah: One Pass, Five Utah Resorts

By Yeti Oct 1, 2020
One Ikon pass, five Utah resorts, countless memorable experiences!
Ikon-ic Utah: One Pass, Five Utah Resorts

words by Cindy Hirschfeld

Envision a wintry buffet of Utah’s famed Greatest Snow on Earth, impeccably groomed cruisers and some of skidom’s best-known steeps, all within a 40-mile radius. Thanks to that proximity, paired with a straight-to-the-lifts Ikon Pass, you can partake of all of those goods at up to five different resorts in just three to five days. But a proper ski vacation is about much more than sliding around. Read on to see our recommended itinerary to make the most of your Ikon pass in Utah, including our picks for lodging, dining, après and more.


Day One: Deer Valley Resort

With a main base area elevation of 7,200 feet, Deer Valley allows you to start acclimating to the altitude before visiting higher-elevation resorts.

Head to Park City and the resort that stakes its rep on white-glove service, where you’ll check into a condo at Lodges at Deer Valley. Board the Silver Lake Express lift and spend the morning rediscovering your ski legs (snowboarding is not allowed here) on the resort’s renowned corduroy, including the classic Stein’s Way, a top-to-bottom schuss down Bald Mountain that provides an exceptional view of the Jordanelle Reservoir. For lunch, reserve a table at the mid-mountain Royal Street Cafe to refuel with ahi tuna tacos and, perhaps, a blueberry mojito. In the afternoon, if you’re so inclined, kick it up a notch with expert runs off the Empire and Lady Morgan chairs. Then pop into the ski-in yurt outside the Montage Deer Valley that serves up Veuve Clicquot and charcuterie plates. (Summon a Cadillac Escalade from Lodges at Deer Valley if you don’t want to ski afterward.) Late afternoon, request another complimentary ride to Park City’s Main Street, lined with browse-worthy boutiques (try Stio or Patagonia for sportswear; Olive & Tweed for women’s clothing) and galleries. For dinner, you'll definitely want to make reservations at the new Rime restaurant in the St. Regis Deer Valley. Ride the hotel’s funicular up the hill and splurge on reinvented classics like the decadent seafood tower (lobster, oysters, shrimp and more) or Niman Ranch steaks.


Day Two: Alta Ski Area

Skiing on the second Friday of the month? Pre-register for the morning Birding on Skis session, a unique way to see the mountain while learning about the local winged population.

After an early complimentary hot breakfast buffet at the in-house Brass Tag restaurant at Deer Valley, it’s time to check out of the Lodges and travel the quick 40 miles to Little Cottonwood Canyon, site of the side-by-side, and connected, Alta and Snowbird resorts—together covering more than 5,000 total acres of terrain. For the next two nights, base yourself either at the 57-room, family-run Alta Lodge, which has drawn a devoted clientele since 1940 for its down-to-earth hospitality, or Snowbird’s flagship 10-story The Cliff Lodge, with a newly refurbished, modern vibe and a rooftop pool. As for the skiing, Alta is renowned for its plummeting steeps, vast powder fields like Devil’s Castle and huge amounts of snow (as well as for welcoming skiers only). That said, almost half of the terrain is rated beginner or intermediate, and the Albion and Sunnyside lifts exclusively serve the gentlest slopes. Reserve a table for lunch at the on-mountain Collins Grill, which offers satisfying European-inflected dishes (try the savory bread pudding). Post-lunch, arc down the cruisers or navigate the more technical lines off the Supreme lift. If home this evening is the Alta Lodge, just walk upstairs to the resort’s venerable après-ski spot, the Sitzmark Club. Sink into a couch with a Party Margarita (served with an extra shot of tequila) while socializing with skiers for whom a lodge sojourn is a yearly tradition. Cap off your day with the four-course dinner (included in your stay, as well as a hearty breakfast) in the lodge’s convivial dining room. Then, like many at Alta, call it an early night.


Day Three: Snowbird

Mining was the modus operadi in both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon before the introduction of lift-served skiing. Find out more about local history, wildlife and geology with a Ski with a Ranger tour, held weekends at Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude.

Whether shuttling over from Alta or waking up at the base of the ’Bird, begin your morning on the ski area’s backside, exploring the intermediate and expert runs on the south-facing, above-treeline slopes of Mineral Basin. To get there—and experience one of Utah’s coolest “lifts”—eschew Snowbird’s iconic Tram (take it later, when the morning line has subsided) in favor of riding the Peruvian chair, then slide onto the conveyor belt that takes you through the mountain via a tunnel enhanced by displays related to the area’s mining history. Break for lunch at the The Summit atop Hidden Peak—at 11,000 feet, Utah’s highest restaurant—where the views through floor-to-ceiling windows vie for your attention along with offerings like the rotisserie station and a huge salad bar. Like its neighbor, Snowbird benefits from ample snowfall (some 500 inches annually), which blankets terrain like the Cirque’s elevator-shaft steeps, cliff-studded faces off of Mount Baldy and open bowls like Wilbere. If tree-skiing is your thing, spend the afternoon lapping the Gadzoom and Gad 2 lifts. Or play it mellow on the green and blue runs off the Baby Thunder chair. Après ski, join the locals for a shot and a beer, and live music, at the The Tram Club; its below-ground location next to the tram’s mechanical gears is part of the appeal. Then it’s time for a well-deserved massage at the Cliff Spa—or at the very least, a dip in the popular rooftop pool and hot tub. Top off your day with a dinner of classic comfort food (meatloaf and banana splits, anyone?) at SeventyOne in the Cliff Lodge. Named after the year the resort opened, the restaurant debuted in the 2019–20 winter with groovy décor and a vibe that’s less hipster than appropriately nostalgic. Not ready for bed? Nurse a nightcap at the The Aerie, the Cliff Lodge’s 10th floor restaurant, and watch the lights of the snowcats bob up the mountain.


Day Four: Solitude Mountain Resort

Can’t get enough of sliding on snow? Hit the 20 kilometers of groomed tracks at the Solitude Nordic Center. 

This morning you’ll head one canyon over to Big Cottonwood, home to Solitude and Brighton resorts. The pace there trends lower key, but make no mistake—the terrain, some 2,200 acres between the two areas, certainly holds it own in terms of challenge, which skiers and riders beyond the Salt Lake City regulars are increasingly discovering. It’s 23 miles by road from Snowbird to Solitude, but stop 1.5 miles short for breakfast at the charmingly rustic Silver Fork Lodge & Restaurant and order up a substantial stack of sourdough pancakes made with the restaurant’s decades-old starter. Then check into one of the spacious rooms at the Euro-style Inn at Solitude before boarding the Apex Express chair. Work up some quad burn on runs like Dynamite, which drops for 1,800 feet from the top of the Summit Express, and Challenger off the Eagle Express, billed as Utah’s steepest groomed run. For gravity-defying descents through tight trees, head for Headwall Forest or any of the double-black trails to skier’s left of the Summit chair. And don’t miss sampling Solitude’s best-known expert terrain in Honeycomb Canyon: treed runs and chutes on one side face cliff-studded powder fields—accessed by a traverse or boot pack—on the other in this backcountry-style playground. Enjoy lunch with a savory twist at the Roundhouse, where the Himalayan menu offers Saag Paneer, curries and Naan. Chill in the pool and hot tubs at Club Solitude, then hit up the Thirsty Squirrel, with live music, arcade games and Moab Brewery pints that benefit Wasatch Backcountry Rescue’s avalanche dog program. St. Bernard's hotel puts out a sophisticated dinner buffet with nightly specials, but plan ahead to score a few of the 26 seats at The Yurt (Wednesday–Sunday), which requires a quarter-mile snowshoe to reach; the payoff is an elaborate four-course meal in an impossibly cozy spot. 

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Day Five: Brighton

Brighton lights up more than 200 acres, including the main mountain terrain park, for night skiing and riding six nights a weeks from 4 to 9 p.m. 

At Solitude, take the Summit Express to the SolBright trail and venture over to neighboring Brighton. (Note: the connection may open later on powder days because of avalanche control—a free shuttle also links the resorts.) Utah’s oldest ski area—founded in 1936—is now a favorite with jibbers for its five terrain parks, ample natural terrain features and not-too-steep runs. But the mountain also offers lots of natural features to play on, like gullies, rollers and rock drops on the open slopes off the top of the Milly Express chair, making it a common favorite for local families. And though in many ways the resort has an appealingly no-frills vibe—even brown-bagging your lunch is welcome here—four high-speed quads (out of six lifts) provide efficient access to all of the runs. If it’s a powder day, lap the expert glades off the Great Western Express chair. For silky groomers, try out runs like Thor and Thunder Road off the Snake Creek and Crest chairs. After a quick après stop at Molly Green's, a classic A-frame, for a giant platter of nachos and a final toast, it’s back to Salt Lake City International Airport for your return flight to reality.

Getting around: Shuttles run from Salt Lake City International Airport to each resort, regular skier-dedicated busses travel up Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon and Park City operates a free, citywide bus system. For details, visit skiutah.com/transportation

Kids’ stuff: Each of Utah’s Ikon resorts offer on-hill instruction for children age 3 or 4 and up. Licensed childcare for babes as young as 2 months is available at Alta, Deer Valley and Snowbird. The Lodges at Deer Valley offers a supervised kids’ après ski from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with crafts, snacks and games. The Alta Lodge’s Kids Club includes activities, a kids-only dinner, movies and games from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. 

More of an Epic Pass kind of rider? Here's a complete itinerary for Epic Pass holders