Ski in Utah, Even on a Budget

By Bob Winter Oct 15, 2008

There was a great article written yesterday on about ways to save some money while still enjoying the legendary fresh powder which the Utah ski resorts have to offer.

Why Utah? The best reason to go is the snow. The ski resorts closest to Salt Lake City average 430 inches per year -- many received 700 last year (58 feet!) -- and it's almost always light, fluffy powder. Colorado, the Sierra Nevadas and even the Pacific Northwest get plenty of powder, too, but Utah's dry climate and the effect of Great Salt Lake means exceptionally dry snowflakes, containing as little as 4% water. The result? Ice, a staple for East Coast and Midwestern snow riders, is virtually nonexistent. And in February, the sun shines about 60% of days.

Access and variety also separate Utah from the rest of the country. Seven ski areas lie within 38 miles of Salt Lake City International Airport, a major hub with 800 nonstop arrivals every day. There's also the Utah Transit Authority, or UTA, a public transit system that can get you from the airport, downtown or just about anywhere else in the metro area to the lodge quickly and cheaply.

Alta, Brighton, The Canyons, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, Snowbird and Solitude, each with its own character (and price range), offer a combined 14,000 skiable acres, compared to 5,800 for the combined membership of Ski Vermont.

Here are some of the articles suggestions to save some money:

Plan ahead. From lodging to lift tickets and equipment rentals, everything is cheaper if you book early in the season, often before early December. Once you're on the ground, remember that buying lift tickets and renting equipment before you get to the mountain can also save you money.

Stay in town. Try hotels and condos in Midvale, Cottonwood Heights or Sandy for easy access to the Cottonwoods. Downtown Salt Lake also works well, offering a short trip to Park City and a slightly longer one to the canyons. Check rates at the Residence Inn Salt Lake City Cottonwood or the Best Western Cottontree Inn. If you're focused on Park City, poke around The Canyons resort and the town's outskirts, because the town has a fabulous, free shuttle system that runs morning, noon and night.

Take the shuttle or city buses. Loading yourself, your equipment and your ski clothes onto a bus doesn't sound like fun, but it's cheap ($2.25 each way). Besides, even with a rental car, you may have to take public transportation to the Cottonwood resorts. Avalanches and avalanche prevention often shut down the roads, or restrict them to buses or four-wheel drive. If it snows overnight, call the resorts' ski conditions hotlines for road information before you decide where to ski. If you do rent a car, consider your winter driving skills or an all-wheel/four-wheel-drive rental if you're planning to drive up the canyons.

Scout out discounts. Deals abound, online and on the ground. Wherever you stay, they'll likely offer discounted lift tickets for nearby resorts. Many offer the Salt Lake Super Pass, with discounts on one to six days of skiing at Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude (with a free day if you buy three days or more by Dec. 1). It's also available from, and other travel Web sites. The vouchers include rides on the UTA buses to the resorts. For the Cottonwoods and the Park City resorts (The Canyons, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort), you can also buy tickets at area ski shops such as Canyon Sports or Ski 'N See in Salt Lake (but not at Park City stores). You can save up to $18 -- provided you buy before you head up.