Skip the lines at Utah’s best local ski resorts

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If you’re planning a hop in Utah, you’ll have a choice of where to cruise the “biggest snow in the world.” According to Ski Utah, Beehive State receives about a foot of snowfall every five days between December and March. That works out to 18 “powder days” per winter, most of which occur on one of Utah’s 300 Bluebird Days, making for some pretty epic conditions.

Most out-of-state skiers travel to Salt Lake City and head east to Park City or, if they can, Deer Valley, and for good reason. Both resorts are close, offer great amenities and pleasant terrain. However, if you’re looking for a local experience that has all the trappings of a great ski vacation without the crowds, book these quieter mountains, and you better do it soon. The secret is already revealed.

Cottonwood Canyon: Mountain of Solitude

This local mountain in the Big Cottonwood Canyon of the Wasatch Mountains is just 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. With 82 trails, 1,200 acres, and 2,047 vertical feet, it’s a bit smaller, but has some of the most extreme inbound off-trail terrain in Utah. “The more you ski Solitude, the more fun you have,” says Sara Huey, communications manager at the mountain. “Once we’re loaded with snow and our avalanche mitigation team is doing their job, it’s a similar experience to the backcountry, but with the convenience of a security patrol providing an inbound experience. ”

What I liked most about Solitude was how unobtrusive and friendly it was. We rarely encountered a lift line, easily dropped our kids off at ski school, and the ski rental process – usually a tedious morning experience – was a breeze. Then, once in the chairlift, you discover the immensity of the mountain itself. My son was crazy about Honeycomb Canyon, the more adventurous side of the mountain, and all the bumps on the Eagle Lift. For me, the blue snow groomers at the top were the perfect descent. “Between the elevation here and the way the storms arrive, it gives us hundreds of inches of light, fluffy snow throughout the season, plus accessibility to a major metropolitan area,” Huey says.

We stayed at the charming Inn at Solitude, a 46-room Bavarian-inspired lodge with ski-in/ski-out access. We ate homemade breakfasts each morning next to a crackling fire and returned each afternoon to a bubbling hot tub. It was a scenic respite after a long day on the mountain.

In Solitude, we come to ski. You’re not here for afterstage or to show off your Bogner snowsuit. You would do well to dine at the Honeycomb Grill, a lovely restaurant near our hostel that offers locally caught trout, fresh roasted vegetables and a killer burger. There is also a café serving pizza, sandwiches and salads. A few bars looked fun, although by Utah law we couldn’t dine there with our kids.

Solitude is working to increase the number of skiers who can enjoy the mountain and close the racial and income gap that has plagued the sport for so long. In partnership with Ski Utah, it is one of six resorts participating in the Discover Winter program, which is committed to increasing the participation of the BIPOC community in winter sports.

With funding through a CARES Act grant from the Governor of Utah’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Larry H. Miller Foundation, Ski Utah’s Discover Winter program offers four free ski or snowboard lessons, transportation to stations provided by Le Bus, ski and snowboard equipment rental. by Ski ‘n’ See, and appropriate clothing donated by Rossignol, Brighton Ski Resort, Hestra, Seirus, Smith Optics, Snowbird, Stio, Obermeyer, PSIA, Salomon, AJ Motion Sports, MCU Sports, Turbine and Buff as well as members individuals in the community.

“Loneliness is not a secret we want to keep hidden,” says Huey. “We want to share the joy of this incredible place with neighbors and visitors. We are here to increase attendance and awareness and are delighted to welcome new skiers.

The Ogden Valley: Powder Mountain and Snowbasin

These two local mountains are part of a trio of ski resorts north of Salt Lake City in the Ogden Valley (the other being Nordic Valley). The anchor of the area is the historic town of Ogden, whose fame in the 1800s was historic Union Station, the junction for all western rail travel for several decades, earning it the nickname of “Junction City”. It was a hotbed of revelry, with its own red-light district and stories of crime and sin.

Once cars and planes broke new ground in the travel space, Ogden fell on hard times. It wasn’t until the 1990s that investors saw the decrepit city as a goldmine and began building restaurants, galleries and stores along historic 25th Street, just in time for the 2002 Winter Olympics where nearby Snowbasin hosted the downhill race.

“Basically, we were rich at the right time and poor at the right time,” says Ogden native Colt Jarvis, who is director of marketing and communications for Visit Ogden. “We were rich enough to build these incredible art deco buildings, but too poor to tear them down. So you have all this original architecture with new business coming in. It was like finding a hidden gem.

Today, Ogden is the cultural epicenter of the region, offering locals, tourists and second home owners a place to enjoy fine dining, local art, live music and more.

If you choose to explore the Ogden area, you can stay at any downtown chain hotel, but for a more ski-focused country experience, we stayed at Compass Rose Lodge, a lodge of charm whose position in Huntsville allows easy access to the three mountains of Ogden. Hotel owners Jeff and Bonnie Hyde, along with their sons Dakota and River, drew inspiration from the agricultural and industrial heritage of the Ogden Valley to create a one-of-a-kind farmhouse experience with historic and modern elements. We loved the teepees that decorated the hotel grounds, which we were lucky enough to dine in one night. We were also treated to on-site celestial stargazing through the Huntsville Astronomical and Lunar Observatory (HALO) perched atop the hotel silo.

Powder mountain:

This narrow-lipped mountain offers some of the largest ski areas in the country, but you wouldn’t know it, and that’s exactly what the community wants. “We say it’s gritty versus glamorous, with Powder Mountain being the gritty choice,” says Jarvis. “It has more skiable area than any resort in North America, but you won’t find that on any marketing material. You will never hear how big it is.

According to JP Goulet, marketing director at Powder Mountain, a good ski experience takes precedence over high-speed lifts or candle lodges. He caps his ski passes on a daily and seasonal basis to keep that feeling of having the whole mountain to yourself. “It’s really a mom and pop vibe, kind of like Sun Valley in the 1950s,” says Goulet. “We never want our community to worry about the lines or the people behind you. We like slow elevators. We don’t want a mountain that can be skied in a few hours. We try to preserve this experience.

The mountain is working hard to balance its local vibe with rapid development. Over the past few years, he has sold around 150 residential lots and has currently built 40-50 of these luxury homes, many of which are worth millions of dollars. From the perch of its trails, you can glimpse the modernist residences, many owned by residents of New York and San Francisco, illuminating the interesting high/low feel of the mountain. With phase two, it will create two new neighborhoods. The third phase will bring amenities, a village, storefronts and smaller hotels.

“We could over-develop and build a lot more houses, but we want to stay small,” says Goulet. “We look at small villages in Switzerland and France in terms of modeling our station. It’s just a different type of community building that you don’t see in the United States.

Snow basin:

If Powder Mountain is the grit, Snowbasin is the glam, with some of the finest lodges this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Even its bathrooms have won awards. Rather than munching on pizzas and chicken nuggets here, diners toast the end of the ski day over roasted Brussels sprouts, salads and soups. While there are great ski areas all over Utah, sometimes it’s the little things, like crystal chandeliers and plush carpeting, that make all the difference.

Snowbasin is perhaps most famous for hosting the downhill race during the 2002 Winter Olympics, a source of pride for everyone on the mountain. As you cross, you will see various international flags lining the road leading to the base. We happened to ski at Snowbasin on the best sunny day of our trip, and the terrain did not disappoint.

“Even on our busiest day, we’re far from full capacity,” says Snowbasin General Manager Davy Ratchford. “We’re certainly not the biggest mountain, but our owners invest in things that matter to the experience. We have more parking lots than other mountains so everyone has access. At other resorts, you will park and carry your skis half a mile to get to the resort. Plus, with our proximity to Salt Lake City, you can wake up in Miami, hop on a flight, ski at 12:30 p.m., and be home that night.

A few years ago, Snowbasin launched a Learn and Earn program, which hopes to break down the financial barriers to entry for people learning to ski. It bundles lessons, equipment and a season pass for around $500 plus loops in the Salomon ski brand to donate gear. “It’s not easy to just learn to ski and it’s expensive,” says Ratchford. “With the program, we wanted to build loyalty and create a mountain spirit. We are here for the long game. We have seen tens of thousands of people begin to relate to the mountain.

While Snowbasin prides itself on its local atmosphere, it is increasingly aware of the need to expand in order to retain customers and attract new ones. It’s not currently home to a single hotel or condominium among its 3,000 acres, but that’s about to change. Club Med Snowbasin, the resort’s first-ever all-inclusive national ski site, will open this summer. “Club Med is the perfect hotel partner to come in and bring new people into the sport,” says Ratchford. “They have a great international cache and they are so good at what they do.”

If you’re considering Utah for your next ski vacation, my recommendation would be to look beyond Park City and head to some of these little local mountains. Between the terrain, the sun and that indescribable feeling of being alone running in the middle of a powder day, you’ll be so glad you did.

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