“For a wonderful time, ski Utah”!
Every winter I try to make a trip out west to the big mountains and my favorite place to go is to Utah. Utah is known as having the greatest snow on earth, and after skiing many times in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Montana I would agree. Traditionally the snow in Utah is light, fluffy and dry with tons of powder. Unfortunately the last few years have not been as good of snow as usual but this winter has seen some of the best Utah powder in years. And skiers near and far were ready.
We woke up Friday morning to a fresh 13-inch coat of snow in the mountains and could not have been luckier. The skies had cleared and were a brilliant blue. The sun was beaming down and it felt like everyone in Salt Lake City was headed to the mountains. I could tell that we were in for the time of our life!
It was the third year in a row that we were doing a three-generational ski trip. Me, my dad and my nine-year-old daughter Sophia. The first year we went to Taos, New Mexico which is an amazing ski area but harder to reach. Last year we went to ski Snowbird for two-days in a row in Utah, and this year we were doing Utah again but mixing it up. We spent the first day skiing at Snowbird, arguably one of the most difficult terrain in Utah, and the second day skiing at family oriented Brighton. Both days were stunning and perfect conditions.
Snowbird boasts its “legendary terrain, spectacular scenery and ‘oh, the snow'” on their trail maps. Indeed everything they say about Snowbird is correct. Averaging 500 inches of fresh snow annually, Snowbird offers over 3,240 vertical feet of world-famous terrain and stunning mountain views. It also has 10 quads and an Aerial tram that brings you all the way to the top in no time.
Located only 25 miles from downtown Salt Lake City and 29 miles (about a 40 minute drive from the airport), Snowbird is extremely convenient to reach, especially compared to Colorado which can take at least three hours to reach the ski resorts from Denver on a busy day. When we go to Utah, we usually stay in Midvale which is right at the base of the canyon and only about a 15-20 minute drive up to Snowbird. It isn’t the most luxurious area (as it is a hodgepodge of dollar stores, fast food chains and a few nicer places) yet it is very convenient and easy. Plus the lodging is reasonable.
Snowbird has some of the most difficult terrain I’ve ever skied. Out of 159 runs, only 19 are green and 25 blue. The remainder is for advanced and expert skiers (73 black and 42 double black diamonds) plus of course the back country for those who want to go extreme. With names such as “Thanks for the memories“, “Old Ladies” and “Knucklehead Traverse” for the cliff-dropping double black diamonds, I laughed but didn’t try any because I didn’t want to come home with a broken leg.
Instead, with my daughter we stuck mostly with the blue runs which were still like blacks in some cases given the 13 inches of fresh powder on top. Our favorite run is “Chips Run”, a nice long, cruiser blue that runs all the way from the top of the Aerial Tram at Hidden Peak (11,000 feet) down to the base.
Behind Hidden Peak lies Mineral Basin, another whole open area of skiing. Given the high amount of fresh snow, none of the runs had been groomed so it was too hard for Sophia. Furthermore, we were a little spooked by all the blasts for avalanches. It made me rather jumpy. We only skied two runs and then went back over to the other side. It was a fantastic day of skiing and I could not have been prouder of my little girl who was skiing beautifully alongside me and my dad.
We skied until 3:30 that day and had to call it quits. We were too tired out and had to save energy for the next day skiing at Brighton. We were hoping it would be an easier day of skiing but equally as fun.
Brighton Ski Area is located on the other side of Big Cottonwood Canyon from Snowbird, and is about 35 minutes southeast of downtown Salt Lake City. It is very different from Snowbird as it is smaller, more low-key, has less expert terrain and is way more family oriented. At Snowbird, there are not many children skiing probably due to difficulty of the terrain whereas at Brighton it is perfect for kids with its multiple blue cruiser runs and greens. Brighton covers 1,050 acres with 66 trails, 5 terrain parks and five high-speed quads. The majority of the runs are blue, black and green however for the more adventurous, expert skiers there are plenty of double blacks and back-country skiing available (as long as you have your avalanche gear!).
What is so wonderful about Brighton is that kids under 10 ski free! It is also cheaper than Snowbird (the adult lift price at Brighton is $75 and it is $98 at Snowbird/Children 7-12 are $46). Although it was relatively crowded with families on a Saturday, we rarely had to wait long in the lift lines and skied our hearts out, flying at breakneck speed down the amazingly groomed trails. It was the perfect place to bring Sophia and experience skiing like the locals.
We started skiing on the far righthand side down “Backbone” a nice, long cruiser blue run. Then we worked our way left hitting the Crest Express lift (where most of the kids are and there are lots of ski lessons going on), and continuing onto our favorite area at the edge of the ski boundary along the Great Western Express lift. “Golden Needle” was our favorite run, a steeper blue that few kids were on and there were no lift lines. The views were perhaps even more stunning than at Snowbird as you could see Park City on one side and Snowbird high above on the other. What a place!
We could not have asked for better weather. It was amazing out there! I was so warm I even got rid of my top layer and wore only a thin base shirt. The sky was as blue as can be, the sun was hot and warm and the snow was out of this world. We were in heaven!
With views like this, how could we stop skiing? We skied our legs off and closed the place down at 4. I haven’t been so tired after a day of skiing in years. And best part of all, Sophia was right beside me the entire time. Even my dad couldn’t believe it. By next year she may very well be passing us both by!
We left Brighton exhausted and pleased with what an incredible day we had skiing together. It is days like this that make me want to come back for more. But sadly, we had to get back home and would have to wait until next year to do it again. We sure had a wonderful time!
If you go:
Snowbird is an amazing place but it is perhaps better for more advanced skiers. Children can enroll in lessons at both Brighton and Snowbird. Night skiing is also offered at Brighton. To learn more, visit their websites, Snowbird and Brighton.