On a recent ski trip in Utah, I ran into two people I know. I was especially surprised to see them because both have considerable skiing options at their disposal. One is an executive at a major international airline and can pretty much ski anywhere in the world. The other owns a house in Vermont. We talked about why we all picked Utah for our family vacations. Here are just some of the reasons.
It’s All About the Snow
Ask anyone who has skied Utah’s Wasatch Mountains what they love most about them and you’ll inevitably hear about the snow itself. Powder. Lots of powder. Not too wet, not too dry, indeed…it’s referred to as the Greatest Snow on Earth®. On top of that, there’s lots of it. While it varies from canyon to canyon, we’re talking about an average seasonal snowfall of over 500 inches on some of the mountains.
Beyond that, there’s tremendous variety at the various ski areas. With 14 ski resorts in the state (11 of which are within an hour’s drive of Salt Lake City International Airport), you can easily divide your time between the legendary runs of Alta, the family-friendly slopes of Solitude, the extraordinary variety of trails at Deer Valley and the action-packed terrain park features of Park City and The Canyons.
If you love food as much as you love skiing, you cannot go wrong in Utah. Pictured above is the first course of our favorite meal of the trip—Swiss Raclette served at Fireside Dining at Deer Valley. What follows are a variety of spicy stews, salads and home-baked breads, roasted meats and chocolate fondue, all prepared over open fires.
For us, this topped off a Deer Valley day that started with Huevos Rancheros at the Snow Park Lodge at the base, a bowl of Andouille Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo at the Royal Street Café mid-mountain for lunch and cups of hot cider at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in the mid-afternoon.
Gallery- and Shop-Hopping
The Historic Main Street of Park City is a magnet for artists, photographers and artisans who compete for your attention with their dazzling window displays. You can easily occupy yourselves for hours, either just looking or looking to do some serious shopping.
Who Doesn’t Get Excited About S’mores?
Some Utah resort hotels—such as the Montage Deer Valley (whose multi-flavored marshmallows are pictured here) and the Waldorf Astoria Park City–have a nightly winter ritual of hot chocolate and s’mores over an open fire pit. It’s a great way to meet fellow guests and appreciate the night sky.
Salt Lake City Sparkles
If you’re in Utah’s capital over the holidays, you’ll have the opportunity to see one of the most magnificent Christmas light displays in the world. It’s at Temple Square, headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (informally, the Mormon church). Even if you’re not staying in town, be sure to make a point of getting in to see them.
Holidays or no holidays though, Temple Square should not be missed. There are free guided tours of the buildings and grounds, free concerts in the tabernacle, as well as interactive displays and exhibits to explore on your own.
Other Winter Diversions
If you’re not soaring down a slope on skis or snowboards, you’ll soon discover that there are a myriad of ways to get out and enjoy the fresh mountain air in Utah. You can zip through the alpine scenery on a zip line at The Canyons, ride Utah’s longest Alpine Coaster at Park City Mountain Resort, pile into inner tubes at Gorgoza Park or even experience the thrill of shooting down an icy track on a bobsled at Utah’s Olympic Park.
You’re also never too far from a pool and/or a hot tub and if you’re looking for some all-out pampering, there are some outstanding spas including the Spa Montage and the Grand Spa at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.
So where do you stay when skiing in Utah? Some people settle into townhouses, condos or hotels at the different ski mountains. Others use Salt Lake City as a base, staying in a hotel and skiing or boarding a different mountain each day and dipping into the city’s restaurant scene at night. Some people rent SUVs and drive themselves around, others are perfectly happy not having to deal with a vehicle and using their resort’s shuttle services or…if staying in Salt Lake City, the ski buses that regularly run between the city and nearby mountains.
We can help zero in on the experience that best suits you and your family.
Susan Farewell is one of our travel editors as well as the founder of Farewell Travels LLC, a Westport, CT-based travel firm that customizes trips for leisure travelers.
Contact her at email@example.com or phone (203-222-7238).