Resorts all over the West put gravity mountain biking on the top of the summer attractions. Those who crank up the lifts in the off-season put on bike racks and bring riders to great heights.
The days have lengthened, the sun is higher in the sky and the wildflowers are out, as Utah’s winter resorts put on their summer best and welcome the offseason.
Alta Ski Area has cleared a critical hurdle in its effort to enlarge parking and restaurants, and to upgrade lifts to improve flow around the mountain – including a tram to the top of Mount Baldy.
High Meadow teaching area to get new lift. (Park City Mountain/Facebook)
At Park City Mountain, the ropes will go up shortly and the lifts will fall silent. But the summer promises to be bustling as Vail Resorts commits to major upgrades at the massive Utah resoort..
Happy boarders at Mount Sunapee. (Mount Sunapee)
One of the absolute best reasons to rise and shine early for your trip to the mountains is the sweet reward of laying down some tracks in freshly groomed corduroy. The zip of your edges into those fine lines makes the first turns of the day often the most satisfying. While finding a powder day is never guaranteed, these resorts are known for their grooming finesse. So grab your coffee, boots and boards and head out for first chair.
In the Woodward park at Copper. (Woodward Copper/Facebook)
In a bit of an ironic twist, the former owner of Park City Mountain will build a Woodward action sports facility north of the city – a project originally planned for the base of the Utah ski and snowboard mountain.
Tramway a seven-minute flight to summit. (Snowbird/Facebook)
This is a serious skiing and riding mountain. Powder and steeps are what The 'Bird's all about. Little Cottonwood Canyon catches as much snow as anyone, and the precipitous terrain will make even the most daring pause.
Snowbird's revamped base lodge feeds the pow' soul. (Snowbird/Facebook)
A couple of high-speed chairlifts, upgrades to base lodges and the end of night skiing in Park City make the list of top improvements at ski and snowboard resorts in Utah.
Looking for a landing spot. (Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience)
Whenever favorite stashes get carved up, or the maddening crowds threaten your first tracks, it may be time to shell out the bucks for a helicopter ride deep into Powder Country in the West.
Finding some freshies above Sun Valley. (Sun Valley Trekking/Facebook)
Heading into the backcountry transports skiers and rider into a world of powder, mystery and quiet – especially if the trip includes a night or two out in the woods.
Sun Valley set to go with early discounts. (Sun Valley/Facebook)
Once the snow begins to fly, skiers and riders make plans to get up into the hills as soon as possible – and stay there as long as possible. As a result, many Rocky Mountain resorts lay out early season ticket and lodging deals.
Deer Valley is first Utah mountain Colorado-based consortium (Deer Valley/Facebook)
An Aspen-based consortium of ski and snowboard resorts has added Deer Valley to its portfolio.
Hangin' on at Snowbird coaster. (Snowbird/Facebook)
As summer hits its full stride across the West, mountain resorts put their hot-weather activities front and center – including a plethora of mountain coasters that rush down trails and slopes.
Brian Head Fire seen from chairlift at the resort. (UtahWildfire/Facebook)
A wildfire that began June 17 on the outskirts of the Brian Head Resort has moved away from the southern Utah resort, sparing it from any direct damage.
Payette River goes big near Tamarack. (Tamarack Resort/Facebook)
The winter may be over, but a solid reminder of what a good year it was in the West continues to play out in the rivers that are flowing bank-full out of the mountains this spring.
A face-full of Wasatch powder. (Solitude/Facebook)
Solitude Mountain is one of the most aptly named resorts in America. Both the marketers and loyalists tout non-existent lift lines and expansive terrain – promoting a day of “solitude” in the Utah mountains.
Resort sits near top of Big Cottonwood Canyon with two base areas – day parking Moonbeam and overnight Solitude Village. Bought by over-the-ridge neighbor Deer Valley in 2015, Solitude has since gotten a new and realigned high-speed (Summit Express), and upgrades inside lodges and restaurants – with promise of more.
Terrain/Lifts. Total vert just over 2,000 feet with 1,200 skiable acres spread across two cirques, and divided into distinct sections. Novices should stick to lower mountain off Moonbeam (only 18 percent of hill is green). Classic groomers roll off Sunrise, Apex, Eagle and Powderhorn lifts. Upper front serves up a few cruisers, but specializes in delivering skiers and riders to the steep, deep and gnarly. Tons of short, steep lines between trails to explore, and plenty of trees in Headwall Forest off 10,035-foot summit, or if you slalom through Black Forest into Honeycomb Canyon. That’s where Solitude sets itself apart: Honeycomb Canyon feeds all parts of the powder hound’s soul, with traverses (or short hikes) off the summit leading to glades, chutes, bowls and cliffs on both sides of the backside steep canyon. Return access requires a couple of chair rides on which to rest weary legs.
Deals. Multi-day tickets cut day rate, and season pass tops at $979, including days at Deer Valley and Brighton. SolBright ticket ($99) permits crossover to neighboring Brighton Mountain. Stay at resort properties in Solitude Village and cut ticket costs. Solitude part of M.A.X. Pass network.
Eat/Drink. Nothing on the mountain but skiing fare at base restaurants. Wander into the village and find everything from pizza to filet miñon. Target the Thirsty Squirrel bar for aprés-ski drinks and chatter. Lounge upscale at the Library Bar in Powderhorn Lodge, or strap on snowshoes for half-mile trek to The Yurt for four-course meal.
Stay. One hotel – the Inn at Solitude – surrounded by condos, townhouses and private home rentals in village. Down below, town of Sandy and Salt Lake City jammed with overnight options.
Play. Expansive Nordic center winds out of village with all levels of trails. Snowshoes can be rented for those who need more stability, and there’s an ice rink in the village.
Travel. A shuttle from Salt Lake City airport gets you on the slopes in about an hour. It’s 20 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon; public transport is preferred, with loading spots around the city and at mouth of canyon. Parking can be limited.
Insider Tip: First-timers should check out trail map ahead of time, as lifts link up oddly. Warm up below, and then plan to do multiple runs on a particular section of the mountain to avoid having to take more than one lift or making lengthy traverses.
Snowbird is one of four Wasatch resorts that fill their parking lots to the brim. (Snowbird/Facebook)
The bus system of the Utah Transit Authority will narrow its focus this winter in order to get more skiers and snowboarders on the slopes more efficiently.
That means more bus trips up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta and Snowbird, and more runs up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Solitude and Brighton. It also means no direct service for visitors staying in downtown hotels or local city dwellers.
That quartet of ski resorts has always been within easy reach of Salt Lake City and environs, but they have been hampered by heavy congested traffic and a lack of consistent bus service up the narrow canyon roads.
To that end, the UTA has decided to eliminate direct ski resort service from downtown hotels. Instead, it will increase service by 35 percent from three light rail stations in south Salt Lake City as the jumping-off point for buses into the mountains. Connections at Murray Central and Historic Sandy stations head up to Snowbird and Alta, while buses loading at Bingham Junction Station go to Solitude and Brighton.
UTA officials contend that connections from the light rail stations will entice more people to park there, as opposed to the smaller, more cramped lots at the canyons’ base.
During peak hours of 7 to 10 a.m., buses will run every 15 minutes from the parking lots at the base of the two canyons. In the afternoon between 3 and 6 p.m., they will run from the four resorts to the parking lots at the mouth of the canyons.
UTA also will ramp up weekend service during peak hours to diminish both vehicle traffic on access routes and crowded buses.
During off-peak hours, UTA has upped the frequency to every 30 minutes – again, an effort to spread out the number of riders on these busy routes.
A one-way adult fare is $4.50, or $2.25 for seniors. For a map and schedule, click here.