Last Call for Fresh Powder: Get It While You Can in Utah

(photo of Snowbird/Alta by Nickehret/Flickr)

The ski/snowboard season may be wrapping up, but someone must have forgotten to tell Utah because it's still getting tons of snow. Alta and Snowbird have gotten 12 feet of snow in the past 12 days, and the Park City resorts aren't doing too bad either. If you want to glide through piles of powder, you'll have to hurry: Alta closes on April 19th (but might stay open longer) while Snowbird will remain open through Memorial Day Weekend. Meanwhile, The Park City crew (Park City, Deer Valley and The Canyons) close up shop on Sunday.

Now part of the fun of skiing or snowboarding in Utah is that the resorts are very close together, making it easy to visit a lot of them in a short amount of time. That's just what Liz Arguelles Holden did when she vacationed there at the end of February. In just six days, Liz and her friends managed to hit Park City Mountain, The Canyons, Snowbird and Alta. After the jump, she reveals which resorts were her favorite and where you should go to refuel after a long day on the slopes.

photo by Park City Mountain/Flickr

Park City Pleasures: We kicked off our vacation by spending two nights at The Washington School Inn, an adorable converted historic schoolhouse right off Main Street, and we would definitely recommend it. In addition to a great breakfast, they offer complimentary apres-ski snacks with wine. Its location is very convenient, as it's in walking distance to all the Main Street restaurants, shops, etc., and just two blocks from the town lift to the Park City Mountain Resort. We stayed at a friend's house in Salt Lake City for the rest of the time.

Measuring Up the Mountains: We liked Park City Mountain Resort but didn't love its neighbor, The Canyons, which we found to be overhyped. I felt that it was a poorly designed resort that was very hard to navigate, emphasizing quantity over quality. As great as Park City Mountain was, it paled in comparison to the much better snow and more rugged terrain found in the Cottonwoods (i.e. Snowbird and Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon and Solitude and Brighton in Big Cottonwood), which we visited from Salt Lake City.

For the pure skiing/snowboarding experience, I thought Snowbird and Alta were right up there with anything I've ridden in Colorado, Tahoe, etc — varied, vast open terrain, massive back bowls and spectacular ridges and peaks. The snow was amazing — one day I found myself waist-deep in dry, light, gorgeous powder in Snowbird's Mineral Basin. The only downside is that there isn't much in the way of accommodations/nightlife/restaurants in the immediate area, so you may be stuck with a 30—40-minute drive from Salt Lake City like we were.

Favorite Restaurants: In Park City, it's a tie between 350 Main and Riverhorse. Both are top-notch New American places — 350 Main has a bit more of an Asian influence — and both are absolutely delicious and provide excellent service. In Salt Lake City, I had one of the best Mexican meals of my life at Red Iguana, a real down-to earth, kitschy place. It's worth the one-hour wait for a table to sample their huge selection of interesting moles.

Lowering the Lift Ticket Price: On a whim, we went to a timeshare presentation at The Canyons in exchange for deeply discounted lift tickets. We received one day at The Canyons and one day at Park City for two people for $60 total. As expected, it was a really gross, high-pressure sales pitch and we barely made it out in one piece with our wallets intact, but in the end worth it for the great bargain! If you have an incredibly strong will and don't mind psychological mind games, this can be a great way to save money.

If you don't want to subject yourself to that, Costco sells $50 tickets to Snowbird. But even Snowbird's full price ticket is a pretty good deal at $62 for chairs only, $72 if you want to add the tram service. Snowbird also gives free tickets to all kids under 6, so for families that is a great deal. Overall, the lift tickets in the Cottonwoods are much cheaper than the Park City tickets.

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