Utah skiing – Greatest Snow on Earth

Ski and snowboard enthusiasts flock to Utah for its legendary dry, light powder and impressive annual snowfall. There’s a reason why the state’s slogan is “Greatest Snow on Earth.”

Most ski enthusiasts fly into Salt Lake City and do one of the following:

  • Drive to Park City and spend the week skiing at Park City, The Canyons, and Deer Valley – 3 world-class destination resorts, an authentic western town with great shops and restaurants and activities to keep the whole family satisfied.
  • Drive up to Little Cottonwood Canyon and stay at ski-in, ski-out accommodations at either Snowbird or Alta – two mountains where diehard skiers can spend a whole week skiing challenging terrain and not get bored.
  • Stay in Salt Lake City and use it as a base to travel to the ski resorts in the Park City area or Snowbird and Alta.
Earl's Lodge at Snowbasin Photo: FaceshotsPhotography.com

Earl’s Lodge at Snowbasin

But, Utah has 14 ski resorts under the brand name of Ski Utah, and many skiers will never make it to those resorts. If you’re an avid skier like me, you’re probably always looking for a new ski area to try. The ski areas of Northern Utah have a few things in common: they’re affordable, they’re not crowded, and they get lots of snow! So leave the crowds of Park City behind and exchange those high-priced Deer Valley lift tickets for the laid-back atmosphere of the Ogden Valley.

Easy access from two airports

All of the major airlines fly into Salt Lake City (American, Delta, Frontier, Jet Blue, Southwest, US Airways, and United). Allegiant Airlines has added service from Phoenix into Ogden Airport and now Arizona skiers have affordable, non-stop flights into Ogden, giving them closer access to Ogden Valley ski areas.

It’s about an hour drive from the Salt Lake City Airport and about a 20-minute drive from Ogden Airport to downtown Eden. Drive along the Ogden River Scenic Byway, which starts at the mouth of Ogden Canyon and circles the Pineview Reservoir into Eden. The byway is one of only 26 designated scenic byways in Utah and is rated as one of the 10 best scenic drives in America.

Staying in a town like Eden provides a central location to 3 ski areas in the Ogden Valley: Powder Mountain, Wolf Mountain Resort, and Snowbasin. You’re in downtown Eden when you reach the 4-way stop sign (but don’t blink or you’ll miss it). You’ll find the Village Market at the intersection – stop in to stock up on food and supplies before checking into your accommodations. There are plenty of lodging options in Eden and the surrounding areas; bed and breakfasts, inns and lodges, condos, and timeshare condos. If you’re with a ski group or vacationing with family, a condo is your best option.

The ski areas of Ogden Valley offer 3 distinct experiences:  no-frills pure mountain skiing, ultimate luxury, and affordable, family-friendly fun.

Cat Skiing at Powder Mountain Photo: Gregg Greer

Cat Skiing at Powder Mountain

Ski at Powder Mountain

Powder Mountain, located in Eden, is about a 15-minute drive from the town center. An adult lift ticket is only $65 – such a deal! The mountain, affectionately known as “Pow Mow,” is a no-frills mountain with a laid-back, down-home atmosphere. If you’re looking for a pure ski experience and lots of powder with no crowds and no lines, Pow Mow is the place. The resort has over 7,000 acres of skiable terrain, receives over 500 inches of snow each year, and is known for its snowcat skiing and tours. There are 7 lifts (only 1 is a high-speed quad) that serve more than 2,800 acres of skiing on 144 runs. The rest of the acreage accounts for snowcat skiing and backcountry skiing. The lifts may be slow, but that keeps people away and the powder stashes last for days!

The road up to Powder Mountain Photo: Stan Evans

The road up to Powder Mountain

If you do run out of powder, you can always find some at Powder Mountain’s Snowcat Powder Safari Tour. The tour accesses over 3,000 acres of backcountry bowls and will run you about $425 per person. If you want to watch your pocketbook but love the powder, you can satisfy your craving with single snowcat rides on Lightning Ridge or Rain Tree – all for $18 with a lift ticket. If you’re up for your own adventure, there’s 1,200 acres of backcountry skiing waiting for you off the back side of Powder Mountain. The Powder Country Shuttle (included in your lift ticket price) will transport you back to the lifts. There are ski shuttles from Eden if you don’t want to drive your car up to Powder Mountain ($5 round trip). For other Mountain Adventures, visit their website at  www.powdermountain.com.

The scenery at Snowbasin

The scenery at Snowbasin

Ski at Snowbasin

As a contrast to the no-frills ruggedness of Powder Mountain, you’ll find ultimate mountain luxury at Snowbasin (A Sun Valley Resort). The resort had a major upgrade prior to the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games. It’s known for its wide-open bowls, glades and groomers, and has one of the most advanced lift systems in the West. For thigh-burning cruisers, take the Needles Express Gondola for over 2,300 vertical feet of non-stop top to bottom skiing. The 8-passenger high speed gondola is only an 8-minute ride — so you can get lots of skiing in. Although the resort receives 300 inches of snow annually, Snowbasin has the world’s largest automated snowmaking system – so if it’s early season and there’s no snow at Powder Mountain yet, this is your place. Adult lift tickets run $82.

Inside Earl's lodge, Snowbasin

Inside Earl’s lodge, Snowbasin

Although Snowbasin is not a destination resort (there is no lodging on the property), Snowbasin has all of the amenities of a destination resort – without the crowds. Three beautiful pine lodges with massive stone fireplaces, ruby and emerald chandeliers, and gourmet fare.  Oh, and the bathrooms! Italian marble, bronze and crystal chandeliers, floor to ceiling commodes, beautifully inlaid African Anegre wood and hand-painted walls. I feel like I’m in the bathroom of a catering hall or a posh hotel — not a ski area! Don’t believe me? Snowbasin was among the 10 finalists competing for the 2011 Cintas’ America’s Best Restroom Contest! Visit their website www.snowbasin.com for more info.

The bathroom at Snowbasin: A Sun Valley Resort

The bathroom at Snowbasin: A Sun Valley Resort

Wolf Mountain Resort

Also located in Eden, Wolf Mountain Resort is known as Utah’s most affordable ski resort. It’s a small, family-friendly resort with 22 runs and is considered to be one of the best “learn to ski and ride” mountains in the Rockies. Wolf Mountain’s atmosphere can be compared to Powder Mountain’s in that it’s homey and laid back – the resort’s cafeteria is housed in an old dairy barn. The interior was recently restored to its former glory with open ceilings and the original wooden barn posts.

Wolf Mountain is a great place for kids if you want to give them lessons. From the parking lot, it’s a short walk to the ski school, which is located in a cozy yurt. After you get the kids signed up, all they have to do is exit the other side of the yurt, and they’re right at the learning area and the Magic Carpet beginner’s lift. While the kids are in ski school, adults will enjoy 22 runs on 110 acres. There are some challenging runs at Wolf too, and the mountain is not crowded so the snow stays fresh!

Left: Magic Carpet at Wolf Mountain Right: Base lodge at Wolf Mountain

Left: Magic Carpet at Wolf Mountain Right: Base lodge at Wolf Mountain

Wolf Mountain is a good choice when the Ogden Canyon road is closed or the roads are icy and you don’t feel like making the trip to Snowbasin or Powder Mountain. Or, if you want to sleep in or do something else during the day Wolf has night skiing, and the mountain is open until 9 pm. But how about just for the skiing itself? It’s great fun for the entire family – if you want to ski a half a day or even a whole day. And, you can’t beat the prices and some of their incredible deals. On Mondays, a group of four can ski for $40 from 4 pm to 9 pm – that’s $10 each! On Tuesdays, skiers can buy one full price lift ticket and get the second one for $10. For more amazing deals, check out www.wolfmountainutah.com.

Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville

After skiing all over the Ogden Valley you’ll work up a hearty Western appetite so head on down to the Shooting Star Saloon in nearby Huntsville. The saloon was established in 1879 and is the longest continually operating saloon in Utah. The ceiling is covered with dollar bills, and there’s a stuffed St. Bernard head on the wall – it’s the world’s largest St. Bernard weighing in at 298 pounds – the owner had his beloved dog stuffed after he died in 1957.  Try the Star Burger – made with two beef patties, cheese, and slices of knockwurst – mouthwatering!

The Shooting Star Saloon Photo: St Bernard

The Shooting Star Saloon

So, if you’re looking to pick up a few new pins and patches, add these Ogden Valley ski areas to your Ski Wish List!

Author Bio: Many thanks to Linda Steinmuller for this Guest Post. Linda is a travel writer, copywriter and reporter for her local newspaper in Brooklyn, New York. She loves to ski and visit new ski areas whenever she can.

Photo credits: Earl’s lodge at Snowbasin by FaceshotsPhotography.com, Cat skiing at Powder mountain by Gregg Greer, The Road up to Powder Mountain by Stan Evans, and Shooting Star Saloon by Linda Steinmuller

For more winter ski fun:

Snowboarding in Pas de la Casa, Andorra – a student guide
What’s the best ski resort for your next ski-ing holiday?
Savoyard food specialities to enjoy from the French Alps

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Mark H
    March 22, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Snowbasin looks like a castle from the inside.

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