Wild Roads: Utah
Illustration: Utah road trip map

Powder Keg

Eight resorts, two mountain ranges, one big loop.

Text by Pieter van Noordennen
Map by Haisam Hussein

The last time I drove out of Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon, it was through a blinding snowstorm. "You’ll be lucky if you can make it back up," Nick Greener, a pro skier and Deer Valley native, told me once I’d reached Salt Lake City. Then he smiled: He figured I should have stayed stuck up in the canyon during that big westerly, rising to find three feet of powder on my doorstep, instead of road-tripping to all of Utah’s best resorts. But skiing and snowboarding are about discovery, and the Wasatch and Uintah Ranges pack a variety of terrain unlike anywhere on Earth—all within one well-plowed circuit. Plus, by the end of my four-day tour, when someone asked me which mountain I’d visited, I could smugly reply: "All of them."

Day 1

The good people in Park City are calling their new program Quick START. Let’s call it what it is: free skiing. Take an airline boarding pass (sorry, locals) to any of the three areas—Canyons, Deer Valley, and the eponymous Resort—the same day you arrive and receive a voucher to ski for nothing (parkcityinfo.com). Check out the famous après scene with a room downtown at the Shadow Ridge Hotel (doubles from $259; shadowridgeresort.com).

Day 2

There’s one reason winter sports companies Descente, Niedecker, and Salomon all moved their headquarters to the sleepy mining town of Ogden two years ago: Snowbasin. Home to the 2002 Olympic downhill races, this 2,820-acre resort boasts some of the fastest runs in the country. Take in the Great Salt Lake from atop the Needles Spires before gunning down chutes that cut through rocky outcrops ($63; snowbasin.com).

Day 3

It’s time to meet Bruce Tremper, lead forecaster at the Utah Avalanche Center. His website (avalanche.org/~uac) is the most detailed, accurate weather reporting you’ll find for the region, and it’ll inform the big decision of the day: Snowbird vs. Alta. If there’s going to be snow, head to the birthplace of powder skiing at Alta’s Collins lift ($64; alta.com). Or, if the decision is weighing too heavily, $90 grants access to both. And they’re connected by a lift.

Day 4

Wake mountainside at the Inn at Snowbird (doubles from $183; snowbird.com), then hop north to Big Cottonwood Canyon, where big egos don’t make it past the gate. Brighton is the spot for knuckle-draggers (boarders), with 200 acres of terrain parks and nary a traverse. Attitude-less Solitude offers exactly that, plus two brand-new, high-speed chairs ($61; skisolitude.com). Then it’s a straight, 45-minute shot back to Salt Lake City International.

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