Lead photo credit: Douglas Puslipher-Alamy
Tucked away beneath the Wasatch Mountain Range and the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City has spent most of its lifetime isolated. What one would think should be a major metropolitan area given its distinction as Utah’s capital, the city always seemed a bit provincial. Insulated from the outside world, Salt Lake City was often shrouded in mystery.
Outsiders saw it as a place dominated by conservative Mormons that they did not know much about. Utah’s staunchly Mormon heritage led the charge and Salt Lake City became the red-headed stepchild to other major cities across the country. However, as time moves on, this stigma of seclusion is all starting to change. Yes, Salt Lake City is still hidden among the mountains. Yes, Mormonism does continue to dominate culture and politics. However, over the last two decades, Salt Lake City has really grown up and come into its own.
What was once, “The Crossroads to the West” is now a place where people stop and stay for a while. The 2002 Winter Olympics was the catalyst that paved the way for growth. Since then, tech giants such as Electronic Arts, Twitter and Adobe have made Salt Lake City their home. Their move into town brought with it unforeseen growth.
Salt Lake City now boasts a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, delicious foodie scene and a growing craft beer revolution. Combine these relatively new components of the city with accessibility to the world-class skiing that has always been there and it’s easy to see why Salt Lake City has become quite the attraction for people looking to visit the Beehive State. Seeking to capitalize on these new attractions and facilitate your stay, Visit Salt Lake has instituted a variety of passes that when combined can make for the ultimate ski and après ski experience.
The Highly Accessible Cottonwood Canyons
You really cannot go wrong with any of the 21 ski resorts across the state of Utah. They are all special in their own way. However, when push comes to shove, if you are looking for the crown jewel of skiing in the state of Utah, you would be hard pressed to look past the Cottonwood Canyons. Easily accessible from Salt Lake City, unrivaled terrain and arguably the best snow in the entire state, the Cottonwood resorts are a skier’s and snowboarder’s paradise.
One of the best parts of The Cottonwoods is how attainable they are from the city. Their proximity to downtown SLC is something you are reminded of as soon as you step outside of the new Salt Lake City Airport. There in full view and all its glory is Utah’s spectacular mountain landscape. Hop in a car and it’s only a short 25 minute drive outside of Salt Lake City to get to the lower parts of Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Deep Snow Awaits in the Renowned Little Cottonwood Cotton
To say that Little Cottonwood Canyon is known for its snow would be the understatement of the century. Each year they receive massive amounts of snowfall, which when combined with having the famed Alta and Snowbird makes this a classic skiing destination. As a result of an average snowfall of 500 or more inches per year, the season tends to begin earlier and end later than anywhere else. It can sometimes even run from November Through July.
When visiting, staying in Salt Lake City is certainly an option or you could book lodging at some of the awesome hotels in LCC. The Cliff Lodge at Snowbird is very well known for its incredible spa, swimming pools and hot tubs. In contrast to the fancier Cliff Lodge and just up the road at Alta is The Alta Lodge.
The Alta Lodge was the original lodge back when Alta opened in 1938. It has since been added on to and converted into a hotel. To this day, The Alta Lodge has maintained its old school vibe while offering many nice amenities like complementary yoga, breakfast and a four course meal with your stay. Plus you can walk right out the door, click into your skis and ski right down to the base of Alta. It really doesn’t get closer to the action than this.
Big Cottonwood Canyon, Less Cache but Just as World Class
The ski resorts in Little Cottonwood Canyon may get all of the acclaim, but not to be outdone in all of this are Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts, Solitude and Brighton. Their names may not carry the cache of their Little Cottonwood Canyon brethren but these resorts are equally world class and worth a visit. Both Solitude and Brighton receive just as much annual snowfall as Alta and Snowbird and have plenty of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. Brighton even has night skiing all winter long so you can stay on the slopes and shred until 9 pm each day.
If you wanted to stay in Big Cottonwood Canyon you would not be disappointed. The Inn at Solitude may be modeled off an old-world Bavarian ski lodge but it certainly provides many modern amenities. Located right at the base, you are a short walk to the slopes and can easily return back to the inn for a dip in the hot tub or a treatment at the spa. It’s also only a few steps away from Solitude’s famed après ski bar, The Thirsty Squirrel. With live music on Saturdays rocking the joint, it’s a magnet for your attention when the day ends.
Ski Salt Lake Super Pass Grants Access to All Four Cottonwood Canyons Resorts
Interestingly enough, although the four resorts are located in two separate canyons they are actually quite close to each other geographically. You can even ski from Snowbird to Alta to Solitude to Brighton. Logistically this might take a little planning but it’s doable.
Whether you plan on interconnecting the resorts or not, the Salt Lake Ski Super Pass is an excellent option. It’s good at all four Cottonwood Canyon Resorts. For the pricing you simply cannot beat the value it provides:
Super Pass Pricing: Adult: Junior:
3-4 Days: $142 $73
5-6 Days: $139 $68
7-10 Days: $135 $63
The direct-to-lift* Super Pass lets skiers and riders bypass the ticket window and includes free transportation to and from the resorts via UTA ski buses and TRAX light rail. It also offers equipment rental discounts at participating rental locations. Super Passes are sold online are offered in increments of three to 10 days (and valid over a 14-day period) and there are no blackout dates.
Add on the Salt Lake Brewery Pass for the Ultimate Après Experience
Après Ski in the Cottonwood Canyons themselves will certainly not disappoint. With legendary bars such as Molly Green’s, The Thirsty Squirrel and the Alta Peruvian Bar (aka P Dog) you simply cannot go wrong. However, for those looking to get out of the canyons before the traffic gets a little too thick, Salt Lake City’s multitude of breweries is an excellent après ski option.
The Salt Lake City craft beer scene is bursting at the seams. Kind of hard to believe since it is also home to the non-drinking Church of Latter Day Saints. However, Salt Lake City and the state of Utah itself has a long history of brewing beer that dates back to the old mining days of the mid-1800s.
Over time, Salt Lake City breweries came and went. So much so, that as recently as 1994 there were only four breweries left in the city itself. Oh how the times have changed. Thanks to many of the new businesses that have set up in town, demographics have changed considerably. As a result there has been an increased demand for good craft beer. New laws themselves have also contributed to this growth. With the per capita limit on breweries removed and the allowable ABV on draft beer increased from 3.2 to 5%, brewers have responded en masse.
Explore the SLC Brew Scene With the Salt Lake Brewery Pass
Today the capital of “Brewtah” is home to over 20 craft breweries which serve as the perfect après ski complement to your ski day in the Cottonwood Canyons. The Salt Lake Brewery Pass introduces beer lovers and drinkers to the area’s award-winning craft ales, lagers, porters and ciders at 14* of Salt Lake’s top breweries and brewpubs.
Ranging in price from just $20-$40, the Brewery Pass is a great value, giving passholders a $5 credit toward the purchase of food, beverage or merchandise at each of the dozen-plus locations. The Brewery Pass is available in one-, three- and 90-day options, and can be purchased at Visit Salt Lake and is then downloaded to the purchaser’s mobile device.
“The Salt Lake Brewery Pass is the perfect choice for visitors and residents alike, those who may have family or friends in town or simply people who want to explore Salt Lake’s award-winning craft brewing options,” said Kaitlin Eskelson, president & CEO of Visit Salt Lake. “The Brewery Pass is a fun way to explore Salt Lake’s suds and the different neighborhoods where they’re brewed.”
Time has been good to Salt Lake City
Utah’s once mysterious capital city has come into the 21st century with a bang and hasn’t looked back. The 2002 Olympics was the gateway for major tech businesses to move into town. With them came a new demographic that sought change. That change has come in a big way. Brewers have flocked to Salt Lake City in order to take advantage of the new, more favorable laws. Combine this with the accessibility of world class skiing that is only a short drive away in the Cottonwood Canyons and it is easy to see why Salt Lake City has become an attractive destination for visitors worldwide.
Rich Stoner is the founder of the après-ski lifestyle clothing and media brand, All About Après, and the co-host of the Beyond the Après podcast. No stranger to the ski and après-ski scene, Rich has been a long time contributor for many publications on topics like skiing, gear, beer and food. However, his passion is on the slopes and enjoying good times with good people. You can find him perfecting his craft carving turns and drinking beers in the Green Mountains of Vermont. @allaboutapres