GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND
The mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon is accessed by the I-215 Belt Route. Ski buses leave (or stop at, if you’re riding the bus from Salt Lake) the park-and-ride lot at the mouth of Little Cottonwood, en route to Alta Ski Area and Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort. The park-and-ride is a great meet-up spot, and, because you're going into a canyon, carpooling or taking a bus is a helpful way to avoid parking hassles at the top. A shuttle service is offered between Alta and Snowbird, which share a boundary.
LITTLE COTTONWOOD’S SUPER PASS BONUS
The Ski City Super Pass is your golden ticket to all the snow Ski City has to offer. With a Super Pass in hand, you save on direct-to-lift access to the resort(s) of your choosing—Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude. In Little Cottonwood, the pass allows you to ski both Alta and Snowbird, which are connected via the Albion Basin/Mineral Basin connection gate, on the same day by upgrading at the lift ticket window for only $33.00 (sorry snowboarders, Alta is a skiers-only hill). The Super Pass also includes a ride on TRAX light rail and UTA ski buses, plus discounts on ski, board, and equipment rentals. Click here for details and pricing.
Alta has many options that run the gamut from standard ski-hill fare like burgers and pizza to fine-dining options like The Shallow Shaft. Independently owned for 47 years, this cozy little boîte offers spectacular views, an adventurous menu by Chef Kurtis Krause featuring locally sourced ingredients, and an award-winning and equally adventurous wine list.
Snowbird’s sprawling four-lodge plus Tram-Deck footprint offers a wide range of dining options—from the basic all-American diner fare at the Forklift restaurant to the grab-and-go Bird Feeder, you have the basics covered. But by far the two finest dining experiences are the elegant Aerie and the rough-hewn Steak Pit.On the 10th floor of the Cliff Lodge, the Aerie offers an eclectic menu ranging from local game to freshly flown-in sashimi to be enjoyed in a well-appointed, modern atmosphere. The Steak Pit, located in the bottom of the Snowbird Center, is the Aerie’s opposite, with its ain’t-broke-so-don’t-fix-it menu of top-grade, perfectly cooked steaks and excellent wine list. Don’t miss the decadent blue cheese dressing over a classic iceberg salad.
The truly unique Alta Lodge is home to one of North America’s most storied après ski spots: The Sitzmark Club. Although the lodge surrounding it is an exquisitely modern structure, the Sitzmark is a true blast from the past. With its wooden walls (which we wish could talk), roaring wood-fired hearths, and sunken pit bar, it's perhaps the Platonic ideal of a ski-lodge bar. And its name? A “cheeky” German idiom for the mark your hind end makes in the snow when you fall down. Also be sure to check out the locally beloved Peruvian Bar (a.k.a "P-Dog") at the Peruvian Lodge during your stay.
The rowdy Tram Club is where the action is after any given day on Snowbird’s slopes. Located directly below the Tram Deck, the sprawling, loud bar is filled with giant TVs and raucous revelers enjoying the game and the house special: a beer and a shot of whatever you’re having. The club spills out onto the creek side with a heated patio, which is the perfect spot to watch the sun set on your ski day. If you don’t care for the sound and fury of a sports bar, try the Aerie Lounge with its elegant small bites menu and handcrafted cocktails. Or, hell, just brown bag it on the Tram Deck with us locals.
Alta and pure, unspoiled skiing are truly synonymous. Respected around the world for its classic powder skiing, challenging terrain, and spectacular views, Alta is a throwback resort with modern trimmings (read: high-speed lifts). Want to get your heart rate up? Let’s face it: downhill skiing is tough work that requires strength and stamina, but it’s not exactly the best cardio workout. Consider taking a timeout from riding the lift and spending an afternoon or morning on Alta’s groomed 3k of cross-country and Nordic skiing trails. Access to the trail, which cruises through some of Little Cottonwood's most glorious terrain, is only $10.
With acre after acre of steep chutes, wide-open bowls, and long, sustained runs, Snowbird never ceases to thrill passionate skiers and snowboarders. But never fear, there's plenty of intermediate and mellow terrain, and the après scene is second to none. When you want a break from the thrill and speed of Snowbird’s slopes and slow down on a snowshoe tour.The guided tours will give you a good cardio workout and enliven your mind with fun and interesting facts about Snowbird’s high-mountain landscape.
The heated outdoor pool at Alta’s Rustler Lodge is the perfect way to end a day on Alta’s challenging slopes. Float around and take in the spectacularly jagged peaks above you as you soak in the decadent comfort of the main pool (heated to 100 luxurious degrees). Take it one step further and book some “you time” at the lodge’s spa, which features a full menu of relaxing and restorative treatments to get you ready for another day on the mountain.
Snowbird’s Cliff Spa sits on the top floor of the Cliff Lodge. Its heated rooftop pool and Jacuzzi offer top-of-the-world views as the sun goes down on the mountains. Below the pool is a luxurious spa with a full menu of rejuvenating treatments. Our favorite: the eucalyptus-scented steam room.
FOR THE KIDS
Kids (and adults, for that matter) ski for just $10 after 3 p.m. during Alta’s classic “Ski After 3” program. Generations of skiers have cut their teeth on this inexpensive program that allows the little ones to get some extra turns in for a low, low price. The ticket grants you access to the beginner-friendly Sunnyside, Albion, and Cecret lifts.
Camp Snowbird is a day care (fully licensed) for the young ones, but it’s also a full day of indoor and outdoor activities designed to captivate (and tire out) your little ones ages 2 to 12 years old. (A nursery is also available for the littlest of the little ones). Snow bird also offers in-room evening sitters for its guests, so Mom and Dad can enjoy a night out at the resort just to themselves.
The Alta Lodge is perhaps one of the most unique ski-lodging options in North America. Family run since 1959, Alta Lodge is one part modern, boutique hotel and one part rustic ski lodge. The modern part of this equation features upscale rooms and suites, some with wood-burning fireplaces, mountain-facing views, and private balconies. The original wing is more Spartan, with charming wood-paneled rooms, straight out of the 1950s; some are monastic dormitories with twin and single beds to which the Alta faithful return year after year to perform the ski-sleep, ski-sleep ritual.
Of Snowbird’s many lodging options, the Cliff Lodge (above) is the most posh and the only lodge at the resort that truly deserves the label of ski-in, ski-out. Check in and have your skis and boards housed in your private locker, and the next morning you’ll stroll out onto the Chickadee hill for a short schuss down to the Tram Deck. From there you can Tram up to the top or make your way over to Peruvian Lift. At quitting time, take the Cliff Access run right to the Lodge’s door.
Words: Jeremy Pugh