Untangling Driving, Parking When Heading Into Utah's Wasatch Mountains

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Mid-winter breaks are approaching, and plenty of skiers and riders will head out to Utah to catch some of the state's famous powder days.

If you are driving a car with the intention of heading up to ski and ride at a Wasatch resort, some pre-trip tips might help streamline your trip.

Greater Salt Lake City is home for nearly three million folks, many of whom ski or ride in the winter. Plus, nearly six million others visit the city every year, many of whom ski or ride too.

The Wasatch Front alpine go-tos -- Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird -- are less than an hour's drive from city environs, as are Park City Mountain and Deer Valley. Sundance, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain aren't much farther.

Routes into the Wasatch Front are two-laners, leading to notable traffic jams. What this means is lots skiers are on the road, notably on weekends, holidays and powder days. Strategies include getting up very early, consolidating into fewer vehicles, or just chill out on the ride up and down. Or, take public transport.

If you drive, you'll have to park. Putting four in one vehicle gets priorities at most mountains. But there's not enough space for everyone. So, expect to make parking reservations and pay a fee on busy days. Capacity limits so, at worst, someone has to drop off and pick up.

Starting with the most congenial, Powder Mountain and Sundance have no restrictions. Snowbasin's free too, save for vehicles with three or more who get close-in parking. Same at Deer Valley.

Expect sellouts at the Cottonwood Canyon resorts on busy days. At Snowbird, a string of cramped parking lots offer options. Get there early for free, pay to get close to the tram, or buy a season pass to priority spots.

Neighbor Alta focuses on weekends and holiday, with reservations a $25 charge before 1 p.m. Over the hill, Solitude requires reservations prior to 11 a.m. on weekends and holidays, and it costs for parking until 1 p.m. on all days. Brighton goes simple: $20 reservations Friday through Sunday.

Park City Mountain has a combination of paid reservations, first-come first-served paid lots, high-capacity and carpooling incentives, and park-n-ride locations.

Salt Lake City has a robust, inexpensive public transportation system that works to make it convenient to let someone else drive up to the mountains. Commuter rail hooks up with shuttles on Wasatch Front, from Ogden (Snowbasin and Powder Mountain) to Provo (Sundance). There's a $20 service, Cottonwood Connect, that runs daily. High Valley Transit serves the Park City-Deer Valley area.

 

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A Couple Of New Chairlifts Highlight New Season In Utah's Cottonwood Canyons

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Few places in the West have more deep powder cachet than the four resorts in the Cottonwood canyons above Salt Lake City, where double-digits dumps are the norm at Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton.

So what's new this season? Solitude and Brighton in Little Cottonwood Canyon each debut brand-new chairlifts. Solitude (1,200 a, 2,494 vert.) has added two seats to the Eagle Express high-speed. Running out of the busy Moonbeam base -- where the bulk of public parking resides -- the new six-pack is anticipated to reduce morning and midday congestion.

The Eagle Express serves the south side's blues and blacks, and a few pitches into lower Honeycomb Canyon -- as well as being the first of three rides to the serious steeps off the summit from the Moonbeam base. It's the first new lift at Solitude since 2015.

Up the road at Brighton (1,050 a., 1,745 vert.), the new six-pack detachable chair named Crest6 replaces 32-year-old Crest Express four-seater to ease congestion out of the base. Park dudes can get onto the upper mountain's jibs, kickers and booters more often, while backcountry lovers get a headstart to hike Preston Peak and Pioneer Ridge.

Over in Little Cottonwood, Alta (2,624 a., 2,538 vert.) can now brag that novices have a place among the mountain's renowned steeps.

The old Albion is gone, and the Sunnyside high-speed six-pack hustles folks into the bottom of the backside in the Patsy Marley area. It also provides a shortcut to the Devil's Castle-Supreme tough stuff on the back side. Five remote avalanche control towers went in this summer along Castle Peak ridgeline.

And over the ridge at Snowbird, more remote avalanche control towers are in. Visitors might notice construction underway on the replacement of the oldest lift on the hill, the Wilbere double, with a new fixed-grip quad due to open in the spring.

All four resorts encourage riding buses up and, to discourage driving, they impose parking restrictions. At Alta, pay reservations needed Friday-Sunday mornings. Snowbird has an "optional advanced" reservations system, with some free first-come first-served spaces. At Solitude, all parking costs on holidays and weekends except vehicles with four occupants. And at Brighton, reservations required Friday-Sunday, and parking fees charged for vehicles carrying three or fewer.

 

 

 

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Utah's Interconnect Tour Serves Up A Wasatch Sampler

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Not sure which Utah resort near Salt Lake City you want to try? Why not sample them all in a single day -- getting some backcountry turns as a bonus -- and then decide.

SkiUtah has run the Interconnect Adventure Tour since 1984, offering skiers only (because of Alta's snowboard ban) a chance to criss-cross the Wasatch Range to cop a few runs at all or some of the half-dozen top resorts: Deer Valley, Park City Mountain, Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird.

Two distinct tours for 2-8 people run seven days a week. One starts in Deer Valley, hits up all six mountains, and ends at Snowbird. The other begins and ends at Snowbird, and covers the four mountains in both Cottonwood canyons. Private, custom-route tours also available daily.

Online reservations are essential. Cost depends upon group number, and includes use of a Ski Utah Gold Pass for access to lifts along the way.

Each full-day tour includes a couple of lift-served runs at each trail map it crosses. Importantly, each requires sufficient backcountry-skiing skill and fitness at altitude to handle moderate sidestep/shuffle/traverse uphill travel and off-piste downhills. Avalanche beacons are provided.

The Deer Valley tour begins at mid-mountain Silver Lake Lodge. Tour participants pick up a Gold Pass at the base and ride up to meet with your guide. From there, the tour covers a few runs at Deer Valley and Park City before heading over into the backcountry of Big Cottonwood Canyon.

In-bounds skiing at Solitude and Brighton end with a traverse from Solitude summit over into Little Cottonwood Canyon backcountry. A long descent ends at Alta's upper mountain. A couple of runs end at the Mineral Basin gate, and Snowbird. Participants have time for a long run off the summit into the base of Snowbird, where a van drives them back to Deer Valley.

The Snowbird tour stays in the Cottonwood canyons. It begins with an early-bird ride up the Snowbird tram and a couple of warmups laps in Mineral Basin. From there it's uphill traverse over a pass to Brighton, where a backcountry run ends at the base area. The resort links with Solitude, where participants have lunch and then head up to finish the tour at Alta and Snowbird.

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Occupancy, Fees, Reservations All In Utah Resort Parking Mix

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Utah mountain resorts and Salt Lake City officials have worked hard to confront the congestion of vehicles heading to the hills -- and this ski and snowboard season will be no different.

For those driving up to the mountains, resorts are making carpooling worth your while, requiring parking reservations and charging parking fees. Here's what to expect for the following Wasatch resorts:

Above Provo, Sundance has new ownership that dramatically upgraded the mountain. This season, Sundance lets vehicles with four or more passengers go free. Otherwise, close-in parking costs $25 weekdays, $45 on weekends and holidays. Next in line lots cost $22 on weekends and holidays, free during the week. The most remote lots charge $5 on weekends and holidays.

Up Little Cottonwood Canyon, Snowbird has a bunch of first-come first-served free lots that require a hike to the lifts. Three close-in lots require pre-arrival reservations and $25 fee. A season pass for preferred parking costs $799, and limited valet parking can be had in advance or upon arrival. Carpooling with 4-plus per vehicle means not parking charge.

Alta continues to work to make space for skiers and riders in its tight canyon setting. This season, online parking reservations are a must Fridays through Sundays; no reservation, no parking. Cost is $25, cut to $10 for day ticket purchasers. Alta and Alta-Bird season passholders get free parking with a code when making reservations.

Over at Brighton, first-come first-served spaces fill up quickly, so an alternative is a $30 per-day reservation for one of 120 spots that's good until noon.

Next door at Solitude, all parking lots charge a fee according to vehicle occupancy: four or more, $5 on weekends/holidays; three in vehicle, $5 weekdays, $15 weekends/holidays; two occupants, $10 and $20; and single driver, $20 and $35. You pay at payment stations at the resort.

And at Park City Mountain, it costs to park at any of the main three surface lots and the parking garage near the base area. Online reservations a must, and good until 1 p.m. At the surface lots, cost is $25 for three or fewer occupants, free for 4-plus in car. In garage, it's a flat $40 fee. Parking areas near Park City have park 'n' ride services, and several remote lots can be had for no fee.

The other way to avoid traffic and parking fees is to take the UTA Ski Bus from various locations around the Salt Lake basin for $5. Most season pass holders ride for free.

 

 

 

 

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Four Utah Resorts Approach Openings With New Lifts, Mountain Upgrades

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The fruits of this summer's labor will be on display at Alta, Solitude, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain as the four Utah mountains aim to get the season going on Nov. 18.

After a replacement of the upper basin Supreme chair last season, the backside Albion Basin side of Alta continues to be revamped. This season, a new high-speed six-pack is expected to replace the fixed-grip Sunnyside chair at the Ikon Pass partner resort, although supply-chain slowdown may delay its opening.

The new chair will both deliver skiers and riders more quickly into the basin's network of novice green-rated trails, and provide back-door access to the chutes and bowls off Supreme and Sugarloaf lifts. Concurrently, the old Albion chair has come down.

The Corkscrew trail on Collins side has been widened, more avalanche control towers put in on the East Castle high ground, and more snowmaking has gone at Wildcat base.

In a continuing effort to reduce traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta will require an online parking reservation for Friday-Sunday for $25.

In neighboring Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude turned its attention to the first terrain park on the mountain. Summer crews installed two groups of boxes, rails and other features. A beginner-level park will sit on upper Main Street, accessed off either Apex Express or Moonbeam chairs. And, a more advanced park can be had on the steeper North Star trail, served by the Sunrise chair. An Ikon Pass gives unlimited skiing and riding at Solitude.

Over at Deer Valley, a new short-line Burns Express chair has gone in to join the main base Snow Park teaching area with the greens and blues of lower Little Baldy Mountain. Linking to the Deer Hollow green trail, the new lift will also make it easier to move from the Jordanelle Gondola base to the main mountain. Deer Valley is a seven-day Ikon Pass partner.

Next door at Park City Mountain, owner Vail Resorts (Epic Pass) has paused on major projects for this summer. Instead, the Canyons base Red Tail Grill has gotten a new deck. To reduce crowding, the resort will limit day ticket sales and continue paid parking. 

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Arapahoe Basin Wins Race To Open First

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Cooler nighttime temperatures has led to aggressive snowmaking at Arapahoe Basin, so much so that the high-altitude Colorado mountain loaded its first skiers and snowboarders on Sunday, Oct. 23.

Eager skiers and riders get to head up on high-speed chairlift, the Black Mountain Express, and make the first turns of the season on blue-rated High Noon on the lower half of the mountain.

"The time has come," said A-Basin chief Alan Henceroth. "The snowmakers and 'cat drivers have done a tremendous job, and the forecast for the coming week looks outstanding."

Last year's early-opening winner, Wolf Creek, is expected to get a double-digit dump out of this storm. The mountain perched on the Continental Divide is on track to open as scheduled on Oct. 29.

Indeed, warm fall weather is predicted to turn dramatically in the coming weeks all over the West. Forecasting service OpenSnow saying that mountains in Utah should begin to fill up, with Alta and Snowbird with more than a foot. Southern Colorado should get significant snowfalls on the first weekend of the season, but most will wait to open until November.

In the week following, OpenSnow predicts small but steady buildup at most mountains in the West. Expect Loveland and Keystone in Colorado to begin spinning lifts for the 2022-2023 season before the end of October.

However, the ski-focused forecaster indicates that snowfall will cease toward the end of the month, so skiers and 'boarders shouldn't look for many slopes to open before announced dates.

Depending upon location, night temperatures should stay cold enough for snow guns to shoot a base onto their slopes and trails. But mountain managers note that day temperatures can't rise too much without melting some of the overnight coverage.

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UDOT Picks Gondola Option For Little Cottonwood; Funding Battle Looms

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Maybe, just maybe, perhaps some day, there might be a gondola running up Little Cottonwood Canyon to ferry skiers and riders to Snowbird and Alta.

After three years of study, a formal environmental review and some 14,000 public comments, the Utah DOT has selected a gondola to load in Sandy, travel 8 miles up the canyon, and make stops at each of the two resorts as the best chance to reduce ski traffic and air pollution the tight canyon in the Wasatch Front just above Salt Lake City.

Much needs to be accomplished before the first lift tower starts to go up. Most significantly is that the Utah state legislature must appropriate funds for the construction project, which is estimated to be at least $500 million. That is likely to take several legislative sessions to sort out.

In the meantime, UDOT will enhance bus transport in the canyon -- a first step in a phased approach to lingering traffic problems in the canyon. Those phases also include mobility hubs, parking improvements and tolling.

The state transportation agency said it selected the gondola option over a road-widening option for dedicated bus lanes because the gondola would be a long-term solution to ever-growing traffic congestion. Plans call for 35-seat cabins going up and down the canyon at two-minute intervals.

Anti-gondola groups have said that phasing prior to allocating millions for a gondola might convince more skiers and riders to take public transportation to the two resorts four miles up State Route 210 -- perhaps rendering the gondola moot.

Because of the volume of skiers and riders driving up the canyon, parking has been an issue for many years, because the steep canyon restricts parking capacities to the tight base areas. Both resorts strongly encourage taking free buses from Sandy, and they also give parking preferences to those who carpool.

Snowbird was the first to require reservations through a "hybrid" system. To get one of 2,800 spots, there's a preferred parking season pass, a daily paid reservation system, valet parking for a fee, free carpooling lots (at least 4 per vehicle), and free lots that mean a bit more of a hump to get to the lifts.

Alta followed with a parking reservation system online. Those choosing to drive up the canyon to Alta have had to reserve a spot before heading up.

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Choices Expand For Summer In The Utah Mountains

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The seasonal gears have shifted, and Utah's 14 winter resorts are in full-on summer mode with everything from disc golf to mountain biking to riding atop a tramway car in the offing.

Resorts' emphasis on summertime activities continues to grow in the Beehive State, as locals and visitors more and more look to the mountains for exercise and enjoyment. Most mountains keep restaurants open during the offseason. In addition, concerts, workshops, themed festivals and competitions can be found on all around the mountains. And wildflower viewing is always worth the ride into the hills.

A few resorts are open seven days a week, but most open up only for several days around the weekend during the warm offseason. Four Utah resorts won't run chairlifts this summer; instead, Brighton, Cherry Peak and Beaver Mountain highlight hiking and biking trails as mountain getaways, and Alta again focuses on environmental projects.

Snowbird caught the headlines with its rooftop tram ride this summer. One of the two cars on Utah's only tramway will have limited space on top, and floor-to-ceiling windows inside. The base area will be busy, with slides and coaster and all manner of climbing challenges.

Powder Mountain opens a new downhill MTB park served by the Hidden Express chair. To limit crowds, day tickets will cap at 250, and only 500 summer season passes will be sold.

Park City Mountain debuts a new golf course at Canyons Village. Many of the fairways run on winter ski trails, and the course elevation rises and falls throughout. Three lifts bring MTBers to mountain tracks.

A new beginner MTB track is in the works at Solitude, which now is open Thursday-Sunday. Also debuting are climbing wall, bungee trampoline and mini-disc golf.

On the southern terminus of the Wasatch, Sundance brings beginner-flow and intermediate level MTB tracks online. And, of course, the resort's renowned high and long ziplines are due to attract the adventurous crowd.

At Snowbasin, there are 26 miles of hiking and biking trails off the Needles Gondola -- dogs always welcome. And, the northern Utah resort welcomes the return of the live Brews, Blues & Barbecue summer music series.

And, classical music aficionados will once again get to listen to the Utah Symphony's concert series under the evening skies at Deer Valley.

In southern Utah, the focus is on the hardiest athletes, with Eagle Point's Crusher in the Tushars and Tushar Mountain Runs in July, and Brian Head's Women's Epic Race and Brian Shredder downhill MTB race in June.

 

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Utahns To Get A Half-Dozen New Lifts To Ride Next Season

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It's going to be a busy construction season this summer at the Wasatch Range ski and snowboard resorts, as five new-replacement chairlifts go in, and the only tramway in Utah gets new cabins.

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Two-Day Mountain Collective Pass Returns With Western Flavor

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With prices for 2022-23 comparable to recent seasons, the two-days-each Mountain Collective ski and snowboard pass returns with a shuffled resort lineup that includes two big mountains in the West coming back to the fold.

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All Public Transit To Wasatch Resorts Free In February

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In an effort to cut air pollution, all bus rides will be free across Utah's Wasatch Front until the end of February -- making it free to ride up to the slopes from Sundance to Snowbasin and five in between.

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Alta Institutes Pay-To-Park Reservation System

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In the latest move among Utah resorts to confront overcrowding, Alta Ski Area will charge $25 to make a reservation to park during busy times in its lots at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

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Resorts To Loosen Covid Restrictions

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Last season, Covid gave a jolt to the time-honored habits of skiers and riders, but the 2021-2022 season promises to be a bit less restrictive -- with exceptions.

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Embrace The Variety During The Dog Days At Utah Resorts

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For Utahns and summer visitors, all that's going on during August in the mountains demands that itineraries include a trip into the Wasatch.

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A Five-Pack Of Utah Resorts Beckon For Late Spring Carving

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A late-season, last-minute excursion to the Utah mountains -- either by Utahns or still-eager skiers and riders from afar -- is out there for those with an unrelenting skiing jones.

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The Ups and Downs of My Interlodge Ski Saga

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A massive storm led to a record-breaking 60-hour shutdown at Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon recently, followed by a day of private skiing exclusively for those already in the area.

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It’s Cheaper Than A Train, More Expensive Than A Bus. Is It The Solution To Canyon Gridlock?

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It’s far too early to say with certainty a gondola is the answer officials will pick to tackle the aggravating gridlock heading to ski areas in the Wasatch canyons on powder days, but it is an option that’s captured the attention of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.

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Powder Days All Around! Massive Storms Roll Across The West

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In the waning days of January, Mother Nature got to work -- dropping her glorious bounty upon the mountains of the West, and finally giving skiers and snowboarders the deep powder they've been waiting for.

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Is a Cog Railway or Gondola in the Future for Little Cottonwood Canyon?

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Ways to fix the traffic congestion problem that plagues Little Cottonwood Canyon and its outdoor enthusiasts have been bandied about for decades.

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New Looks Dot Utah's Ski And Snowboard Landscape This Season

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Aside from Covid-related changes, capital improvements big and small went up this summer at eight of Utah's ski and snowboard resorts.

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