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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Utah's Skiers, Snowboarders Find More Conveniences This Season

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A new chairlift, acres of new terrain, expanded parking lots and more snowmaking mark what folks will see when they venture into the Utah mountains this winter.

Starting up north, Beaver Mountain has added more parking spaces. At the base, crews have begun building a new 25,000-square-foot lodge that will hold space for skier services, food and beverage, and retail next season.

Nearby Cherry Peak has put in a tubing park served by a magic carpet just to the viewer's left of the main lodge. On the hill, more snowmaking infrastructure went in this summer.

Up above Ogden, Snowbasin has addressed the popularity of the Strawberry Peak area with the new Demoisy Express high-speed six-pack. The new chair is expected to both relieve congestion and make it easier to traverse a long ridge and return to the base area.

The new high-speed will load next to the gondola and rise nearly 2,000 vertical feet to a sheltered dropoff point just short of the top ridge. From there, trails lead to and from the frontside Middle Bowl Express, and skiers and rider get a choice of the alpine terrain of Diamond Bowl or the Strawberry treeless steep slopes.

Neighbor Powder Mountain has tweaked its ownership model to makes its real estate more attractive by designating three two existing chairlifts -- Mary's and Village, and a new high-speed in the Raintree sector -- for homeowner-only skiing and riding. But another 500 acres of gnarly steeps, called DMI, has opened for guided tours off the upper north boundary.

As a nod of changing conditions, Powder installed its first snowmaking equipment. Night skiing now coasts $19 for some 300 acres under the lights.

Down below, Nordic Valley has had a tough run of it so far this season. The Eden-based mountain lost one of its two chairlifts -- the 53-year-old Apollo double -- to major mechanical issues. In its place, Nordic Valley has 18-seats sled towed by snowmobiles to bring folks to the upper mountain high-speed Nordic Express. Management says it can handle about 200 skiers-riders an hour.

Two new runs -- blue Beserker and black My Backyard -- were cut over the summer, and more parking spaces went in. In January, the resort's base lodge caught fire and was destroyed. The mountain was closed for several days, but is now open with temporary facilities.

Always cramped for parking, Sundance spend the summer tweaking the parking and access around the base of Jake's Lift, and then adding a new beginner run from Jake's to the upper parking lots.

Down south, Brian Head opened more glade runs -- from beginner to expert rated -- in the trees beneath Wildflower chair, and alongside the Shotgun run. More snowmaking went in, too.

And Eagle Point went deep into the inner workings of both the Skyline and Monarch chairs to upgrade for more efficient operation.

 

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Hop The Lift To Reach Downhill Mountain Biking In Utah

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Riding a chairlift to get to mountain biking trails is becoming more common in Utah, as winter resorts convert their vertical drop from the snow to the dirt.

Most trail systems include easy to difficult runs, terrain park features, single-track side routes and access to no-lift backcountry. And most resorts rent equipment, and some offer lessons. Check websites for e-bike access.

Brian Head in southern Utah has gone full-in on MTB with more than 100 miles trails. The Giant Steps Express drops riders at the 10,920-foot summit. From there, catch one of nine intermediate trails, eight advanced routes, the fall-line Wildflower expert line, or lolly-gag on the loopy Color Flow down 1,100 vertical feet.

The views can make you brake and gaze. The lift runs Friday through Sunday. A shuttle takes riders to pedaling off the beaten track. Brian Head is a member of the Mountain Bike Power Pass family, too.

At Deer Valley, you can cop up to 3,000 of vertical feet via three high-speed chairs that run daily until September, with Twilight Tuesdays until 8 pm.

Some 70 miles criss-cross four mountains around the trail map, topping out at 9,400-foot Bald Mountain summit. The trail system leans toward blue and black routes, full of features. A single novice that winds from top to mid-mountain.

This summer, Sundance fires up the Outlaw Express daily for mountain bikers who already have experience. There's one green flow but you must get off at midway -- and resort says there are no true beginner trails. Otherwise, most trails dip sharply off the lower mountain's short but steep pitches for expert, advanced and intermediate runs with 1,300 feet of vertical drop.

If the MTB doesn't satisfy your thrill jones, then take a plunge on the Sky Zipline -- the longest vertical drop in the nation.

A good place to start youngsters on mountain bikes is Solitude. Two chair lifts run Thursday to Sundays. The trail system is modest, about 20 miles of routes, but it tilts toward the green and blue tracks. The short loop off of Link chair will help get up the speed, and a few more novice tracks come off Sunrise.

And, for something different, head to Snowbasin and ride the Needles gondola on weekends. Mostly intermediate routes run off the south side.

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New Lifts Will Facilitate Moving Around Sun Valley And Snowbasin

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This summer, the longtime owners of Sun Valley and Snowbasin will make major upgrades at each mountain to smooth out flow and reinvigorate portions of their resorts.

Idaho's Sun Valley has two separate base areas that serve two distinct sides of the mountain -- the main one integrated into the town of Ketchum and the other 12 miles to the west in the Warm Springs settlement. In 2014, a forest fire above Warm Springs took out the Flying Squirrel fixed-grip double chair, making it cumbersome to get into a pair of popular powder stashes from that side of the mountain.

One aim of the Warm Springs project this summer will be to make it easier to get into the Little Scorpion and Frenchman's powder stashes from the Warm Springs base, and to rejuvenate the skier's right portion of the east side of the Sun Valley trail map. A new high-speed quad chair called Flying Squirrel will restore that access by delivering skiers and riders to a ridge top above them.

The other part of the project is a new Challenger chair -- the heavy-lifting high-speed quad from the Warm Springs base up 3,000 vertical feet to the summit ridge line of Baldy Mountain (9,150). Previously, the Challenger shared ridership with the 35-year-old Greyhawk high-speed quad that unloaded halfway up. That chair will be dismantled, and the new six-seat Challenger will have a mid-station.

At Snowbasin in Utah's northern Wasatch Range, the expansive Strawberry Peak area and its eight-seat gondola has become a more and more popular loop for advanced skiers and riders since expansion in 1998.

However, the 1,000 or so acres there is separated by a long ridge from the main mountain and base area -- making for long runouts at the end of the day. So, the new six-pack Demoisy Express is set to go up this summer to ease both congestion and make the return run easier to catch.

The new high-speed will load next to the gondola and rise nearly 2,000 vertical feet to a sheltered dropoff point just short of the top ridge. From there, trails lead to and from the frontside Middle Bowl Express, and skiers and rider get a choice of the alpine terrain of Diamond Bowl or the Strawberry treeless steep slopes.

 

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With Record Snowfall, Utah Winters Resorts Extend Deep Into Spring

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The snow kept piling nonstop in the Utah mountains this winter, and then March came along with another record-breaking snowfall -- prompting more than half of Utah's 14 mountains to stay open longer.

At Snowbasin, the season has been lengthened to April 23. Coupled with its earliest opening on Nov. 18, the northern Wasatch mountain will have had its longest ski and snowboard season since it opened in 1940.

An astounding 800 inches fell on Brighton at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. As a result, all lifts will run through April 30, and then the Milly Express will reopen May 5 and run 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily to the end of May. Crews plan to construct a top-to-bottom terrain park on the Milly side to go along with groomers.

Its neighbor Solitude had its snowiest winter (700-plus inches) ever. As a bonus, lifts will run daily through May 7, then Friday-Sunday until the official end of the season on May 21.

Deer Valley broke snowfall records, too, so the Park City-area mountain will spin chairs on Bald Eagle lower slopes and Bald Mt. upper terrain until April 23. Next door, Park City Mountain will keep all lift operating until at least April 23 after a month of March that saw 450 inches fall -- and the best season in 49 years.

Snowbird skiers and riders have been carving atop nearly 200 inches of base this spring -- the result of nearly 800 inches snowfall. The Little Cottonwood Canyon mountain typically stays open to Memorial Day. This season, daily ops go through May 14. Then, on May 19, Snowbird shifts to a Friday-Sunday (plus Memorial Day) schedule -- with more possible.

Sundance will close daily operations in April 2, but tack on an extra two days the next Friday (April 7) and Saturday (April 8). Among the rest of Utah's 14 resorts, Nordic Valley says it's thinking about a couple of bonus weekends after April 9.

 

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Beat The Crowds By Heading Uphill At Utah Mountains

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Eight of Utah's 14 ski and snowboard mountains permit folks to head up uphill within their boundaries and ski down on designated trails and within certain hours, and if deemed safe.

Most resorts use a daily green-red, go-no go system for uphill access; a couple have yellow days, and websites must be checked for further regulations. Resorts may require lift tickets, or free uphill passes and waivers. All have strict uphill rules to keep uphill-ers out of danger, including designated up and down routes, a helmet light during dark hours, and a watchful eye for grooming snowcats. Here's a look at all nine resorts.

Brighton, Nordic Valleyand Beaver Mountain are the three Utah mountains that permits uphill-ers both day and night. At Nordic Valley, you must sign a waiver at the base. Cat tracks designate up routes; terrain signage shows the way down.

At Brighton, uphill skiers must park near Brighton Store, regardless of time of day. Daytime access routes when night falls, with specific boundaries to stay within. On green days, access can be had all 24 hours of that day. At Beaver, all in-bounds terrain is fair game outside of operating hours; designed route set up during daytime.

Next is Snowbasin, where uphill access runs from 4:00-8:30 a.m. on "morning route," 9 a.m-3 p.m. on "daytime route." Free uphill pass and arm band required on both green and yellow days. Uphill and downhill routes are the same, and either skis, snowboards or snowshoes are OK.

Uphill schedule at both Powder Mountain and mirrors daytime operating hours, and can be done same terrain as downhillers. Powder requires a lift ticket, while Beaver does not.

The remaining resorts open up before or after the lifts spin. Solitude lets skiers, split-boarders, snowshoers and hikers climb up from 4:00 to 10:30 a.m. on a designated route in two areas of the hill. A season uphill pass is required.

At Park City Mountainuphilling runs from 6 to 8:30 a.m. No pass required. To avoid parking fee or fine, they must get off the hill and out of the parking lot before 8:30 a.m.

Cherry Peakallows skis, 'boards and snowshoes on at 4 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. The designated up route is also the down route. No pass required.

 

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Northern Utah Couples Big-Mountain Skiing, Riding With Local Hill Vibe

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Just up the road from its more famous neighbors, the ski and snowboard resorts of northern Utah hold their own, with everything from massive powder terrain to former Olympic race courses to a seriously local vibe.

Up-and-down Nordic Valley finally got stability when Colorado-based Mountain Capital Partners took over management of the Ogden-area mountain in 2019. Right away, the local hill above Eden got a high-speed six-pack to radically upgrade access to its 500 acres of terrain.

This summer, crews cut a half-dozen new expert runs and glades off the Nordic Valley Express detachable chair. Nearly half of its 40-trail network is now black-rated. They also built a yurt lounge at the top of the lift and put in more snowmaking -- plus a new beer bar and expanded parking down below.

Up the road at Snowbasin -- home to the men's and women's downhill races at the 2002 Olympics -- the resort has moved from the Epic Pass to the Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective. More snowmaking, avalanche mitigation, more gladed trails and regrading of the connector Broadway trail topped summer work. Big news next season will be a second lift for more slopetime on Strawberry sector.

With the largest in-bounds skiing and riding in the U.S. (8,434 acres), Powder Mountain is as it was last season: A powderhounds' heaven with lift, snowcat, snowmobile and hike-to stashes. Off-season work focused instead on setting up summer mountain biking terrain, expected to open next summer.

Move over to Logan and a pair of local hills have no new surprises for the season. North at the Idaho border sits Beaver Mountain, the quintessential local hill that opened in 1939 and has been under the Seelhozer family ownership from the git-go. "The Beav'" has four fixed-grip chairs and a couple of magic carpets handle 828 acres of skiable terrain. Night skiing is around the base and mostly private, although a dozen public nights are scheduled.

Utah's newest alpine mountain, Cherry Peak epitomizes the "local hill" as it's just four miles from downtown from Richmond. Opened in 2015, the 400-acre ski area appeals to mid-level skiers and riders with most of its 29 runs in the green or blue categories. And, as many close-to-town areas do, Cherry Park has night skiing, six nights a week.

 

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SnoCast: Stormy Pattern Continues Out West

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A busy weather week continues nation-wide with a fast storm pattern. We'll see multiple waves of snow out West, and changeable conditions in the East heading into the first weekend of December. Let's dig into this week's SnoCast.

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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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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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Ikon Passes Now On Sale For 2022/23; Spring Skiing For Early Birds

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Details of the 2022-2023 Ikon Pass are out, highlighted by Sun Valley and Snowbasin joining the mega-mountain season pass family.

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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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Ski Mag Ranks The Best Ski Resorts in the U.S.

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From Vermont's classic glades to the powder-choked bowls of the West, the destinations on this list will delight skiers of all stripes.

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Pair Of Utah Resorts Buck Trend With New Lifts

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This past summer was relatively quiet, in terms of news lifts going in, but both Sundance and Snowbasin in Utah went ahead with major chairlift projects.

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Utah's Snowbasin Resort Announces Major Upgrades

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Utah's Snowbasin Resort has announced significant enhancements and upgrades to the resort and quest experience, some of which will be ready for the start of the 2021-22 season.

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The Utah Hills Are Alive With Summer Concerts

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Despite Covid restrictions, the ski and snowboard resorts of Utah had a boffo summer season last year with hiking, biking, scenic lift rides and other social-distanced activities. But one key attraction was missing: Music.

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Electric MTBs Take On The Mountains In The West

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It's been almost a decade since electric-assisted e-bikes hit the streets and bike paths of the urban West, and now they are gaining acceptance as a summer option at ski and snowboard mountain resorts.

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SnoCast: Looking Back at a Great Ski Season

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With the final days of ski season closing in, we’re taking a look ahead at weather conditions through the end of April and also looking back on this snow season across North America.

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SnoCast: More Snow Adds to an Epic February

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Winter is here and committed, covering the U.S. in new snow from coast to coast. With more white stuff ahead for the East, Midwest, and West, we think this will be a February to remember on the slopes. Here’s where to find new snow this week.  

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SnoCast: Active Pattern with Multiple Storms Ahead for the West

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This week, snow activity really begins to pick up. As more and more ski areas open, we'll have multiple storms out West and fast movers in the East to build up the bases.

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