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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It's Not All About Acreage Or Glamour At Utah's Outlier Resorts

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Often upstaged by their more famous neighbors, a half-dozen lesser-known ski and snowboard resorts in Utah thrive on the same powder while emenating a distinctive town-hill, laid-back vibe.

Up in the north Wasatch, Beaver Mountain (828 a., 1,700 vert.) is a winding 30-mile ride from Logan. Known as The Beav, it's the "school hill" for Utah State with decidedly blue-rated trail map with smattering of trees. Little Beaver learning area sits separate from main mountain, with top-to-bottom terrain park.

Utah's newest area, compact Cherry Peak (200 a., 1,650 vert.) is 30 miles up-valley from Logan. Mostly moderate terrain spills off either side of main ridge. Easy access from growing Cache Valley means weekend crowds.

Nordic Valley (200 a., 960 verts.) fills out Utah's northern tier of day-trip mountains. New ownership put in first high-speed chair in 2020. Two distinct sections each offer array of trail difficulties. It's gaining traction, especially with 700,000 folks over the hill in greater Ogden area.

The southern end of the Wasatch Front is home to Sundance Resort (450 a., 2,150 vert.) -- Robert Redford's eco-baby until recent sale. New owners addressed awkward, double-ridged layout with three new chairs, including first high-speed. Tons of steeps up top, easy stuff on lower half. Can be crowded, as it's a local favorite for Brigham Young University and busy Provo-Orem metroplex. Parking is limited and mostly paid.

Head to southwest Utah for a pair of ski and snowboard outliers. Closer to Las Vegas than Salt Lake, both Eagle Point (650 a., 1,500 vert.) and Brian Head (650 a., 1,548 vert.) look westward for their skiers and riders. With the highest base elevations in the state, they grab light powder from south-trending storms for 200-400 inches a season.

Formerly Elk Meadows, Eagle Point puts all its blacks in one section, its cruisers in the other. But the resort has some oddities: It has two base areas that are connected roads, not lifts. The four fixed-grip chairs spin only Friday-Monday. Access road Utah 153 winds right through the trail map. Some on-hill lodging.

Finally, Brian Head is Utah's southernmost ski and snowboard destination. It's trail map is bifurcated, with a full baker's dozen of green trails on a one mountain (Navajo Mountain) offset by a full plate of blues and blacks on another (Giant Steps). Each has its own parking lot and base area, with limited lodging. And, don't miss the most counter-intuitive views in West -- the snow-capped Tushars and red-rock Cedar Breaks National Monument.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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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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Strap In For High-Wire Thrills On Ziplines in the West

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At least a dozen ski and snowboard resorts in six states in the West have strung ziplines at or near the mountain to augment their offerings during the summer months.

In New Mexico, Angel Fire put its zipline network at the summit, with broad views of Sangre de Cristo Range. Guide-required for four-zip tour with six people max. Tours run every hour until 1 p.m, Friday-Monday.

Neighbor Red Riverloads two-seat Pioneer Flyer for backwards pull up to 600 feet elevation. A short pause for viewing, and then pairs are released for 35-mph free-ride back down. A shorter zip ride is incorporated into Hidden Treasure Aerial Park.

A couple of Colorado mountain resorts have ziplines at the mountain. Vail's on-mountain Epic Discovery Park incorporates a kids-only zipline -- about 10 feet in the air -- among its adventure package.

Purgatory has strung a pair of short, parallel ziplines that load on a condo deck and run over the base village center. Not long, the Plunge runs on weekends and can reach 35 mph.

Utah is home to one of the world's highest and longest ziplines, at Sundance Mountain Resort. Tucked up above Provo, the Sundance Zip has four spans with side-by-side cables that total two miles in length. And, you drop 2,100 vertical feet with control of speeds up to 65 mph -- with mid-air stops, too.

Above Salt Lake City, zipliners climb a 50-foot tower at the base of Snowbirdand reach 30 mph on side-by-side cables, landing on the deck of the tramway building. The ride is 1,000 feet long on a 15% grade.

Over in Idaho, Zip Tamarackruns four tours a day for a max of eight people, which lasts four hours. Each tour hooks onto eight ziplines with two suspension bridges interspersed -- plus a total of 1.5 miles of downhill hiking between platforms.

In California, Heavenly Mountainhas several ziplines on the hill. The rock-star zip is Blue Streak, one of the longest at 3,300 feet with a 525-foot vertical drop. Speeds reach 50 mph. The nearby Heavenly Flyer also reaches 50 mph as it skims the tree tops on an 80-second ride. And, an introductory ride can be had on the Red Flyer, which goes 100 feet at 15 feet above the ground.

And at Mt. Hood SkiBowl in Oregon, the resort has set up an aerial park the in air above the base area that includes an 800-foot long zipline. It's open Thursday to Sunday.

Many other resorts in the West sit near independent zipline operations, like Ski Cooper, Palisades Tahoe and Big Bear.

 

 

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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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SnoCast: Will March Come in Like a Lion or Lamb?

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This first weekend of March features a more "lion-like" and snowy setup across the West, while the East sees lamb-like signs of spring time weather. Let's dig into the forecast in this week's SnoCast.

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Keep The After-Hours Moving With Night Skiing, Riding In Utah

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If standing in lift lines is getting you down, turn on your night light and go skiing and riding at half of Utah's 14 resorts.

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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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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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E-bike, Stargaze, Rock Climb, Hike At Ski Resorts This Summer

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Chelsea Clapham and her family began snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain four years ago. They enjoyed it so much that they return to the resort year-round. “We like summer and fall up there almost as much as winter,” said Clapham, who lives in Santa Clarita with her husband, Shaun, and two kids. “We have family friends who let us use their condo, so we’re hooked.”

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Flyin' High: Ziplines Open Up In The Rockies

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Skiers and snowboarders craving speed, views, and adventure -- and social distancing -- can find gratification this summer with ziplines right at the resorts in the Rockies.

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All Up And Running: Utah Resorts Dive Into The Season

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All 14 ski and snowboard mountains within the state boundaries of Utah hit the "Go" switch before Christmas holidays, and visitors should expect new stuff on the mountains, at the ticket window, and in the lodge.

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SnoCast: Waves of Snow Through Mid-December

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An active weather pattern will have several fast-moving storms move through both the East and the West. Timing is everything to catch the best conditions through this weekend.

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Soakin' In The Mountains: Hot Springs Across The West

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After hiking in the mountains, the chance to soak sore muscles in a warm or hot springs pool beckons us all -- especially as the weather cools.

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Find Fun, Pleasure In The Utah Mountains This Summer

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Making plans for a trip to Utah this summer? Be sure to set aside time to check out all the warm-weather offerings from the state's ski and snowboard resorts.

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Toss Off The Corporate Reins With Indie Road Trips: Utah

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The number of ski and snowboard resorts in the West that haven’t hooked onto a mega-pass are dwindling, so SnoCountry.com got out its Utah road maps and headed to the mountains that still retain their independence.

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Summer Shines Brightly In Utah Mountains

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The days have lengthened, the sun is higher in the sky and the wildflowers are out, as Utah’s winter resorts put on their summer best and welcome the offseason.

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