With its legendary snow, quick access to an international airport, steep lines, and family friendly culture, Utah has long been a favorite destination for families to ski. With a quick google search revealing ten ski resorts within an hour from the airport, it can seem overwhelming to choose the one resort that offers all you and your family need.
To keep things simple, we are going to point you in the direction of the Cottonwood canyons, where the base of these canyons is just a 23 minute drive from the international SLC airport. These canyons are home to four of Utah’s favorite ski resorts. Whether you are seeking the steepest lines, the best ski schools, or a winter wonderland resort, we are here to help you find the right place to take your family skiing this winter.
Brighton: Offering Affordable Skiing for the Family. Where Locals Learn to Ski.
With runs for every level of skier, including a terrain park, Brighton has long been a favorite resort for locals who are not seeking the frills and thrills of an all inclusive resort. The fact that Brighton is the highest elevation resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon means that it gets hit hard when storms move through, and gets a few more inches of snow each storm than many of resorts in Utah. You’ll notice that the parking lot doesn’t empty when the sun starts to set. In fact, you’ll see a new stream of traffic moving in. Brighton offers the most extensive night skiing in Utah. Your family will love Brighton if you’re looking to learn to ski and to spend the day (and the night) skiing together as a family, and save a little money in the process.
Where to Stay: There aren’t many lodging accommodations at Brighton. In fact, the affordable rustic Brighton Lodge only offers 20 rooms. If you want to stay in Big Cottonwood Canyon, consider Solitude Mountain Resort, or the Silver Lake Lodge. There is plenty of affordable lodging at the base of the canyon in Cottonwood Heights, where busses and shuttles take skiers to the mountain each morning.
Where to Ski: Brighton has blue and green runs off of every chairlift, but first timers will love learning off of the Explorer lift before graduating to the playful trees and rollers on the Majestic lift.
Ski School: The locals in Utah send their kids to Brighton to learn to ski at the Brighton Snow Sports School. Brighton has one of the best (and most affordable) ski schools in the state, where instructors use “play” to teach correct technique and lifelong ski skills.
Childcare: Unfortunately, childcare isn’t offered.
Family Friendly Apres: Don’t expect to find extensive lodges or fine dining when you come to Brighton. Brighton is about creating cozy nostalgia and making family memories. While you won’t find many apres options, families often spend time in one of the cafeterias in the lodges at the base of the resort. If you are staying at the base of the canyon, Spitz is often a favorite for locals, offering delicious cocktails and amazing mediterranean food.
Solitude Mountain Resort: A Winter Wonderland Family Resort
The vibe at Solitude Mountain Resort is more “laid back” than most resorts in this area, with many locals who have been chasing powder here for years. Locals come back for the powder stashes that seem to last just a little longer than the other cottonwood canyon resorts and for the steep tree skiing. Solitude Mountain Resort offers slope-side lodging, two villages, several dining options, nordic skiing, and has plenty of terrain that the whole family will love to ski.
Where to Stay: Solitude has many lodging options, making it easy for families to enjoy their time on the mountain. Whether you choose The Inn at Solitude for its budget friendly rooms, or whether your family needs more space in a condo, all guests have access to the hot tubs, heated outdoor pools, game room and fitness center at Club Solitude.
Where to Ski: Set your family up at the Moonbeam Lodge if you’re looking for quick access to the easiest terrain on the mountain. Beginners can practice riding the moving conveyor, before graduating to the beginner terrain off of the Link lift. The Moonbeam Express lift has longer, more advanced greens and some easy blues for beginners to work towards. For expert skiers, you can find incredible advanced terrain in Honeycomb Canyon and Fantasy Ridge. With so much terrain to offer everyone in the family will find what they are looking for, and the centrally located base means it’s easy for everybody to reunite at the end of a run.
Ski School: Solitude’s Ski and Ride School has several options for every level and age of skier. From full day or half-day private, semi-private, or group lessons, you can easily choose an option that fits your budget and needs.
Childcare: Unfortunately, childcare isn’t offered.
Family Friendly Apres: While Solitude offers three bars on the mountain, all bars in Utah are 21+. Located at the base of the mountain, the Honeycomb Grill offers delicious cocktails, sweeping views of the mountain, and a menu that the whole family can enjoy.
Snowbird: Steep Skiing, Luxury Lodging, And The Longest Ski Season in Utah
Snowbird has the reputation of offering plentiful access to the steepest skiing in Utah, as well as a wealth of terrain for your little ones to learn to ski. If your family is full of big skiers, you’re going to want to take the family to Snowbird. This high elevation resort gets hit hard with lake effect snow, and the excess powder combined with steep lines makes for world class skiing. With plenty of lodging options, restaurants, and a lively plaza (and even outdoor rooftop pools at Snowbird) the family can comfortably settle in and enjoy.
Where to Stay: Snowbird offers four lodges to cater to a diverse range of budgets and needs.
Where to Ski: True beginners will want to start at Chickadee, while those ready to progress will want to head to Gad Valley and ride Baby Thunder. Mini Miners Camp is a favorite run for kids, with fun and adventurous terrain features and wooden cutouts to encourage turning. Intermediate skiers will love Wilbre and Mid-Gad, and for advanced skiers, the Tram will give access to all the runs that make Snowbird famous
Ski School: Snowbird has a huge ski school program, and offers options for every level and age of skier.
Childcare: Yes- Superior Childcare is a licenced childcare facility, watching kids as young as 6 weeks old.
Family Friendly Apres: While Snowbird offers plenty of restaurants and dining options both on and off the mountain, the plaza at the base of the Tram offers the most lively atmosphere. On warmer weekends you can often enjoy live music, drinks, and meet new friends while the kids run around outside.
Alta Ski Area: A Classic Ski Resort Steeped in Family Tradition with Steep Lines and Deep Snow; A Local’s Favorite
Skiers return to Alta Ski Area year after year for the steep lines, technical chutes, and adventurous terrain. When these skiers have families, they bring their children to learn to ski at a young age. Alta has a tradition of family. Locals agree that there is just something special and different about their favorite mountain — they call it “Alta Magic”. Alta is a special, nostalgia-filled experience with plenty of snow, terrain ranging from beginner to expert, and a big mountain with a small town vibe your family will love. An added bonus — Alta tends to get the most snow out of the resorts when storms move through the Wasatch.
Where to Stay: Alta has five lodges, ranging from simple dorm rooms, to high end luxury suites.
Where to Ski: Beginners will want to begin at the Albion Base, riding the gentle terrain off of the Sunnyside Chair. Small children and first-timers, can practice moving on skis on the moving conveyor just west of Albion Base. Those in the intermediate range who are looking for slightly steeper blues will love to explore Sugarloaf. The rest of the mountain offers a plethora of steep skiing for those of you looking for it. Be prepared to traverse, side step, or hike to find the best lines and untracked powder when you visit Alta.
Ski School: The Alf Engen School has options for every age and every level of skier.
Childcare: Yes- full service daycare for children as young as 2 months old.
Family Friendly Apres: While Alta offers several restaurants across the mountain, the best family friendly Apres at Alta can be found at the Gold Miner’s Daughter Saloon. Order a pizza for the family and a pitcher of beer for the adults, and sit around the fireplace while the kids chase each other and find new friends.
Wherever you choose to ski in Utah this winter, we are looking forward to helping you out this winter. Tell us where you are staying, and we will come to you. Check out some reviews about how we have served others. We’ll see you on the slopes in a few months.