Routine can be a powerful monster. You wake up, do your five favorite runs at Park City and are back in front of your computer before noon. You wake up. You drop the kids off at Deer Valley ski school and take a quick lap with your “lift pool” buddies and then have the littles back at home for nap time. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. We call this a rut. And while comfortable is good and gets the job done, maybe this season it’s time to mix it up. Here are seven road trip–worthy Utah resorts that, chances are, you’ve heard about but never visited. They each offer unique and, often, throwback experiences that will feel new to you, despite the retro vibes.
Powder Mountain’s massive size and limited crowds mean you’ll find untracked powder days after a storm. Acreage, divided by lift tickets sold, equals the least-crowded resort in North America and, last season, the resort capped its season ticket sales. Powder Mountain loyalists are proud that their home hill doesn’t make its own snow, meaning as pampered as you’ve become with larger resorts’ commitment to good coverage, you just might have forgotten what real snow feels like. That ethic carries over to the resort’s lodges, which are straight out of your childhood. Case in point: Most days you’ll find John Burrows behind the mic at the Powder Keg. The transplanted local came from the East Coast five years ago, and tired of the icy slopes, found the powder he craved in the Utah mountains. But the real treasure at Pow Mow is off-piste terrain served by snowcat. The cat ride up to Lightning Ridge is a must and often offers access to vast acres of untouched powder.
Logistics: Powder Mountain doesn’t offer on-mountain lodging, but the Eden Valley below is one of the most bucolic and scenic places in Utah. Be sure to visit the Shooting Star, the oldest bar in Utah.
Don’t miss: We’ll say it again. Snowcat service. If you find yourself on the fence, trust us and pay for at least one cat ride. It won’t be the last.
6965 E Powder Mountain Rd, Eden 801.745.3772
Long runs; a balanced mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced terrain; plus, thin crowds define Snowbasin. However, the word is out, since Snowbasin was named one of the 20 Access Resorts of the Year by the editors of Ski magazine. The site of several 2002 Olympic Winter Games events, Snowbasin was revamped in 1998 to include two gondolas and a high-speed quad. In contrast to its Eden Valley neighbor, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin cannot remotely be described as “rustic.” The lodges around the resort were built by the showy oil and gas millionaire Earle Holding, who, while he may have been lacking in, let’s just say restrained taste, did not skimp on quality. Giant fireplaces, comfy wingback chairs, with nary a rickety bench in sight are among the hallmarks. Amid those lodges is some otherworldly terrain, especially above and below John Paul Lodge, which overlooks the men’s and women’s downhill runs.
Logistics: You’ll want to at least try the “beer can” lift that services the top of the Olympic downhill runs. The views from the top peaks of Snowbasin are jaw dropping and give you excellent vantages of the Eden and Odgen valleys. Don’t worry, you can ride down if that first drop looks too rough.
Don’t miss: Umm. The bathrooms. How many times have you schlepped down slippery stairs to a yucky resort bathroom? Not so at Snowbasin. And, while maybe it’s not dinner table conversation, we all quietly love that the stalls all come with private floor-to-ceiling hardwood doors. Mr. Holding apparently liked his thinking time.
3925 SnowBasin Rd, Huntsville, 801.620.1000
Nordic Valley packs a wide variety of terrain into a small, uncrowded space. About half of the terrain is intermediate, plus a terrain park filled with features helps keep things interesting. Nordic Valley is a family affair. Just last season, the resort gave more than 200 first-timer lessons over Christmas break. In its iconic base lodge, fondly called “The Old Barn” by the loyal, multifamily generations who ski there, is a place to gather and warm up between runs and lessons. You’ll often find families enjoying the liberal brown-bagging policy while gathered over board and card games on these breaks. Here, quality time together is as important as the snow outside.
Logistics: If your littles need a new place to learn, consider a trip to Nordic Valley. Lessons are affordable, and its unintimidating size and open cruisers mean the smaller set has a safe and fun place to play and learn.
Don’t miss: There’s more snow fun to be had after dark at Nordic Valley, with ample (and inexpensive) night skiing; so skip the après and stay out late on the hill.
3567 Nordic Valley Way, Eden 801.745.3511
Eagle Point is basically one giant surprise located in the largely untracked Tushar Mountain Range. It’s only open Thursdays through Sundays, so if a storm hits early in the week, there is fresh powder on Thursday morning and there will still be fresh pockets on Sunday. While Eagle Point has plenty of beginner terrain, some of its best runs are so steep that the small resort doesn’t have the ability even to attempt to groom them. The village is petite, mostly comprised of slopeside rental properties that vary in size and can sleep as few as just you and as many as the whole crew. This range (and low prices) make it the kind of place to round up a few families or a bunch of your friends and make a weekend of it. There is exactly one bar and restaurant at Eagle Point, the aptly named Bar and Grill; and you and your crew can pretty well take it over for what feels like your own private party.
Logistics: Cook in. Most extended-stay lodging options at Eagle Point offer full kitchens. Pick up supplies in Cedar City or Parowan and gather round the table with family and friends.
Don’t miss: The Hot Tub Garden. Oh, it’s a thing. The restaurant and bar’s patio is a great spot to watch the sunset and has three open-for-the-taking hot tubs to soak your bones while you wind down from the day. So pack your bathing suit.
150 S West Village Circle, Beaver 855.324.5378
Nowhere else in Utah can you regard its two most famous topographies juxtaposed with each other. From the top lift below Brian Head Peak, you can gaze off into Utah’s famous red rock country as you contemplate the snowy hills below. This mix of desert, snow, and sky makes Brian Head a very special place. Also, Brian Head is actually a town. Think Park City 30 (or maybe 50?) years ago. The resort and the village are entwined, and people who travel to Brian Head—often Las Vegans and Los Angelinos—tend to stay a few days or over a long weekend. This situation
creates a friendly atmosphere of vacationing folks who feel the freedom to stay up a little later, perhaps in the glow of the Lift Bar’s ginormous fireplaces. The mountain is divided into two sections: the Navajo Peak area, completely devoted to beginner terrain, and the main mountain, which offers a wide range of terrain for skiers and boarders of all levels. Brian Head is also Utah’s highest resort, at 9,800 feet above sea level, and a repository for southerly storms that often don’t make it to the Wasatch.
Logistics: Brian Head is located up the gnarly Parowan Canyon, above its namesake town. Do yourself a favor and book a long weekend in one of the plentiful vacation rentals and lodges in the small ski town itself.
Don’t miss: The town teams up with nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument to offer a series of evening “Dark Sky” events. Rangers from the monument lead fascinating tours of the night sky, while local astronomers share their telescopes and celestial knowledge with visitors. And there’s hot chocolate and a warm lodge to get out of the cold.
329 UT-143, Brian Head 435.677.2035
Cherry Peak is the newest resort in the United States, unless you include the stitching together of Park City Mountain and Canyons resorts. Located in Richmond Canyon, 15 miles north of Logan, Cherry Peak opened for business in the 2014 season. Its owner, John Chadwick, grew up backcountry skiing on the family property where he built his resort, which now includes three triple chairlifts, a 500-foot magic carpet, night skiing, ice-skating, and a tubing hill. The spot is popular with locals from Cache Valley, and you’ll find packs of Boy Scouts on its night-skiing hill. Of note: Chadwick designed the technique he used for linking together logs to create the resort’s base lodge.
Logistics: Cherry Peak is in Richmond, a town north of Logan, a larger ville that is home of Utah State University. Logan is a fun college town with restaurants and bars, which makes it an ideal place to stay over and explore both Cherry Peak and Beaver Mountain.
Don’t miss: The famous Aggie Ice Cream
3200 E 11000 N, Richmond 435.200.5050
Generations of Utah State University students learned to ski at “The Beav,” as the locals call it. Beaver delivers old-school charm and an abundance of intermediate terrain with some beginner and advanced areas tossed in for variety. One of the last family-owned resorts in the United States, the Beav is still run by the Seeholzers. Harold and Luella Seeholzer opened Beaver in 1949 and turned the resort over to their children, Marge and Ted. Marge still runs the ticket window (really). Now, the third generation is taking over. You’ll find Travis Seeholzer, the resort’s general manager, out on the hill often without a helmet, conspicuously eschewing modern ski fashion. In the main lodge, you’ll find generations of families who come up from Logan for the day. Often Grandma and Grandpa will be camped out in an easy chair dozing while their pride and joy play in the snow outside.
Logistics: Just 12 miles from Bear Lake (one of Utah’s bluest and prettiest sights, especially in winter), the resort is a stone’s throw from a new crop of year-round, lakeside resorts offering lodging to skiers when the snow flies. We don’t recommend jumping in the lake, however.
Don’t miss: Getting back to the terrain served by Marge’s Triple; try Sour Grapes, a Seeholzer family favorite.
40000 E Hwy 89, Garden City 435.946.3610