Utah sleepers: ski uncrowded slopes at four lesser-known ski resorts
Claire Walter


Thick blankets of fluffy, untracked snow, finely manicured runs, expansive bowls with great pitch, acre after acre of aspen and conifer glades to explore: These descriptions aptly apply to Utah's Olympic-caliber brand-name resorts. But they also perfectly characterize a handful of the state's lesser-known ski mountains.

While the quarter of winter resorts listed here don't always find themselves in the headlines or featured in ski or snowboard magazines, they do offer great terrain, uncrowded slopes, and short lift lines. And that's to your advantage. All have day lodges, food service, and lodging either at the base or nearby. For help with Utah winter vacation planning, contact Ski Utah (www.skiutah.com or 800/754-8824).


Brighton Resort has long called itself "Utah's family resort." While Brighton isn't the state's only family-friendly resort, your kids may already be familiar with it--it's featured in "Amped," a computer snow-boarding game.

Sitting atop glacier-formed Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton's trails and glades fall below three peaks that top 10,000 feet. One reason families like Brighton is that with all this terrain, skiers and snowboarders of widely varied abilities can ride the same lifts up, take different routes back down, and reconnect for another lift ride to discuss their runs. The 20-room Brighton Lodge (801/532-4721) offers minimal accommodations, so most skiers just come for the day.

BEST RUNS: From the top of the Crest Express lift, snowboarders can hit three terrain parks for half-pipe aerials and rail grinding. Skiers can cruise Thunder Road to Deer Park to Hawkeye Access and meet their boarder brethren at the bottom.

REFUEL: For burgers, chili, soups, and sandwiches, head to the Alpine Rose above Brighton Center. More substantial fare--pasta, poultry, seafood, and beef--is served at Molly Green's next door.

DETAILS: Seven lifts with 1,745 feet of vertical drop. Open daily into April; $41, ages 10 and under free. 12601 Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd.; www.brightonresort.com or (801) 532-4731.

Solitude Mountain Resort enjoys living up to its name. But these days, with the recent completion of the core base village and addition of a lift into Honey-comb Canyon, it lags behind Utah's top tier of resorts only in name recognition.

Thanks to the lack of crowds, Solitude's 1,200 acres still ski much bigger than that number might indicate. Honeycomb Canyon's 400 acres never get skied out, and the Black Forest section offers countless powder stashes for skiers and snowboarders comfortable with dancing in the trees. Free-riding, not terrain parks, is the dominant theme for snowboarders.

Lodging options abound in Solitude's village (www.skisolitude.com or 800/748-4754).

BEST RUNS: Honeycomb Canyon offers powder hounds such a sprawling expanse that the day after a storm, you can traverse untracked snow until the lift closes.

REFUEL: Enjoy family dining with an Italian flavor at the Creekside Restaurant. Midmountain, Sunshine Grill's deck lets you catch some rays over a burger or chili.

DETAILS: Eight lifts with 2,047 vertical feet. Open daily into April; $45, $24 ages 7-13. 12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd.; www.skisolitude.com or (800) 748-4754.


Beaver Mountain Ski Area is stashed along the Utah-Idaho border within the thick timber of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Since it's out of sight, it's out of mind for most skiers. And that's a pity. This 660-acre day area is scenic, has great glade and fall-line skiing, and is in the track of potent powder-dumping storms. Beaver doesn't know crowds; as a result, there are no lift lines to slow your exploration of this hidden gem.

This mom-and-pop area--family-run since 1939--has so far avoided corporate intrusion and offers little but skiing and snowboarding. Base amenities are spartan, with no base lodging or sumptuous buffets. But you're here for the skiing, right?

The best lodging options are back down the canyon in Logan (www.tourcachevalley.com or 800/882-4433).

BEST RUNS: The arrival of Marge's Triple chair in the Lone Pine canyon last season opened some incredible aspen glades for exploration. For pure speed, Ted's Rock, Wapiti, and Red Tail are broad intermediate cruisers.

REFUEL: A short-order cafeteria at the base serves burgers, brats, and fries; on weekends look for the open-air barbecue at the base of Marge's Triple.

DETAILS: Four lifts, one rope tow, 1,600 vertical feet. Open daily through March; $28, $22 ages 11 and under. 27 miles east of Logan via U.S. 89; www.skithebeav.com or (435) 753-0921.


Powder Mountain Winter Resort has been discussed, in recent years, as a possibility for becoming Utah's next major destination resort. Thankfully, that day has not yet arrived, and this family-owned resort remains a haven for die-hard skiers and snowboarders focused on turns, not attire. More than one day is needed to explore the 5,500 acres of terrain.

Though not packing any perilously steep chutes, Powder offers acre after acre of great cruising terrain, both groomed and ungroomed. The snow-cat skiing beneath 9,422-foot James Peak will test your thighs with more than 2,100 feet of vertical.

The Columbine Inn (801/745-3772) at the base area has condos and rooms; also check nearby Ogden Valley (www.ogdencub.org or 866/867-8824).

BEST RUNS: It takes three lifts to reach Cobabe Canyon, but the effort is worth it. The canyon abounds with tree runs and open meadows that routinely fill with powder. Natural terrain parks are carved out of the trough of the canyon, and there are even some groomed beginner runs.

REFUEL: The view from the mountain-top deck at the Hidden Lake Lodge complements its chili. At day's end, warm up with a drink in front of the fireplace at the Powderkeg.

DETAILS: Four lifts, three surface tows, 2,100 vertical feet. Open into April; $41, $24 ages 5 and under. 19 miles east of Ogden via State 158; www.powdermountain.com or (801) 745-3772.

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