Staying off snow and driving up
Since many of the mountains are only a short drive from Salt Lake City staying in town and skiing a variety of resorts is a real option. The roads up the canyon can close in heavy snowfalls. If you have a car you can head up the canyon before they close it in the morning at like 5:30am and then just sleep in your car for a couple of hours until opening. Then you'll be up there skiing powder with barely anyone else until the road opens. That is what the diehard locals do.
The busses are ok but much easier/faster with a car. They cost US$3 each way.
Assuming you are hiring a car and are a powder hound then i'll let you know what i would do.
- Stay in a suburb close to the big (solitude and brighton) and little (alta/snowbird) cottonwood canyons.
- Look at forecasts the night before. If it is forecasted to dump big time then you have to condsider the possibility that roads will close.
- Wake up early or really really really early if it is forecasted to dump big time to check road status (ring up) and estimated time of closing if it is going to close. I suggest a 5am alarm, at which time you can call 801 742 3403, which is a recording at the Alta Marshal's office. It is usually updated at about 4:45AM and will give you a good indication of the road status for the morning. That was you can make the deicision to head up early if the road will close, or if you can take your time.
- Remember if the road closes for blasting, usually around 6:30am, it may well not open until 11 or after. If you beat the closure you will have the powder to yourself all morning
- Ring Snowbird/Alta/Solitude/Brighton/Snowbasin and Powder Mountain or go on the internet to check the snow reports and road status. Focus on the overnight snowfall as 12 inches overnight is much better than 12 inches in 24 hours where 9 inches fell during the previous day.
- If it has dumped at Snowbird/Alta and road is expected to close at 7am for example then get up there before the road closes if you are really desperate for epic skiing like me.
- Consider what day it is, if it is a powder day on a weekend and solitude or snowbasin got a similar amount of snow to Snowbird/Alta then i would choose to go to Solitude or Snowbasin as they are much quieter so lift lines will be much smaller (or non existant) and powder will last much longer. That also depends on what you are after though, some people prefer a few epic lines over a whole day of good skiing/snowboarding.
- If it hasn't snowed overnight or for a few days then you are much more likely to find powder at Solitude, powder mountain and snowbasin than at Alta/Snowbird where basically everything is tracked in a day unless areas remain closed all day.
- Never buy tickets at the resort. Pull into a sports/ski store on the way and buy your tickets there as it can be up to like US$10 cheaper per ticket.
Oh and Alta is skiers only if you didn't know.
A good option for cheap off-mountain accommodation is the Studio 6 in Midvale. ( www.staystudio6.com ). It is about 15 minutes from the base of the Cottonwood Canyons, and is a convenient and cheap place to base yourself if you are looking to ski more than just a couple of Utah's ski resorts. It has standard motel rooms, but with a full kitchen, and as of January 2008 the weekly rate was $350 including all taxes. As you can self cater this can dramatically lower the cost of your trip. Canyon Sports is located nearby which sells discounted lift tickets to all the SLC resorts. It is also near the I-215 ring road so if you're looking to drive up to Snowbasin or Park City you can make a clean getaway. It also has laundry facilites and wireless Internet for which a nominal fee is charged. For groups of 4-8, there are some great condos for rent from $700p/w in Ogden. 10min from Powder Mtn and 15 min from Snowbasin. Cottonwood Canyons are also very accessible. Check out there Facebook page: