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Alta + Snowbird Winter Ski Guide, Utah

Winter Guide to Alta & Snowbird Resorts, Utah
Little Cottonwood Canyon is one of the most gorgeous places in the USA and with 2 world-class ski resorts, this is an amazing place for your next family ski trip!

Are you looking for where to go for your next family ski trip to Utah? We recently stayed at Alta Lodge and spent one-day skiing and snowboarding at Snowbird Resort and the next day skiing at Alta Resort. In this blog, we are sharing with you what we love about the Alta and Snowbird resorts plus tips to help you to plan the perfect trip to Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Disclosure: This blog was sponsored by Alta Ski Area, Alta Lodge, Alta Shuttle, and Snowbird Resort however the opinions expressed in this blog are, and always will be, truly our own.

Top 3 Things I Love About Alta + Snowbird

The three biggest reasons I love coming to Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah are:

1 | Little Cottonwood Canyon

Snowboarding Snowbird Resort, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Stunning views of Little Cottonwood Canyon from Snowbird Resort

I think Little Cottonwood Canyon combined with Albion Basin at Alta is one of the most gorgeous places in the USA! Little Cottonwood is a steep narrow canyon so you feel like you are nestled in the mountains.

The way the sun glows on the snow-covered peaks and how the sky turns pink at the start and end of each day makes me very very happy.

2 | Something For Everyone

Alta Snowbird for Family Ski Trip
From Alta’s amazing ski-only beginner area to its advanced summit and Snowbird’s steep runs, there’s something for everything in Little Cottonwood Canyon

With a big family, sometimes it’s hard to make everyone happy. However, having the choice of Alta and Snowbird right next door to each other makes it so that everyone can go do their own thing and find the perfect run for them.

My younger kids and I enjoy the easier (and sunnier) runs of Alta, while my teenage daughters get to shred the steeper slopes of Snowbird.

3 | Alta Lodge

While I don’t think anything in the States is as amazing as the European refugios, staying at Alta Lodge was the closest I’ve come to the all-inclusive, pampered feeling you get when staying at a European refugio. Plus, it’s ski-in, ski-out making it so convenient for your days on the slopes.

Where is Alta + Snowbird?

Alta and Snowbird are in Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the beauty of this narrow canyon is something you need to see for yourself.

One of the best things about skiing and snowboarding in Utah is the dry powdery snow it gets!

I love skiing at Alta with my 2 younger kids and my teenage daughters love snowboarding at Snowbird. Luckily, the two resorts are right next to each other and there’s a free shuttle that can take you from one to the other in a matter of minutes.

There are other ski resorts near Salt Lake City however, getting from one canyon to another takes quite a bit of time, and in the winter, the roads to both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons dead end at the top.

As the crow flies, Big Cottonwood Canyon, home to Brighton and Solitude resorts, is only a few miles away but would take about an hour to drive to when you are Alta or Snowbird.

Ski Utah Map overview
Map overview of all the Salt Lake City resorts Photo via

This is why it’s better to just pick one canyon to visit to not waste time commuting. Also, note that Salt Lake City can often have a lot of traffic so if you are looking to be able to relax and just enjoy your ski vacation, it is better to just pick one canyon and stay there.

How to get to Alta + Snowbird

If you are flying to ski/ride Alta or any of the other SLC canyons and Park City, you’ll fly into Salt Lake City airport. The easiest, most convenient option is to pay for a shuttle to take you to the resort since there isn’t a need for a car once you are up at Alta and Snowbird.

Alta Shuttle, Skiing Little Cottonwood Canyon
Alta Shuttle is by far the easiest, most convenient option since you don’t need a car once you arrive at Alta

As you know, we are RVers so we chose to leave our RV at the Pony Express RV resort and had Alta Shuttle pick us up from our campground and take us to and from the Alta Lodge. This was so easy and much safer because you don’t want to take your RV up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The road is steep and icy, and the parking is very limited.

Click here to schedule a private shuttle ride with Alta Shuttle.

Speaking of parking, even if you aren’t in an RV, you may want to consider shuttling or riding the free bus because there isn’t much parking at either resort.

Due to limitations in the number of people the resorts allow on the mountain because of COVID, Snowbird requires you to reserve your parking ahead of time by clicking here. Alta doesn’t require reservations however it does adjust their parking availability daily to match conditions and lift capacity. You can click here to check if parking is available.

Now that you’ve arrived at Little Cottonwood Canyon, it’s time to decide which resort is best for you and your family.

Skiing at Alta

Alta is a ski-only resort. There are 2 main areas at Alta, Wildcat Base area and Albion Base area.

I love the Albion Base area because my 2 younger kids are intermediate skiers at best.

Albion for Beginner + Intermediate Skiers

Albion Base Area
Views from the top of Sugarloaf Lift, which is the top of Albion Base Area

The Albion Base area is the perfect jumping-off point for beginner and intermediate runs.

I also love that because this area is to the side of the advanced area, you rarely have those speed demons racing past you on the slopes, which can be very common at some of the other resorts where the advanced runs merge with the beginner runs.

When I was teaching my younger kids how to ski, it made me very uncomfortable having to worry about someone racing down the beginner area and possibly hitting my child.

Wildcat for Intermediate + Advanced Skiers

Wildcat Base Area at Alta Ski Area
The Wildcat Base Area at Alta Ski Area seen from Alta Lodge

The Wildcat Base area accesses the intermediate and advanced terrain of Alta.

You can easily move between the Albion and Wildcat bases by using the rope tow however, it is hard for younger kids to ride the rope from Wildcat to Albion. From the top of the mountain, there is a nice catwalk that also makes it easy to move between the two bases.

Alta is Better for Families Learning to Ski

Alta for families
Alta is so family-friendly and a great place to teach your kids to ski

Hands down, I think Alta is one of the best ski resorts for learning to ski. Besides that the beginner area is away from advanced runs, I love that the beginner runs off the Sunnyside lift is just that, in the sun!

Alta Has a Fabulous Ski School

The other thing I love about Alta is that they have a fabulous ski school. On our last visit, my 10-year-old and 16-year-old took ski lessons at the Alf Engen Ski School; and they enjoyed it so much.

Connie, their instructor, did a great job of making sure the girls felt comfortable and were having fun, and taught them new skills that improved their abilities on the slopes.

Click here to learn more about the Alf Engen Ski School.

Food + Snacks at Alta

One of the great things about skiing at Alta Resort with kids is that the cafe to grab a coffee or hot cocoa is right at the end of the beginner run. Plus, it’s outdoors, making it super easy to rest in between runs.

When it’s time for lunch or a break from skiing, we like eating at Alf’s restaurant is at the top of the Sunshine lift. There are also restaurants at the day lodges at both bases as well as food trucks in the parking lot.

Skiing and Riding at Snowbird

Snowbird Bunny Hill
Snowbird Resort’s beautiful and easy bunny hill

Snowbird is a world-class snowboarding resort and while it may not be a top pick for beginner riders, intermediate to advanced snowboards and advanced skiers will love the steep and varied terrain of Snowbird Resort complete with stunning views of Little Cottonwood Canyon the whole time you’re riding!

Not a Newbie’s Top Choice

Snowbird offers a challenging terrain for skiing and riding. Although there’s a small bunny hill for learning skiing, the resort lacks a suitable run for beginners who’ve moved beyond the bunny slope.

Snowbird is not a great choice for adults who are learning to ride however it is a good choice for families teaching their young kids to ride for the first time and are experienced skiers/riders themselves.

Snowbird gives parents who have already experienced riders the ability to enjoy amazing terrain while also having an intimidation-free bunny slope area for their kids to learn how to ride.

A Haven for Snowboarders and Advanced Riders

Snowboarding Snowbird Resort
In love with the intermediate runs at Snowbird Resort

On the other hand, Snowbird is a great mountain for intermediate to advanced riders.

Intermediate snowboarders will find their flow with Snowbird’s steeper runs combined with that amazing, dry Utah powder.

Advanced skiers and riders will love the challenging terrain from Snowbird’s summit. When the whole mountain is open, there’s an awesome 2.5-mile intermediate run (Chip’s Run) from the summit down to the base area!

Utah’s Longest Ski Season

On top of having an average of 500 inches of amazing Utah powder each year, Snowbird stays open longer than any other resort in Salt Lake City and Utah for that matter!

Food at Snowbird

Gadzoom at Snowbird Resort
Views from the top of Gadzoom lift near Mid-Gad restaurant

Snowbird’s dining caters to all appetites and cravings with 15 different restaurants, most of which are all located within the multi-level Snowbird Center. From gastropubs to pizza, cafes, and apres bars, they’ve got whatever floats your boat all centrally located in one place.

While you’re on the mountain you can enjoy food with a view at either the Summit House or at Mid-Gad restaurants located by the intermediate terrain at the top of the Gadzoom lift.

Click here to get lift tickets for Snowbird Resort

Where to Stay in Little Cottonwood Canyon

There are many lodges and condos to choose from in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

We stayed at Alta Lodge and loved how convenient it was to ski straight out the door of the resort and get straight on the Wildcat base lift or hop onto the rope tow to get to the easier lifts at Albion base.

What We Loved About Staying at Alta Lodge

Last year my daughters and I backpacked the Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy, and Switzerland. This was the first time we had the experience of staying in mountain refugios in Europe.

Staying at Alta Lodge felt like the closest thing to staying in a European Refugio in the US.

For more info on staying at European refugios or ski resorts in Chamonix, France, check out How to Backpack the Tour du Mont Blanc and our review of the Chamonix hotel La Folie Douce.

Dinner, Breakfast, & Tea Time Included

Alta Lodge is a smaller hotel and part of the price for staying here includes breakfast, dinner, and tea time. They also offer lunch but it is an additional price.

We are very particular about eating healthy food and I typically don’t stay at hotels with free continental breakfast because all the food is processed but that wasn’t the case at Alta.

All the food at Alta Lodge was high quality food cooked fresh with healthy ingredients

For dinner, we had prime rib, grilled trout, kale salad, and veggie soup followed by a diversity of desserts. For breakfast, bagel and lox, bacon, sauteed veggies, fresh fruit, and more.

Tati and I just loved tea time! After a few hours on the bunny slope at Snowbird, we hopped on the bus and came back to the Alta Lodge for tea, lemonade, and homemade pastries.

While all the food was fantastic, it was the customer service that stood out to me most.

Book a stay at Alta Lodge by clicking here

Jacuzzi with a View

I’m slightly obsessed with jacuzzis and managed to squeeze in 3 quick dips in one day! The best part of the spa here at Alta is that it’s indoors which meant we didn’t have to freeze while walking to it, and that enormous windows are looking out at the gorgeous views of the ski slopes.

Spacious Rooms with a View

The rooms also had huge wall-to-wall windows providing us with incredible views of the ski slopes and gorgeous skies. We were blessed with clear skies and I stayed up late to do a little star gazing from the comfort of my room. I also managed to catch the pink sunrise the next day.

Besides getting great views, food, and the relaxation of the spa, Alta Lodge rooms are quite spacious and comfortable. We had a room with two doubles and a twin that easily slept 5 of us and I liked that there was a lot of room for all our ski clothes.

Ski-in, Ski-out

One last perk at Alta Lodge is that they have ski lockers downstairs, making it easy to ski out right from the lodge.

Related Blog: Get Fit To Ski with These 7 Exercises

I hope this helps you plan your perfect trip to Alta and Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon. If you have any questions please let us know in the comments.


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