Winter Fun at Snowbasin Ski Resort in Utah
Although Snowbasin Resort is celebrating its 75th year of operations, it is possible you have not heard of this powder covered haven. With a plethora of ski slopes in Utah, it’s easy for this family-run, multi-peak resort in Utah’s Wasatch mountain range to get overlooked in the lineup. Located just a 45-minute drive north of Salt Lake City, this resort hosts both families and the Winter Olympics with equal skill, and the varied terrain always offers a magical experience to those who visit.
Hailed by many as “Utah’s Best Kept Secret,” Snowbasin Resort quickly grew to receive international attention in 1995 when it was chosen as the venue for the men’s and women’s downhill, super G and combined races for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Large investments in lifts, restaurant lodges and snowmaking equipment quickly followed. Snowbasin now has 11 total lifts including two 8-person gondolas and one 15-person tram. We were there on a popular Saturday and almost never had to wait in a lift line (we couldn’t believe it!) because they shuttle so many people up the mountain with unmatched efficiency. With mid-mountain lifts, skiers and snowboarders can choose to skip the busier base lines, which ensures super quick turn around times back to the trails.
The mountain is also covered by one of the world’s largest computer-controlled snowmaking systems and a fleet of snow grooming machines, which allows Snowbasin to be open and skiable as early as Thanksgiving. While we were there, we were treated to big, dry snowflakes falling all day, which makes perfect sense because they average over 400 inches of snowfall every year. We skied the bulk of the mountain and the conditions were excellently maintained everywhere. Not to mention, the powder snow is often untouched on many parts of the mountain, giving powderhounds some of the best and most memorable lines to cut.
Snowbasin’s slopes are also snowboarder friendly, meaning there is plenty of elevation change to keep boarders from hitting flat trails or plateaus and having to unclip or unstrap and walk. If you snowboard, you know how frustrating and painful this buzzkill is!
Skiers and snowboarders can also enjoy the beautiful terrain, covering over 3,000 acres, which excitingly includes the Grizzly Downhill— the 2002 Olympic men’s downhill course. At just under two miles in length and dropping 2,897 feet, the Grizzly Downhill is a thrill not to be missed by anyone, especially those appreciate breathtaking views while doing down black diamond runs. The nearby Wildflower run, the Olympic women’s downhill course, also offers a drop of over 2,600 feet, and shouldn’t be missed by black diamond lovers either.
But don’t worry about not having enough skill level at Snowbasin; there are plenty of runs for beginners, novices, and those who are a bit rusty on their skis and boards. Over a third, 36% to be exact, of their terrain is covered with intermediate and beginner trails that are perfect for kids and adults alike.
The beginner run Powder Puff, which sits right under the Littlecat Express lift, is a true bunny hill that is brilliant for kids or those new to skiing or snowboarding. And if you have beginner jumpers or have been wanting to give the terrain park a try yourself, the Powder Puff Terrain park sits amidst the Powder Puff run, giving those who dare to be thrill seekers a taste of beginner jumps and rails without the complexity or wipe-outs of the X-Games.
Snowbasin Resort Restaurants
And when you find yourself hungry while on the mountain, the Olympics led to the construction and remodel of four world-class ski lodges serving award-winning cuisine. Needles Lodge, perched at 8,710 feet, offers mountaintop dining with spectacular views of the Ogden Valley and beyond. Earl’s Lodge, at the foot of the mountain, offers six beautiful fireplaces, leather chairs, and delicious food. If you ask my kids, the French Fry station at Earl’s Lodge was their favorite! Everything we ate was far better than it needed to be and exceptionally delicious. The variety was fantastic and everything was outstandingly fresh.
Ski Magazine just ranked Snowbasin #3 in North America for “On-Mountain Food” in 2016 (above notable resorts like Whistler, Aspen, and Beaver Creek) and that ranking is spot on. Snowbasin also has a robust list of après ski events allowing for excellent wining, dining, and music after a fun day on the slopes. Whether it’s St. Anton or the Kitzbuhel in Austria, Zermatt or St. Motitz in Switzerland, or the slopes of the wee principality of Andorra, we love our après ski, and Snowbasin doesn’t disappoint.
Lessons and Skiing with Kids
For younger children or adults who are not skiers, Snowbasin offers lessons and other snow activities for outdoor fun. Snowbasin ski and snowboard lessons are available for tykes as young as 4-years old and last all day long, allowing parents to hit the slopes and cut their own trails.
If you have some experience under your belt on the snow and have a toddler or child younger than 4 (too young for resort lessons) that you want to introduce to skiing, you are welcome to bring them onto the slopes with you, provided they have the appropriate gear.
Remember that Powder Puff run I mentioned earlier? It’s perfect for even toddlers. And since kids under 6 are FREE with a paying adult, why not? Just don’t forget to bring your patience. And GoPro. Strapping it onto a toddler skiing for the first time provides laughter for years and years to come.
I admit it, we are fully aware that we will never win a “Parents of the Year” award. But, we will always create lasting memories for our kids, whether or not they are documented on video is another story. If you’d rather capture your time on the mountain with professional photos, Snowbasin is offering complimentary photo downloads in honor of their 75th Anniversary this season.
Things to do Besides Skiing
For an activity that takes absolutely no lessons, skills, or training, check out the Snowbasin snow tubing hill. It’s an absolute blast! And if you want want to take in the beautiful scenery without donning full snow gear, Snowbasin also offers Sightseeing lift tickets, allowing patrons two rides on the lifts: one on the John Paul and one on the Needles Gondola. And for those seeking a truly unique spiritual experience, there is a 20-minute non-denominational chapel service that is offered up atop the mountain at Needles Lodge (from the beginning of January until Easter) on Sundays at 2 pm.
Buying Snowbasin Lift Tickets
Probably the highest compliment for Snowbasin is that the bulk of the skiers and snowboarders that I saw were Salt Lake City and Ogden area locals with season passes. These folks have a wide variety of world-class snow resorts to choose from at fingers reach and they gladly choose Snowbasin.
Lift tickets for kids ages 7-12 are half the price of an adult ticket, and the regular lift ticket prices are very affordable. So when coupled with kids under age 6 being FREE, a trip to Snowbasin doesn’t break the bank for families like ours. Snowbasin even offers Littlecat Express only and Littlecat Express/Becker only lift tickets at very reduced rates. These daily tickets are perfect for those who know they won’t be needing to go high up on the mountain or have no desire to ski all 104 runs.
Note: If you can provide proof of Department of Defense affiliation with a Military ID or CAC card, adult lift tickets (for ages 13-64) can be purchased at a discount through the Hill Air Force Base Information Tickets and Travel Office. Youth (ages 7-12) and senior (65+) lift tickets can be purchased online or in person at Snowbasin Resort.
Where to Stay Near Snowbasin Ski Resort
We stayed at Hilton Salt Lake City Center and drove to Snowbasin Resort with our gear. Not only was there free parking but we had multiple options. We could park straight away and one of the many shuttles would pick us up, OR we could drive up to the base lodges and unload all of our kids, gear, and an adult BEFORE going to park our car (an excellent offering, especially at peak times). We chose to park the car and take the shuttle but never ended up using it. Our parking lot was so close to the base area that we couldn’t have parked anywhere closer.
But it didn’t stop there. Upon arrival to the base area, we had already decided to use our standard game plan for when we travel: who would carry what, whose hand would be holding whose, and who would be the main sherpa to get what seemed like half of a REI store’s gear up to the snow. But we quickly learned that all of our planning was unnecessary. Snowbasin’s hospitable staff helped us with our gear and provided some much needed man-to-man coverage with our kids. No main sherpa. No lost gloves. No cursing. I laughed, I cried! It was better than Cats! It was magical.
There are no lodging options located on Snowbasin but Hilton Salt Lake City Center is a wonderful lodging choice to have it all. The quick 45-minute drive north to Snowbasin seems even shorter because you’re mostly zipping along I-15. Plus you get all the restaurant and entertainment choices of staying in downtown Salt Lake City.
If you’re looking for a little quieter setting, I would recommend staying north of Salt Lake City in Ogden, UT. Both the Hampton Inn & Suites and Hilton Garden Inn are located in the growing downtown area with plenty of restaurants and shops, but with a much smaller town feel compared to Salt Lake. Both hotels are an easy 30-minute drive to Snowbasin.
Snowbasin Resort is a great winter choice for our family of various ages, abilities, and experience levels, and I highly recommend it for your family too!
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Photos courtesy of Snowbasin Resort.
Amy grew up in Southern California but has lived all over the globe. Her latest move brought her to Panama City, Florida, where she lives with her…