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Ski preview

Top 7 spots for U students

As a retired ski bum, I get stoked on winter. Over the last three days of September, the Wasatch Front was socked in, and when the clouds finally broke, they unveiled snow-capped peaks. But that was just a preview to what’s sure to be an epic winter. After the past two seasons, we’re due for a good one, right?

At a recent fundraiser for the Utah Avalanche Center, over 1,200 powder junkies gathered at the Black Diamond headquarters in Holladay to get pumped for the season. I surveyed 100 people at the event to see which nearby resort they were most excited to hit this winter.

Keep in mind that these aren’t your average leisure-time skiers. People who donate to the Utah Avalanche Center probably aren’t spending much time enjoying the resorts’ amenities. They don’t care if there’s world-class dining, five-star hotels, heated lifts or a good ski school. These are the purists. They don’t spend any time on blues and greens. They’d rather dip into the trees and find powder stashes than carve up a groomer. They’re more likely to drop a 20-foot cliff than drop a hundo on lunch.

With that in mind, here are the most hardcore locals’ top seven places to shred. If you’re new to Utah, this might help you decide where to get your season pass. If you’re not, then just see if you agree with these opinions.

1. Snowbird, Little Cottonwood — 34 of 100 — student season pass: $599

Snowbird is simply the best because it has it all. Massive expansive terrain, challenging runs, backcountry access, awesome Après-ski, gorgeous views, and it accepts all kinds of people. From snowboarders to skiers, locals to tourists, beginners to experts and everything in between, Snowbird won this poll by a landslide, and I can’t say I disagree with the results.

2. Alta, Little Cottonwood — 21 of 100 — student season pass: $599

There must’ve been a lot of skiers at the party. Alta is one of three resorts in the U.S. that still doesn’t allow snowboarders. While that might be a draw for some, it’s mostly the super steep terrain and the abundant snowfall that gets skiers’ votes.

3. Brighton, Big Cottonwood — 13 of 100 — student season pass: $599

This is my favorite resort for the same reasons as a lot of other people — it’s not like a resort at all. There’s almost no lodging, almost no dining and almost no fancy amenities. This resort is all about the skiing and snowboarding. It’s a local favorite because it doesn’t attract many tourists, you can find fresh powder a week after a storm, the park is fun, and the terrain is gnarly.

4. Solitude, Big Cottonwood — 9 of 100 — student season pass: $549

These guys nailed it with their marketing campaign. I don’t know if people forget about this place or what, but it’s the perfect resort to ditch the crowds on busy weekends. You’ll rarely find lift lines at Solitude, and you’ll always find challenging terrain with plenty of powder stashes.

5. Backcountry, Wasatch — 7 of 100 — student season pass: FREE

Like I said, I was polling the most hardcore of the hardcore. A handful of people wouldn’t even admit to visiting resorts. Who needs a $100 lift ticket when you’ve got skins? If this is where you’re planning to spend your winter, though, make sure you take at least a basic avalanche safety course. The Utah Avalanche Center offers them for free.

6. Canyons, Park City — 6 of 100 — student season pass: $429

Canyons is a great place for students to get a pass. It’s huge. In fact, it’s the biggest lift-served resort in Utah. It’s got a decent terrain park and easy backcountry access. It also has those heated chair lifts, which is cool if you’re into that sort of thing.

7. Park City Mountain Resort, Park City — 4 of 100 — student season pass: $535

There’s nothing wrong with PCMR, but it’s not for skiers and snowboarders who live for deep powder and technical turns. It does have one of the best terrain parks in the country, but that’s not the type of winter sports enthusiast I found at the UAC fundraising party. If you live for park laps or Après ski parties, PCMR is your spot.


Note: You may notice that the poll only adds up to 94 results. There were some outliers. I tried to stick to resorts within a half hour of the U. Three people voted for Snowbasin and two for Powder Mountain. One guy said Deer Valley, but he wasn’t being serious, citing its cuisine and ski valets as his reasons for loving the resort.