March 19, 2024

The Utah ski scene has loooong been dominated by a relatively small group of resorts, particularly when compared to states like Colorado. First there was Alta. And for some die-hards that’s all there still is today. But other resorts – Snowbird, Park City and Deer Valet – have developed into masters of the universe in the North American ski industry. In a second tier are Brighton and Solitude. But interestingly, one of Utah’s lesser known resorts is one of its best. That would be Snowbasin. When I ask skiers (even those in Utah) what they know about Snowbasin, or if they have ever been there, it typically is not a lively conversation. They may know the name but not much else. The more serious skier may know it as that place that held the Olympic downhills.  But Snowbasin deserves better.

As always a little history is helpful. Amazingly, Snowbasin has been around a long time. Its first lift was put in for the 1939 season (the same year Alta opened), and after WW II a chairlift was installed. It essentially was a small community area with several different owners until the current owners, the Holding family (owners of Sun Valley), bought it in 1984. They are responsible for the major improvements the ski area has undergone. Salt Lake City and environs were awarded the 2002 Olympics in 1995, and Snowbasin was chosen as the site for the speed races. Even flatlanders who don’t ski watch the Olympic downhill, and for a while Snowbasin was on the map.

Some of us here are terrible at analytics and math so we have always loved the phrase that Mark Twain popularized… “There are 3 kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” But some basic Snowbasin statistics are illuminating.

  • Skiable Acre: Snowbasin has 3,000 acres of terrain which is 500 acres more than Snowbird and way exceeds Alta’s 2,200 acres. (Park City has 7,300 acres, but then you have to ski Park City.)
  • Vertical Drop: Snowbasin has 3,000; Snowbird – 3,200; Alta – 2,000.
  • Annual Snowfall: Snowbasin’s annual snowfall also compares to that of Park City and Deer Valet at a little over 300.

In addition to favorable statistics, Snowbasin has much to offer. It is easily accessible – 45 minute drive from the Salt Lake City airport over major roads that rarely, if ever, close. It has a very modern lift system which includes two gondolas that provide easy access to top to bottom 3,000 ft. runs and a small tram that lifts you to the top of the two downhill runs. The terrain is an intriguing mix of open rolling slopes and gladed pitches. Neither beginners nor experts will be disappointed. And while we are the last folks to ski an area because of luxury lodges and decent food, the lodges at the base and several of the peaks are spectacular.  Speaking of food…(and this is an order!) you must eat dinner at the Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville apres ski. It serves only burgers and beer, is the oldest bar in Utah and describing it as “unique” does not do it justice.

On a recent visit to the Shooting Star Saloon

Lest you accuse us of posting a travel puff piece, there are dents in Snowbasin’s glamour which have kept it from being in the same stratosphere as resorts such as Alta and Snowbird. Shockingly, it is a day tripper area. It has zero lodging at the base and the local towns of Huntsville and Eden are in the “blink and you miss it” category with little higher end options for lodging and food. Its elevation can also be an issue. Minus the tram for the downhills (which closes often and, if open, can have a long line), its summit peaks are roughly as high as the bases of the four areas in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. This results in lower average snowfall (300 vs. 550). And for reasons unknown to us, Snowbasin can be prone to fog and wind. Pick your days there carefully.

I venture up to Snowbasin several times a winter. My brother and I drove there from Alta several weeks ago. The drive was easy at a little over an hour on very good roads.  Snowbasin did not disappoint. Six to eight inches of snow fell in the morning, and we spent the day meandering from one knoll to the next, easily finding fresh tracks on long top to bottom runs. I was once again reminded how huge the place is. We walked away satiated but hadn’t even skied half of the terrain.

Oh – At the Shooting Star Saloon I had the double cheeseburger and he had the Star Burger (double cheeseburger and knockwurst).  I licked my plate.

Be Well; Ski Well.



conSKIerge co-founder

Kevin Dennis is a life long ski bum with a 34 year legal career on the side. Now retired, he skis 80+ days a year. While he lives in Alta UT in the winters, he has traveled extensively through skiing and has skied almost every major resort in North America (and many you have never heard of). He continues to hit the road often throughout the western United States and Canada and trips over the last several years have included ventures in British Columbia, Montana and Colorado. Whether you want to know about the behemoths like Aspen or Squaw or are interested in the road less travelled (Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana or Whitewater in BC anyone?), Kevin has been there, has an opinion and you will most likely have to tell him to shut up after a half hour!