Salt Lake City: The Greatest Snow on Earth
Grab your board or skis and hit the mountains around Utah's capital.
EASY FLY: Not many of my friends in Dallas know this about me, but I am a powder hound. Every winter I keep up with snowfalls at ski resorts across the country, and I try to sneak away as often as I can to get in some weekend snowboarding. DFW Airport makes it pretty easy. Still, though, I’d never been to Salt Lake City, just a two-and-a-half-hour flight away. So when I read that the locals there refer to their powdery slopes as “the Greatest Snow on Earth,” I packed my board.
GREAT CITY: Salt Lake City is bordered by the Great Salt Lake to the northwest and the jagged Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges on the eastern and western edges. It’s easy to stay in town and hit a variety of slopes. There are seven world-class ski resorts, all within 30 to 45 minutes. You can cover a lot of territory in a short time. Over a four-day, four-mountain weekend, I managed to ski at Alta and board at Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude mountains—and still take in some of Salt Lake City. The small town is brimming with quaint restaurants, brewpubs, and funky hotels.
CUSHY DIGS: I stayed at the refurbished Peery Hotel, not just for the Tempur-Pedic beds and iPod docking stations, but because I’d heard the elevator of the hotel is haunted. The staff refers to the lift as Moaning Molly. You don’t press any buttons; the doors mysteriously open as you approach.
TAKIN’ POWDER: Less than an hour after I’d checked into the hotel, I found myself staring at fresh powder covering the runs at Brighton, a local favorite for both skiers and snowboarders. The 10 inches of snow that fell overnight glistened in the early afternoon sunshine. Several websites that market the skiing there say the snow is lighter than in other resorts because of the salinity of the Great Salt Lake. That’s half true. The lake is far saltier than seawater, so it doesn’t freeze in the winter, feeding lots of moisture to storms that produce “lake effect” snow. In any case, on my first run, I felt like I was floating on my board.
BOARD & BREW: After a long day of traveling and boarding, I headed to Squatters where Jenny Talley, one of the few female brewmasters, brews up award-winning beer. My favorite was the Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout, a dry Irish-style stout with a slightly malty finish. I’m not usually a stout drinker, but thanks to the sensibility of a woman, this beer is balanced perfectly.
BACKCOUNTRY: The next morning, I headed to Solitude Mountain for a full day of snowboarding. It is only a 40-minute drive from downtown. These breathtaking slopes feature 1,200 snow-dusted acres of beautiful country with 65 named runs and three huge bowls. On day three, I fought off soreness and a few too many Captain Bastard’s and headed to Snowbird Mountain. There I found 2,500 acres of various types of terrain tucked in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Little Cottonwood Canyon. I feared the mass of people would slow me down, but Snowbird has an aerial tram and 10 chairlifts, including four high-speed detachable quads and six doubles plus two conveyer lifts. It was quick and easy to find a private spot to board. My final stop was Alta, only 2 miles down the road from Snowbird. Alta is one of the older ski resorts in the country and does not allow the likes of me with my board on its precious snow. So for the first time since I was 13, I reluctantly strapped on skis. My guide took me to the highest peak and watched as I and my camera equipment somersaulted to the base of the mountain. That was the end of me and Alta. But I shook it off with a couple of Polygamy Porters and made a vow to return and conquer. That’s what powder hounds do.
After a perfect day of skiing, there is little better than a local microbrew in a cozy, warm pub. Lucky for you, there are several local brewpubs making award-winning beers in Salt Lake City. That’s reason enough to visit Utah.
Squatters, located in downtown Salt Lake City at 147 West Broadway Brewmaster Jenny Talley has been crafting trophy-worthy beers since 1991.
Must-try beer: The Fifth Element, a rustic, Belgian farmhouse ale aged in oak barrels for a year, is a limited-release beer that you can get only at Squatters.
Red Rock Brewing Company, located at 254 South 200 West in Salt Lake City, is built in an old dairy warehouse. Red Rock has been brewing beers and sodas since 1994.
Must-try beer: Black Bier, a 2010 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner, is a smooth German-style dark lager that’s not too bitter. The combination of malts and multiple days of lagering gives this beer its dark color and unbelievable flavor.
HOW TO GET THERE:
American Airlines (aa.com) offers daily nonstop flights to Salt Lake City.
WHERE TO STAY:
110 West Broadway
rates from $70 to $179