Utah winters are like strong, talented women who also happen to be beautiful: Casual meatheads are always reducing them to one dimension. Sure, we have beautiful ski mountains, but our eyes are up here, you pigs!
(Or, actually, if eyes are what people are supposed to be looking at in this metaphor, Utah winters are less like talented, voluptuous women and more like talented, voluptuous potatoes: eyes everywhere.)
So hit the resorts, sure, but don’t ogle them so hard you ignore Utah’s other best winter destinations hiding just beneath the powder-covered surface.
Here is the official list of our 10 favorite spots, officially, at least until the next time we sit down and have a deep, respectful conversation with Utah winters and discover another facet of their personality:
Photo courtesy of Crystal Hot Springs
What exactly are you looking for in this paragraph? An explanation of why soaking in mineral hot springs in the winter is incredible? Can you hear how absurd that question is?
Salt Lake City
About 10 minutes up the canyon there’s a winter gate they close from November 1 to July 1. You can cross-country ski, skate ski, snowshoe, hike or fatbike beyond the gate on the groomed canyon road until you reach Big Water Yurt (4.5 miles each way / 1,240 feet of elevation), or you can take one of the trails that branch off the road above or below the gate. Dogs welcome!
Sundance Mountain Resort Utah County
Photo courtesy of Sundance
The lone (but not lonely) resort in Utah County differentiates itself from the bigger resorts to the north with cheaper lift tickets, western-art-gallery vibe and stunning view of the inimitable Mount Timpanogos. Other Sundance perks: night skiing, Nordic skiing, zipline tours, award-winning dining and it’s closer to a Krispy Kreme than any other ski resort in the world.
near Heber City
Rustic luxury (we know that’s an oxymoron, but you know what we mean, right? like where the beds are made of logs but also way comfy?) and life-changing backcountry mountain adventures. Snowmobiling Daniels Summit, for example, will rekindle a loveless marriage. Great weekend family getaway destination in the mountains with indoor pool and hot tub, day spa, horseback riding tours and more.
Photo courtesy of Brian Head Ski Resort
Brian Head skiing takes everything you love about the northern resorts and puts it in the middle of southern Utah’s red rocky national parks and monuments. Plus you’re close to year round golf weather in Cedar City and St. George. See also: Winter 4X4 Jamboree, Jan. 17–19 in St. George.
Deer Valley believes there’s nothing wrong with being fancy: fancy curbside service, fancy groomed runs, fancy fireside dining, fancy horse-drawn sleigh rides, fancy et cetera. Just remember the little people who helped you get there.
Salt Lake City
Photo courtesy Natural History Museum of Utah
It’s one of Utah’s best destinations because it’s one of the United States’ best natural history museums. It’s one of Utah’s best winter destinations because sometimes you want to be warm at the same time you want to see some damn dinosaurs.
Soldier Hollow is famous (at least locally) for cross-country skiing and lift-served tubing and sledding. And 2002 Winter Olympic biathlon courses. And the world’s foremost sheepdog competition. And horseback riding. And a golf course. (And being right next to another golf course.) (And Wasatch Mountain State Park.) And Swiss culture.
Bryce Canyon in winter feels like a loophole: You get smaller crowds and off-season rates on lodging, but there’s actually more to do than in the summer. Cross-country ski, snowshoe, snowmobile (outside the park proper) or ride horses to snow-capped hoodoos so beautiful they’ll make you feel guilty, like you got an award you didn’t deserve or something. Bryce Canyon Winterfest is Feb. 16–18.
Kanab sits on the Arizona border and it’s just about the warmest spot in Utah, so pack a medium jacket and treat winter like an artificial construct you can will out of existence. Access Zion, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, the Kanab Balloons & Tunes Festival (Feb. 15–17) and just about anything else that will add to your quality of life.