Utah's naturally arid climate produces the so-called "greatest snow on Earth" that is the stuff of legend: soft and powder-like. But there is much more to Utah's ski resorts than snow, making trips there memorable for vacationers of all stripes.
Salt Lake City
Nestled in a valley at the foot of two mountain ranges (the Wasatch and the Oquirrhs), Salt Lake City combines unparalleled access to natural recreation, dynamic nightlife, remarkable history and Utah's famous snow. Host of the Olympic Winter Games in 2002, the city is now better known than in the past.
Awarded the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award in 2007, the Grand America Hotel (www.grandamerica.com) is located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, within walking distance of historic Temple Square, a 10-minute ride from the Salt Lake International Airport and a 30-to-40-minute trek to the major ski resorts.
Though the 24-story, 775-room hotel was only built in 2001, it exudes Old World charm, with exquisite details from Murano-glass chandeliers, French cherry-wood furniture and Italian marble bathrooms.
Most guest rooms have small balconies with views facing either the mountains or garden courtyard. Request the Executive Suite King on the east side for unobstructed views of the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountain Ranges. The 2,000-square-foot Presidential Suites not only have breathtaking views, but also have modern kitchens, dual bathroom basins, fireplaces and jetted bathtubs.
As for public spaces, guests can relax in the hotel's indoor and outdoor pools. The Grand Spa, which has eight treatment rooms, also has steam rooms, a yoga studio, a state-of-the-art fitness center and a beauty salon.
Die-hard ski fans should also take advantage of the hotel's knack for personalizing each visitor's stay. "For instance, if a family is coming in for skiing, we have a skiing ambassador. She can organize everything from renting their car and skis to buying their lift tickets," says Shannon Short, public relations manager. Hotel reservations and additional information are available by calling 800-621-4505.
Where to Ski: A 40-minute ride from Grand America is the quiet Snowbasin, A Sun Valley Resort (801-620-1123). Amid the idyllic northern Utah community of Huntsville, Snowbasin (www.snowbasin.com) was the site of the 2002 Olympic Downhill and Super G Races. It has 2,959 vertical feet of bowls, a six-lane snow-tubing hill, chutes and groomers covering more than 2,800 acres.
Alta Lodge (www.altalodge.com) is nestled at the popular Alta Ski Area, 25 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The homey lodge is adored by families who come back for generations to enjoy its warm ambience, homemade cookies and super snow conditions.
With 57 rooms, the lodge offers astonishing views of the alpine scenery. Request a Large Slope Facing Corner Room, which has wall-sized windows and views of the picturesque terrain. Families should book the Large Corner Room, which has a full bath, double bed, queen bed and day bed. The lodge has a sundeck, two saunas and hot pools with a 30-foot glass wall facing Alta's High Rustler run. Agents can contact director Megan Sitcoske (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Where to Ski: Known for its super dry and deep powder, the Alta Ski Area (801-359-1078) has more than 2,200 acres of terrain and a vertical drop of 2,020 feet. Combined with Snowbird, its sister resort, it has been rated the number one resort in the country for five years running by Skiing. Alta and Snowbird offer a combined ticket to ski both mountains' 4,700 acres of light, dry powder snow. (Note for younger clientele: Alta does not allow snowboarding.)
When it comes to skiing and lodging, Park City is right up there with Salt Lake City. Founded in 1869 by silver miners, the town of Park City was the epicenter of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Also home to the Sundance Film Festival, it has become a popular tourist attraction for its exciting ski activities, cultural events and nightlife.
The Canyons Grand Summit Hotel (www.thecanyons.com/grand_summit.html), a AAA Four-Diamond resort, rises from the middle of the resort village at the Canyons. One of the Canyons' three lodging properties, the Grand Summit combines beautiful design with an exceptional slopeside location. The hotel has 358 rooms, including studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom suites and expansive luxury penthouses. Most rooms come with a balcony with views of the valley, courtyard or mountains.
Families should book the Deluxe One Bedroom Parlor King, which has a king bed, a queen sofa sleeper in the living room, a kitchen, two full bathrooms and one jetted tub. The Penthouse Suites are charming two-story lofts with living rooms, dining rooms, private balconies with amazing mountain views, four bedrooms and bathrooms.
The hotel's health club offers everything from massages, facials, sauna, steam room, yoga, weight training and an outdoor heated pool with three Jacuzzis.
The hotel is a snowball's throw from the "Flight of the Canyons Gondola," an enclosed ski lift that takes guests to 8,000 feet. Hotel reservations and additional information are available by calling 888-CANYONS.
Where to Ski: Just four miles from Park City's historic Main Street, the Canyons Resort (www.thecanyons.com) has 3,700 acres of diverse terrain on eight separate mountains. It is the largest single ski and snowboard resort in Utah. And after a $10 million renovation, the Canyons presents 152 trails, 17 lifts, six natural half-pipes, two terrain parks and the all-new Dream Catcher lift that opens an additional 200 acres of pristine glades and nature trails.