Last Updated on 20th June 2023 by Steve
Park City might be one of the biggest ski resorts in North America but the Snowbird ski area in Utah has its own set of supporters. Which is the best winter destination in Utah and for what type of skier and snowboarder?
Getting to Park City and Snowbird
Both of the ski resorts are around 30 miles from Salt Lake City and a little further from the airport facilities, which are linked to the city centre by a light rail system.
Park City and Snowbird resort both have shuttle services from Salt Lake City in operation during the winter months. The PC-SLC service connects to Park City mountain and Deer Valley resort while the RideUTA service heads into Little Cottonwood Canyon for Snowbird and Alta.
Getting to Park City Mountain Resort is an easy drive for those who have their own transport. Drivers should take I-80 east from the city and then exit south at Kimball Junction or Sinclair towards the ski resort.
Motorists heading for Snowbird from Salt Lake City should take I-15 south through the city and then change onto I-215 east before taking the road into Little Cottonwood Canyon. Note that snow chains and winter tires are obligatory for all vehicles entering the canyon in the winter months.
Comparing Park City and Snowbird
Ski infrastructure at Park City and Snowbird
At first glance, Park City Mountain Resort seems to have a major advantage in ski facilities over its neighbour to the south-west. But Snowbird ski resort does have a ‘hidden’ advantage in a special ski pass aimed at advanced skiers which allows skiing at both Snowbird and the neighbouring Alta ski resort – two of the Utah ski resorts with the best reputations for powder.
Adding Alta to the skiable terrain available at Snowbird increases it to just under 5000 acres – a respectable total if not approaching the expanses of Park City.
However the advantages of neighbouring ski resorts are not available to snowboaders as both Alta ski area and Deer Valley resort (next to Park City but not on the same ski pass) are two of the few ski resorts which ban boarding from their ski slopes.
When it comes to elevation, Snowbird and Park City have very similar vertical drops, with Snowbird being around 1000 feet higher at both the lowest and highest points. The higher elevation helps Snowbird to have a reputation as a hotspot for powder snow and to have a lengthy winter season running from November into May.
Ski resort accommodation at Park City and Snowbird
Park City ski accommodation
Visitors to Park City have a choice of three locations when choosing a place to stay. Skiers who want to be close to the slopes might choose between Park City Mountain Village and Canyons Village, while those who are looking for a bit of nightlife and atmosphere may prefer downtown Park City.
Park City Mountain Village is where the ski accommodation at the base of the lifts was originally built and includes plenty of resort hotels and condominiums.
Canyons Village at Park City is the former base area for the Canyons Resort and offers accommodation with good ski area access.
Downtown Park City includes the lively and historic Main Street area, in between the Park City Mountain Village and nearby Deer Valley ski resort. This is the main area for shopping and restaurants and has its own (limited) lift access into the ski area.
Check accommodation availability at Park City
Visitors looking for lodging, whether in a resort complex, a hotel or condominium, may like to take a look at the availability map below. Enter the dates of planned arrival and departure and use the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ signs to zoom in or out to see more accommodation availability. Click on the accommodation to see more details and prices for the dates chosen.
Snowbird ski accommodation
Snowbird ski resort is very much a ‘purpose-built’ destination constructed in the 1970s with a distinctive style of concrete architecture used in the four main lodges. Those looking for a more authentic style of mountain village could always choose accommodation just up Little Cottonwood Canyon at Alta ski resort.
Check accommodation availability at Snowbird
Visitors looking for accommodation in one of the lodges should take a look at the availability map below. Enter the dates of planned arrival and departure and use the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ signs to zoom in or out to see more accommodation availability. Click on the accommodation to see more details and prices for the dates chosen. (Note that without entering dates, lodging displayed will automatically be for the next two days, which may show limited results at certain times of the year.)
Skiing in Park City and Snowbird
The skiing at Park City is covered on the Epic Pass, the ski pass system run by Vail Resorts. Although it is the only Utah ski resort covered, vacation skiers are unlikely to need any more scope than the 7300 total metres of terrain.
Snowbird ski resort is part of the Ikon Pass system which also covers plenty of other Utah ski resorts (Deer Valley, Alta, Brighton, Solitude and Snowbasin). Snowbird has also joined the Mountain Collective group lift pass, which also includes Alta and Snowbasin.
Snowbird also offers the Summit ski pass for the single resort skiers and the Alta-Bird pass for those who want to take advantage of the two neighbouring ski areas.
Skiing for beginners at Park City and Snowbird
Absolute beginners at Snowbird will probably start out at the Chickadee area just outside Cliff Lodge. The long Creek Road trail leads from the base of the tram down to the Wilbere chairlift, which accesses some green runs, or, further down the Mid-Gad chairlift. Here skiers can leave at the mid-station and make their way to the extensive Baby Thunder family area, which is also served by the Baby Thunder chairlift.
The Park City beginner skiing is smaller but then those who are just starting out do not tend to need vast expanses to practice on. The appropriately-named First Time lift and trails above Park City Mountain Village are probably the best option for those who have never put on skis before. Once a few days are under the belt the beginner skier can head up the mountain to the top of the Bonanza Express chairlift and take the lengthy green Homerun trail. The Canyons Village side is not really suitable for beginner skiers.
Intermediate skiing at Park City and Snowbird
Both the Park City and Snowbird ski areas have a good proportion of runs designated as intermediate level (blue).
However that designation can cover a wide variety of challenges and generally speaking Park City would be considered the better resort for those intermediates moving up from beginner status or who are slightly nervous, while Snowbird has a reputation of having tougher intermediate runs suitable for those who are looking for more of a challenge or to move up to advanced level.
At Snowbird there is a cluster of intermediate trails in the Gad area around the Gadzoom and Gad 2 chairlifts, with Bassakwards being a long trail from top to bottom. The top of the Snowbird Tram accesses another top-to-bottom intermediate trail starting with Upper Chip’s Run, while the routes through to Mineral Basin on the back side also offer up some intermediate options.
When it comes to Park City it is hard to pick out any particular area as there are so many mid-mountain intermediate runs available on both the Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Village sides. Doc’s Run on the Canyons side offers spectacular views, while Quit’N Time is an easy blue run down to the Park City old town.
Advanced and expert skiing at Park City and Snowbird
Park City’s expert and advanced terrain is the furthest away from the base area, with a number of bowls on both sides accessing steep chutes and glade skiing. On the Park City side, the Jupiter chairlift and McConkey’s Express six-seater access much of the advanced terrain, with even more available for those prepared to hike up to Jupiter Peak.
Combining Park City with the Canyons ski area increased the expert and advanced area exponentially, with most of the highest chairs access some serious tree and bump skiing.
Snowbird has a strong reputation for its advanced and expert skiing. Both the front and back side of the mountain are filled with single and double black diamond runs, with options both through the trees or down bump runs and steep drops. It is possible to stitch black runs together to ski tough terrain from top to bottom, rather than in short bursts as with many other ski resorts.