Colorado. Utah. What comes to mind when thinking of these two states? Stoners in Colorado, Mormons in Utah. Everyone knows the Rockies, right, but what’s the name of those mountains just outside of Salt Lake City? Over-commercialized skiing doesn’t always mean the best skiing.
There are the big resorts like Vail, Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek to name a few, but along with these big names come big crowds.
Skiing in Utah comes with much fewer worries. Smaller lift lines and locals-only kinds of resorts. Skiers are getting more bang for their buck, but it’s not just because of the lack of crowds, which gives Utah’s ski areas an edge.
Saturday morning, you’re all geared up to go. It’s 7:00 AM and you think you’re off to a great start. You take I-25 towards I-70 heading for Breckenridge, which you think is going to take no more than two hours.
Four miles down I-70 everything’s fine; you can see the mountains coming into sight with their enticing snow-capped peaks.
Fender lights. Not just one pair of faded red lights but scores of lights snaking along I-70 with no intention of moving.
As all frequent Coloradan skiers know, Saturday ski traffic heading west is always abysmal. Those who are truly committed to getting the most turns out of their day are leaving at 5 in the morning.
For college students in Denver and the surrounding areas, this is an excruciating option. Having to wake up at the crack of dawn to attend classes is brutal enough, but giving up your precious sleep on the weekends to share an overly crowded ski area with hundreds of others with a similar game plan is not ideal.
Minimal traffic, no excruciatingly early mornings, and lineless lift lines, are a few of the many reasons making Utah that much more enjoyable for skiers to rip some turns on the mountain.
When comparing road systems it’s easy to see which state provides better means for drivers to head to the hills. I-70 is constantly under construction. Whether it’s the repairing the Eisenhower tunnel or just remedying the epidemic of pot holes, there always seems to be an ongoing problem.
There are ten I-70 construction projects slated for this year. The last project is only expected to be finished in December.
Not having to take the same road to access most of the main resorts is a huge perk. With Utah’s many ski area opportunities, the crowds remain dispersed with the multiple roads leading to the various resorts.
When living in Salt Lake City or simply flying into SLC International, there are a variety of different options.
Little Cottonwood Canyon Road spits you out at Snowbird and Alta ski resorts. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road leads you to Brighton and Solitude. Interstate 80 takes you to Canyons and Park City.
For a Coloradan, more specifically a Denverite, as well as vacationers flying into DIA looking for some fresh turns, one is restricted to I-70. This inglorious roadway leads to many of the big resorts such as Vail, Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek.
One road. That’s it.
Half an hour from the airport. That’s all it takes to reach some of Utah’s premier resorts like Snowbird or Alta from SLC airport.
Two hours to Breckenridge, three if you’re coming from DIA, and this is WITHOUT accounting for the gnarly bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Inefficient skiing, that’s all it is.
Looking at some of the other aspects behind this argument one has to take into account the snow type. Utahans are accustomed to big, powdery flakes. This is all in part to the Great Salt Lake Effect.
The Great Salt Lake never freezes and attracts big snowstorms. With such a high salt content, the Great Salt Lake precipitates, causing the snow to have an extremely low moisture content.
Low moisture content simply means fluffier snow. Fluffier snow means better skiing.
Along with the argument of better snow, comes the simple reality, that there’s just more snow in Utah. While Utah resorts average upwards of 500 inches annually, Colorado ski areas post a meager 300 plus inches of the white stuff annually.
Taking a look at what the critics have to say is also a validation of Utah’s ski resort superiority. Utah resorts consistently rank higher than their Colorado counterparts. Z rankings rates ski resorts based on criteria such as percentage of days with more than 6” of snow, and percentage of months with more than 90” of snow.
None of the many prestigious Colorado resorts were found in the top five best ski resorts in the U.S., while two Utah ski areas graced their way into this prestigious category.
Having skied in both states at a variety of different resorts within each state, it is safe to say that skiing in Utah trumps skiing in Colorado.
As journalist Christopher Steiner of Forbes states, “If you’ve flown to Denver and schlepped west for the last 10 years–or just two–please stop. Go to Utah.”