You could throw a dart in the Wasatch mountains and probably hit a ski resort, or at the very least a skier (backcountry skiing is pretty big here too). It’s hard to find a bustling city with mountains closer to it than Salt Lake, and that’s because there aren’t any! But while the slopes may be close as the crow flies, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to zoom up the canyons on a powder day. Recent years have seen a heavy increase in canyon congestion, and while lawmakers consider options to alleviate traffic, there are no quick fixes.
Luckily, there are plenty of options that will get you to the slopes and reduce traffic thanks to Salt Lake City’s excellent public transportation. Use this guide to reach the resorts from anywhere in Salt Lake, and get some serious pow time while you’re at it.
Occam’s Razor is a problem solving principle which states that among a group of competing hypotheses, the simplest one is the best answer. Enter the Ski Bus! UTA’s Ski Bus is an excellent service which is free for both IKON and single-mountain pass holders, and only $4.50 for other riders. The Ski Bus runs routes up both Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons, and stops at several park and ride lots between Midvale and the resorts. To avoid traffic on the way to the bus (and snag a seat while you’re at it), get on at an early stop.
Another great public transportation service in Salt Lake is TRAX, the city’s light rail train system. TRAX lines can take you from both the airport and downtown to stations closer to the mountain where you can hop on the ski bus. This is an excellent option for those spending a whole trip at the ski resorts and looking to save on an expensive rental car, shuttle or rideshare pickup. Especially if you’re renting and won’t need to lug your own equipment
To take TRAX from Salt Lake City International Airport:
To take TRAX from downtown Salt Lake City, walk, drive or ride to Temple Square Station, then follow the above directions from there.
There are many shuttle services at the airport and throughout the valley that can cart you up the canyons. This is a great option if you’re staying at the resort and don’t want to rent a car or lug your skis onto the train. Visit the website of the resort you’ll be staying at to see which services they partner with or recommend.
Many travelers rent cars when they visit the Wasatch, as it’s the most convenient and autonomous option. This is especially true of people who choose to stay in Park City for a taste of mountain town life and a few runs at Park City or Deer Valley Ski Resorts.
**If you’re renting a car for your Utah ski trip, be sure it has the proper traction to handle snowy canyon conditions (four-wheel drive and snow tires). If you’ve never seen a Wasatch Mountain snowstorm, they are seriously nothing to mess around with. Your rental sedan will not be able to “Little Engine That Could” its way up the canyons, no matter how much you think it can. And the more spinouts and stalls there are on the road, the longer it takes everyone to get up.
If you’re traveling with a big group, try and get everyone to the mountains in as few cars as possible. That may mean shifting schedules or changing destinations, but it’s worth it to reduce canyon clog. Also, please consider taking public transportation or shuttles to your accommodations if you’ll only be skiing at neighboring resorts. There’s no need to take up valuable parking spaces (or spend the money!) renting a car that you won’t be using.**
Utah’s skiing is some of the best in the world, and there are few cities (if any) with outdoor access like Salt Lake. Utah’s lawmakers are currently trying to figure out the most efficient and environmentally friendly ways to help people access these spaces and enjoy The Greatest Snow On Earth™. In the meantime, patience, planning and smart practices are advised as you head to the hills.