1 Nov 2019
Each year, millions of people from all over the world travel to Salt Lake City to experience what’s been dubbed “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” A world-class ski/snowboard experience with you family is guaranteed to be one of the most memorable family trips, but how do you begin planning such an epic undertaking?
As a lifelong SLC local and snow sports enthusiast, I’ve learned the ins-and-outs of planning a family ski vacation, so let me guide the way!
1. Pick Your Dates
Ski season at Salt Lake City’s resorts usually runs from late November to late March. (FACT CHECK) The quality of the snow depends largely on the snow patterns of each individual year, but you can usually count on a good experience until the last few weeks of the season. The last few weeks can get somewhat slushy, so I recommend planning your trip before mid-March.
2. Pick Your Resorts
This can be one of the most difficult tasks considering how many excellent resorts there are in the SLC area.
In my honest opinion, you can’t really go wrong with any resort, so you just need to decide which one seems like the best fit.
Each resort has unique qualities that may help you decide:
This is one of the most expansive and beloved resorts in the world, but that comes at a high price. If you’re looking for a multi-day experience with an almost never-ending variety of trails for all ski and snowboard skill levels and don’t mind paying a bit more, you’ll have a blast.
Distance from downtown SLC: 30 miles
Want to ski where the stars ski? Deer Valley is known for it’s ultra-luxurious experience and private setting, making it a favorite of celebrities worldwide. They’re also known for their top-quality lessons; but, obviously, all of this comes at a pretty high price. It's also recommended that you purchase your passes in advance, as the resort limits the number of people allowed per day.
Distance from downtown SLC: 34 miles
Snowbird’s local cult following will attest that this resort is one of the best. It's also opeen the longest of any ski resort in the area, making it a good fit if you're traveling at the beginning or end of ski season.
Distance from downtown SLC: 28 miles
Brigton is known for being beginner-friendly due to its varied beginner terrain, inexpensive cost, and family-friendly instructors. It's a great starter resort for anyone who wants to learn!
Distance from downtown SLC: 32 miles
3. Schedule Your Lessons
Lessons with an experienced instructor are *highly recommended* for any first-time skier or snowboarder.
I’d even go as far as saying that trying to ski or snowboard without at least a basic lesson will probably ruin your trip.
Trust me, you’ll have a much better time and be a much more confident skiier/snowboarder if you invest a day of your trip in lessons.
Some resorts even offer specialized lessons for those who want to learn the half pipe, terrain park, or another kind of specialized ski/snowboard variation.
Each ski resort has basic lessons for all age groups and abilities.
4. Find Your Accommodations
Staying at your chosen resort is the most convenient if your top priority is being near the slopes, but it’s not very convenient in any other way. You’ll pay a huge premium, have fewer room options, and less privacy. Groceries and restaurants are much more expensive, you’re removed from all other activities, and you won’t be able to enjoy Salt Lake City as easily.
I recommend staying in the Salt Lake Valley, in or near the east side of Interstate 15. There you’ll have more options at better prices, be close to local grocery stores and restaurants, have easy access to other SLC attractions, and only have to drive a few extra minutes to access most resorts.
Renting a private vacation home is most recommended for families because of the number of amenities they offer for the price. You’ll get private hot tubs, garages, kitchens, private bedrooms and bathrooms, game rooms, theater rooms and more for what you’d pay for a basic hotel room at a resort.
Click here to browse Salt Lake City vacation homes.
If you choose a hotel instead of a rental home, just try to find one near the freeway on the east side of Interstate 15.
5. Find Ski/Snowboard Rentals
Most rental shops allow you to get your equipment once and keep it for the length of your trip, so there’s no need to go back and forth between shops each day.
That means that when it comes to equipment, the biggest consideration is price and location is just a secondary concern.
Growing up, my family always rented with Ski n’ See, a local chain of rental shops with locations all over the Salt Lake Valley. They always had good prices and quality equipment, making them a no-brainer for a family that needed equipment for 7 people.
Because I like Ski n’ See so much, all UBVR guests can get a BIG discount on their rentals. Click here for more info.
If you choose not to rent with Ski n’ See, just search online for “Ski rentals (city you’re staying in),” and compare prices and locations. I wouldn’t recommend renting from anywhere more than 10 miles from your accommodations.
6. Get a Rental Car
It’s possible to access some ski resorts via city bus, but a rental car is a much better choice for most visitors, especially families.
If you’ve never driven in snow before, you may want to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Salt Lake City’s road crews are usually fast about clearing snow from the road, but that definitely doesn’t mean you won’t drive in some.
UBVR guests can get 20% off car rentals by clicking here.
Regardless of whether you get a 4-wheel drive car, everyone should review how to drive in snow to avoid mishaps, as it’s somewhat of an acquired skill. Click for a quick lesson.
7. Plan Your Other SLC Activities
Salt Lake City isn’t just for skiing. Besides the other wide variety of snow sports that it offers, it’s a vibrant community with a unique culture.
Below are some of the most popular family activities in Salt Lake City.
Or snow machining for some. Snowmobile treks are always a hit with all ages, thanks to their perfect mix of thrills and chills.
No, not just a sledding hill. I’m talking about a fully-loaded, lift-powered snow tubing park. These hills are perfect for those too young to ski or those who just want a different type of snowy thrill.
Click here for tubing hills near Salt Lake City.
Trust me, this activity is surprisingly delightful. Cross-country skiing is a magical way to explore the less accessible parts of winter wonderland.
It may not be enjoyable for younger kids, but most kids over 14 will likely enjoy this slower-paced, relaxing adventure.
Want to experience SLC’s hiking, even in the winter? Snow-shoeing is the way!
I recommend shoeing with a knowledgeable guide to avoid dangerous areas easily missed by beginners.
Bobsled, ski racing, snowboard half-pipe, ski aerials, speed skating....Utah was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics because we host every winter sport you can think of.
Winter sports competitions are held all winter long, and are often free for spectators. Click here for more info.
Ski season is also NBA season, so catching a Jazz game is a perfect family-friendly nighttime activity.
I don’t know if you know this, but Utah Gymnastics is kind of a big deal around here. Not only are they one of the best teams in the nation, but their meets are consistently the most highly-attended women’s college sporting event in the nation; and there’s a reason....it’s an absolute blast!
All ages and interests will find themselves engaged and entertained when the Red Rocks take the floor.
Utah’s minor-league hockey team is a wintery family-friendly night out.
Downtown Salt Lake City is the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and as such hosts beautiful temple grounds, tabernacles, museums, and performances that are free and open to anyone.
Utah’s southern red rocks are rich with dinosaur fossils, archaeological artifacts, and geological oddities. Learn about Utah’s unique natural history at its most popular museum.
This downtown museum is a hit with young kids and adults. Your kids will be entertained for hours!
This gorgeous glass-walled theater hosts touring Broadway shows, musicians, comedians, dancers, and more. It’s right next to City Creek, downtown’s swankiest glass-roofed mall, making it the perfect cap on a night on the town.
Have you planned a family ski trip to Salt Lake City? What was your favorite part?