From First Tee to Last Chair: A Few of Utah’s Best Winter Activities and Vacations

Dec 16, 2021
By: Brian Higgins

What do skiing, snowboarding, and golfing have in common? More than you might think. Whether schussing, shredding, or swinging, you’re on your feet most of the time with short breaks sitting on a motorized contraption that takes you from one end to another beginning. You wear gloves for both sports. And lodge life is a lot like the clubhouse community — you and your crew sit around sipping on your favorite beverages, bragging about what you did well, laughing about your epic fails (#kissmyputt).

But perhaps the most striking similarity between these popular winter activities in Utah is how the stunning scenery you’re surrounded by improves your mental well-being. You can’t help but relax as you look down the lush green fairway set against a red-rock backdrop, absorbing the apricity as you tee off. Or exhale all your stress as you take in the quiet calm alpenglow affords on that final run. This is why any winter vacay that includes one of these pastimes is considered the best.

Piste, Gloves and Joy

Utah is known for having The Greatest Snow on Earth®, as well as some of the gnarliest runs in the country. But even if you aren’t ready for the steep chute and rocky knuckles on Snowbird’s Great Scott — a thrilling run with a double diamond rating that will have you exclaiming its name Doc Brown-style — there are still plenty of green circles, blue squares and single black diamonds you must ski at Salt Lake City’s resorts.
Alta. Brighton. Solitude. Snowbird. Each of the resorts located in Big or Little Cottonwood Canyon has a distinct personality, as unique as the INFJ in your life. But the mountain resorts also share proximity to a city you’ll aprés-ciate. There are lots of legendary local restaurants nearby, not to mention a luxury movie theatre with heated recliners and a high-tech indoor driving range. The list of things to do in Salt Lake City is endless, and MainStay Suites in SLC’s Fort Union area is smack dab in the middle of it all.
Make yourself a sandwich in your apartment-style room’s kitchen, and don’t forget to slide a thermos of your favorite hot beverage in your Kode 30 Snow Pack. (Caramel apple cider? *slurp*) Enjoy a complimentary breakfast before you leave the hotel and head to nearby Millcreek Canyon, where amazing snowshoeing opportunities await. Grandeur Peak is especially magical in winter, when fresh flakes of snow dust the trees and sparkle in the sun. The trail parallels a stream and passes an icy waterfall, adding to the ambiance.
Yes, I Can(yon)

A Galaxy Gnar, Gnar Away

Travel a little farther north and you’ll find more outdoor winter activities … and fewer people. Powder Mountain, located in the part of Ogden Valley known as Eden, caps both daily and season passes to keep its runs less populated than Jakku. Also in Eden, Nordic Valley is a family-friendly resort where you can lap lifts. And the resort has an additional 50 acres of skiable terrain for the 2021-22 season thanks to a new high-speed, six-person detachable chairlift. A nearby winter trails venue, Ogden Nordic, offers 20ish miles of groomed loops for classic and skate skiers, as well as snowshoers and fat-tire bikers.
Snowbasin is on the opposite side of Ogden Valley in Huntsville. This world-class ski resort is famous for its Grizzly Downhill course from the 2002 Winter Olympics. Besides long, fast runs, the resort also boasts wide bowls. On a clear day, the views from Snowbasin’s gondola are nothing short of spectacular, the open valley revealing a panoramic view of Pineview Reservoir. (Sidenote: If your quads and calves need a rest, Pineview is one of the best places in Utah for ice fishing.) A network of free multi-use trails surrounds Snowbasin as well. There are more fun winter activities here than you can shake a stickered water bottle at.
But neither Huntsville nor Eden are touristy towns. You’ll find a smattering of small B&Bs and private vacation rentals, many of which have price tags beyond the average budget. Instead, look to Ogden City for more affordable lodging. Choice Hotels has multiple O-Town locations, each less than a 30-minute drive from Ogden Valley. Ogden Ice Sheet, another 2002 Olympic venue, is also close. Attend a Learn to Curl event or make a reservation for an open skate session.
Ice to Meet You

A Baker's Dozen

There are 15 ski resorts in all of Utah. By comparison, there are 13 golf courses in the St. George area alone. Some are private courses, but Coral Canyon Golf Course and Sand Hollow Golf Course are popular public venues. Sand Hollow was ranked sixth in the state by Golf Digest, and its championship course is ranked as the best in Utah by Golfweek. It also has a links course and a wee course. Regardless of which one you play, the views are jaw-dropping. (Think Sebastion in The Little Mermaid when he sees Ariel holding Eric in her arms.)
Yes, you want to be a part of this world. Immerse yourself in it. (Just don’t make any dark deals with a tentacled sea witch, mmm-kay?) Stay at Comfort Inn St. George North, conveniently located within 10-20 minutes of these golf courses and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. Besides offering a protected habitat to the Mojave Desert Tortoise, Red Cliffs has 130 miles of non-motorized trails for your hiking, biking or horse-riding pleasure. Some trails are sandy, brush-lined affairs leading to interesting arches. Others wind through dense vegetation and cross rivers before spitting you out in a black lava canyon — a place you wouldn’t want to be in the summer. But cooler temps make hiking and biking some of the best St. George winter activities.
If visiting Zion National Park in winter is on your bucket list, consider staying at Comfort Inn and Suites Zion instead. It is still close to Coral Canyon Golf Course, but puts you 20 minutes closer to the entrance of Utah’s most popular national park. Not to mention it’s a mere 5 minutes from Sky Mountain Golf Course, another gorgeous venue. An added bonus? Comfort Inn and Suites Zion also has an indoor pool.
Count Me In

Utah has a smorgasbord of outdoor winter activities. Start planning your fourth-season sojourn today, including a stay at a Choice Hotels property. The chain’s brands are golfer, skier and boarder approved.

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