If you like to get up high, you’ll find that beautiful big bowls like McConkey’s at Park City Mountain Resort offer some of the steepest, most aggressive runs around but don’t be put off by first impressions on the lower slopes at PCMR. The high stuff (McConkey’s and Jupiter) is an awful lot of fun when conditions are right and even the very best riders will always find something challenging up here. If you’re a freestyle rider you’ll be right at home here too, as PCMR has three parks and an absolutely monster super pipe, though all do tend to get pretty busy.
There are even some nice opportunities to hike, but as ever do make sure you’re with somebody who knows the lay of the land. It’s easier than you think to get lost, and the avalanche danger is very real.
A couple of miles down the road from PCMR you’ll find Canyons. It’s the first resort you see when you turn off the highway to head towards Park City, and is exciting on a powder day, but the layout of the runs means you’ll spend a lot of time traversing if you don’t know your way around. Still, that didn't stop them getting a Ski Magazine Top Ten Reader’s award for 2013, so they’re doing something right! They ranked in the top ten for terrain parks too, and they’re planning three all-new parks for 2012/2013.
Traveling a little from Park City itself, it’s worth setting your alarm a early so you can make first tracks over in Little Cottonwood Canyon, about an hour’s drive from downtown. It's out here you'll find Snowbird and the highest summit in the area at around 11,000 feet. With 3,200 feet of vertical drop you’ll spend more time riding than you will at other resorts and it also has a James Bond-style giant tram that will whisk you to the top in minutes, and is consistently ranked in the top 10 resorts in the country.
The snow on this side of the mountains tends to be better than the Park City side; these mountains average around 500 inches a year and Cottonwood's ski areas seem to hold it better than the others.
Not too far from Snowbird and nestled at the end of a twisty mountain road in Big Cottonwood Canyon is a small but perfectly formed hill called Brighton. If you like local and friendly, get yourself over there pronto. The terrain is sick, the people are super friendly (even by Utah standards), and this is where the Burton snowboard team trains.
Everywhere at Brighton you’ll find cliffs, chutes and other extreme natural features; the back country access here is absolutely fabulous. If extreme terrain is your bag, Brighton is for you. There’s not a whole lot to do at the base of the mountain, but let’s be honest…you came out here to ride, right?
Utah is a snowboarder’s paradise, and it’s rare indeed to find so many options packed within such a small area. Whether you are an all-mountain rider, love the park or like to hike off into the back country, you’ll find something for every level.
This is Maisy, an avalanche rescue dog at Brighton. She's eight years old and was out on a training run.
[Photos: Kai MacMahon]