Alta vs. Snowbird: Where to Ski in Utah?

Salt Lake City, Utah is home to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world. With some of the lightest snow on earth and deepest snowpack, Utah is a dream destination for skiers and riders. Tucked up Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains lies two unique Ski Areas, Snowbird and Alta. Both are world class destinations, but have many differences which can make it tricky to decide where to go. If you want to choose between the two, here are some facts about Alta vs. Snowbird and where to ski in Utah.

  • Skiing or Snowboarding
  • Beginner Skier or Advanced
  • Base Village and Facilities
  • Mountain and Terrain
  • Atmosphere and Vibe
  • Parking at Alta and Snowbird

Skiing or Snowboarding

First comes to first, if you are a skier, feel free to choose between Alta or Snowbird, but if you are solely a snowboarder, unfortunately Alta does not allow snowboarding. Alta is a skiers-only resort which means it does not allow snowboarders to take the lift up the mountain. From time to time you may see a snowboarder drop in from Mt. Baldy on the Snowbird side into Alta, but those sightings are rare. So if you plan on taking a snowboard trip to Utah, make sure to head to Snowbird instead of Alta so they will let you on the lift!

Beginner Skier or Advanced

Both Alta and Snowbird have incredible terrain for all levels of skiing. With steep chutes, tree runs and wide open bowls, both resorts in the Wasatch are epic for advanced and expert skiers. They also are both great resorts for beginners to learn on, like this fellow above. At White Cloud Concierge, we recommend beginner snowboarders to head to Snowbird and beginner skiers to head to Alta! 

Snowboarders need to head to Snowbird regardless, but the resort has a great setup for beginner riders. The Chickadee and the Wilbere Chairlift are often recommended for beginners due to the flat terrain to help people learn how to ride and turn. Snowboard rentals and lessons are also in abundance at the Bird and as your skills increase over time, there are a handful of green and blue runs on different lifts throughout the mountain. The complete beginner lift, Chickadee only costs $40 a day, so it’s very affordable for absolute beginners!

For beginner skiers, Alta is the best Ski Area to head to for learning and is the best bang for your buck. Alta offers the least expensive long-term opportunity for ski areas in the Wasatch due to the affordable Sunnyside at 3 Season Pass. This season pass only costs $99 for a season and allows skiers on Sunnyside from 3pm – 4:30pm every single day the mountain is open. The Sunnyside lift also has a variety of trails and is larger than Snowbird’s Beginner lift. Alta also offers a variety of ski lessons for beginners and Sunnyside is a great place to continue to hone in your skiing skills.

Base Village and Facilities

When it comes to the base area of each mountain, both Alta and Snowbird are very different. Alta has more of a nostalgic and classic ski feel. There are several old ski lodges in smaller buildings around town and there are very few commercial developments. The focus on Alta is about skiing rather than extensive base village amenities.

Snowbird has a much bigger and developed base village area with larger buildings for accommodation and a hefty aerial tram that fits around 125 people and brings them to the top of the resort. The resort has invested in modern facilities to enhance the overall guest experience, including a variety of dining options, shops, a spa, and other amenities.

Mountain and Terrain

The terrain at Alta and Snowbird is similar due to them being right next to each other in the Wasatch. They are also connected at the top of Mineral Basin and skiers are able to buy an Alta-Bird pass or a dual day ticket if they want to explore both mountains without having to ever leave the resort. 

Snowbird has more terrain than Alta and also is generally steeper. Alta has less acreage and doesn’t have as much steep terrain as Snowbird, but still has plenty of steep chutes and runs throughout the High Traverse. 

Both resorts have big mountain skiing with cliffs, epic tree runs and steep powdery face shots. They both will leave you finding new nooks and crannies all season long, but if you want a bit more to explore, we recommend you lean towards Snowbird. 

Atmosphere and Vibe

Alta has a reputation for a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere and it tends to be more quiet than Snowbird. It is more community oriented with most of the mountain and lodge employees living in town. A lot of regulars come to Alta, including some of them who have been skiing there for more than 60 years! 

Snowbird tends to have a bit more of a busy and vibrant atmosphere with more people coming through and a diverse range of skiers and riders on the mountain. Due to the extensive amount of amenities, restaurants and entertainment it can be a more bustling atmosphere. 

Parking at Alta and Snowbird

Parking at all Utah Ski Areas has become much more of a challenge in the last few years due to a large number of people flocking up the Cottonwood Canyons in Salt Lake City. 

At Snowbird, guests have several options for parking, including free lots on a first-come, first-served basis, reserved daily parking for a fee, and the option to purchase a Preferred Parking Pass (which is sold out for the 2023-2024 season).

For Alta, paid parking reservations are required on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. No reservations are needed on weekdays after 8 am (excluding holidays), from opening day and after 1 pm any day. For more information on parking at Alta and Snowbird, check out White Cloud Concierge’s 2023-2024 Utah Ski Area Parking Guide

Learn more about Salt Lake City winter recreation and where to ski in Utah. White Cloud Concierge provides services in Salt Lake City, Park City and Utah County to provide people with more time to do what they love.