The first time we skied Canyons it was spring, the sky was blue and the snow was soft.
While it should have been a perfect day. It wasn’t, because we didn’t know how to navigate this massive mountain.
That afternoon, we left the resort unsatisfied.
We knew we’d missed the magic. We just weren’t sure where it was.
Last February, I went back to Canyons. And this time, I had a fantastic time. With the help of two locals, I learned my way around.
So whether you’re planning your first visit to Canyons or you’ve been before, here are our tips for making the most of Utah’s largest ski resort.
With 21 lifts, you’ll find plenty of terrain to ski and ride, but knowing where to start can be tricky.
For day visitors, your first ride is the open air cabriolet that runs between the Canyon’s free day parking lot and the resort village. It’s an efficient, fun way to get to the mountain, with great views.
Once you reach the village, you’ve got two choices: the Red Pine gondola or North America’s only heated bubble chair, the Orange Bubble Express.
If your kids know how to ride a chairlift and ski an easy green run, the bubble chair, with its distinctive orange cover, is the most fun. And did I mention, it’s heated?
Both the Orange Bubble Express and the Red Pine gondola will take you to the heart of the mountain at the Red Pine Lodge.
Here you’ll find the resort’s ski and ride school, the largest on-mountain restaurant at the Red Pine Lodge (yummy pizza!) and my personal favorite, Red Pine Waffle House, a ski-up waffle hut perfect for a mid-morning or afternoon snack.
Set Some Boundaries
In addition to being the biggest resort in Utah, Canyons is one of the five biggest ski areas in North America. With 4,000 skiable acres, a vertical rise of 3,190 feet and varied terrain spread across nine, yes nine, mountain peaks, it’s possible to go ambitious and attempt the whole mountain in one day.
Resist temptation. Instead, start by exploring the area around the Red Pine Lodge, skiing these lifts while you get your bearings. Then, when you’re ready, move onto another peak and let the discovery begin anew.
For beginners, the best place to start is on the teaching terrain adjacent to the Lodge and the High Meadows lift with it’s gentle green runs.
Intermediate skiers and riders will enjoy skiing the Saddleback Express and Tombstone Express lifts with their smooth groomers, beautiful glades and natural halfpipes.
Marked on the map, there are six of these gentle ravines on the mountain. Kids love exploring them, winding in and out of bumps, and up and down the sides of these concave slots of snow.
Moving on, there are lots of other options for intermediate, advanced and expert skiers including the terrain parks found over near the Sun Peak Express to the east and tree-skiing heaven off of the Peak 5 lift to the West.
Crowning the mountain, guests will find Peak 9990, with steep trees, bowls and chutes.
Rest Your Head
Park City is Utah’s Ski Town and a super fun place for a family ski vacation. With three world-class ski resorts, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons, myriad restaurants, hotels and Utah Olympic Park, there is plenty to keep any family busy for a week or more.
Still, if you’re coming to Canyons for more than one day, try to stay at Canyons. The Grand Summit Hotel in the base village is a perfect location for families of all ages.
With slope side access to the Orange Bubble Express and Red Pine Gondola, the hotel gives families lots of flexibility. Condo style rooms mean you can stock up on treats and snacks, while the hotel’s heated pool and hot tubs are perfect for kids of any age after a fun day on snow.
Best of all, even if you don’t have a car, free public buses link Canyons to main street Park City, Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort.
Plan for Powder
While predicting weather is famously futile, chances are it will snow while you’re at Canyons. Each year the resort gets an average of 355 inches of Utah’s famous “Greatest Snow on Earth.” If you do get some pow, head over – way over – to the Dreamcatcher and Dreamscape lifts.
A bit off the main mountain grid, these two lifts serve aspen glades galore, with a wealth of intermediate and harder terrain.
Face shots anyone?
When you arrive at Canyons, look for a list of weekly events. There is always a lot going on, from special on-snow clinics for women, to free concerts to a plethora of activities for young visitors.
Some of my favorites include the Burton Riglet Reel park where tiny snowboarders practice balance and movement and Jibbin’ For Juniors, a mini terrain park near the base area “ski beach.”
Make time to meet the Ski Patrol’s avalanche dogs and learn about snow rescue, while falling in love with both the veteran dogs and the puppies in training. Other favorites include Saturday S’mores, birds of prey demonstrations, magicians, cowboys and more.
When You Go…
Canyons and Park City are only 32 miles from the Salt Lake City airport. While we live close enough to drive, I’ve frequently heard stories of families flying into SLC in the morning and skiing by early afternoon.
Salt Lake is a convenient, and affordable, base for family skiing as well, with major hotel chains, tons of restaurants, and easy access to most of Utah’s world-class resorts.
- Fun Family Times at Utah’s Deer Valley Resort, March 5, 2014.
- Ski Trip Report: The Canyons, Park City, Utah, December 14, 2011.
- Park City Mountain Resort: Fantastic Family Skiing In Utah’s Ski Town, January 7, 2011
- The Pineapple Express Diary: Skiing Park City Mountain Resort, December 27, 2010
- Why Our Family Loves to Ski Park City Mountain Resort, Utah, November 23, 2012.
- My Olympic Minute: The Comet Bobsled at Utah Olympic Park, January 19, 2012.
Portions of this post originally published as an EPIC Moms post on February 25, 2014.
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