There are 14 resorts in Utah and many of them are better-known than Canyons. That, paradoxically, is one of my favorite things about it.
A Slightly Awkward Location
Canyon’s location on the eastern side of the Wasatch Range is slightly awkward. It’s not an inconvenient or poor location, but it’s not as advantageous as those of the other resorts around it.
Canyons is only about a ten-minute drive from Park City, but that’s still a longer commute than those to the other resorts on that side of the Wasatch: Park City Mountain Resort (known for its terrain parks and walk-downtown proximity to the city) and Deer Valley (known as one of the most extravagant upscale resorts in the country), which are right next to the town.
Depending on where you are driving from, Canyons is about the same distance from Salt Lake City as the best-known resorts of the western Wasatch, like Snowbird and Alta. Resorts on the west side of the Wasatch resorts, however, get significantly more snow than those in the east.
So, visitors to Park City often opt to visit Park City Mountain Resort or Deer Valley, while most visitors to Salt Lake City head for the western Wasatch resorts. Because of this, Canyons tends to be overlooked by visitors.
That’s one of the things I like about it most.
A Big Experience
Despite its location, Canyons still does good business — especially since it was purchased by Vail Resorts, which brought in plenty of vacationing Epic Pass holders.
Canyons can handle a lot of people though. It’s the biggest resort in the Wasatch with 4000 acres of rideable terrain serviced by 21 lifts. So, lift lines are rarely, if ever, a problem.
Canyons is also very family oriented. Lodges placed strategically across the broad resort mean that visitors are rarely far from a place to warm chilly fingers.
A 4000 acre resort that is 46% advanced terrain and predominantly visited by families means one thing to me: a lot of good terrain with few serious skiers and snowboarders to take advantage of it.
Canyons receives and annual average snowfall of 355 inches, which is similar to other eastern Wasatch Resorts like Park City and Deer Valley noticeably less than western Wasatch resorts like Alta and Snowbird, which can receive 500+ inches per year.
However, if you visit Snowbird or Alta — the favored hills of serious skiers and snowboarders — on a powder day you’ll find yourself on crowded traverses and the best parts of the hill are skied out quickly.
At Canyons, in contrast, this is not an issue.
I was at Canyons on the last big snow day of the season. It was a Saturday. I can only imagine how busy Snowbird and Alta were. I spent the day at Canyons riding the Ninety-Nine chair and hiking a common path into the side country to ride an broad steep slope of 24-inch-deep powder.
I did that same glorious run all day and saw less than a dozen others doing the same. I had all the fresh lines I wanted as long I was willing to hike a little farther on each run.
One thing I noticed while riding the resorts of the western Wasatch with family last winter is that they are not geared toward beginners. Shallow slopes are limited and can be hard to get to because Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons are so overwhelmingly steep.
The resorts of the eastern Wasatch are much more family friendly. Canyons in particular has one system of easy blue runs accessed from the Peak 5 chair that follow a gentle slope that crosses over several roads on bridges, or beneath them by tunnel, past beautiful vacation homes. There are so many trails that you rarely need take the same route twice, and the novelty of the bridges and tunnels keeps children brilliantly entertained.
Hidden in Plain Sight
I write a lot about ‘hidden gem’ hills. Out-of-the way spots with smaller crowds, homey atmospheres, and epic riding.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call Canyons a hidden gem. It’s not out of the way, is fairly well-known, and is owned by one of the largest ski hill corporations in the world.
But, it does seem to be hidden in plain sight — and that is one of the best things about it.
If you want a place where you can stick the kids in an easy blue-green area with a lodge at the bottom while you head up a little higher to look for easily accessible uncrowded steeps and trees, then Canyons may well be your best option in Utah.