The problem presented by Utah's bounty of great ski areas – no less than 11 resorts sit within a 45-minute drive of Salt Lake City International – is that taking advantage of all that terrain can mean sacrificing time on the slopes. Fortunately, there is an often overlooked way for skiers to sample this powdery buffet. Thanks to the area's curious geography, anyone willing to leave the groomed trails behind can hit six mountains in a day without taking off their skis.
Locals refer to the path from Deer Valley to Snowbird as the Interconnect Tour, but it's less a defined tour than a cartographer's trick. As it turns out, Utah's main ski zone is comprised of two back-to-back canyons, which means that anyone willing to hit backcountry traverses can easily hop between resorts. And the out-of-bounds bit isn't just a means to an end: The backcountry is full of untouched powder.
The Ski Utah guides who run day trips along the Interconnect route start by handing out beacons then point out the lesser-known trails and "secret stashes." Many skiers who come along for the ride have just arrived in Utah and are using the day to preview the local resorts, a reconnaissance strategy that pays dividends for anyone with specific taste. The full tour winds over some 15 miles and 11,300 vertical feet on its way through and over Deer Valley, Park City, Brighton, Solitude, Alta, and Snowbird. Advanced skiers may do a bit of hiking to out-of-the-way terrain, but no trudging is required. Still, anyone who makes the journey will want to relax and rehydrate after the final run. This being Utah, where beer is barely alcoholic, you might be able to do both at once.
The Interconnect Tour is an unorthodox way to get into the mountains and a great example of resorts working together to provide better access to the backcountry. Hopefully the idea will catch on in Colorado, British Colombia, and New England, where mountains can seem like islands.
More information: The tour is $295 per person and includes lunch, transportation, and lift tickets. Only advanced to expert skiers should make the trip, and snowboarders are not allowed. Groups include eight to 12 people. The total number of resorts and the route taken depend on weather and conditions.