Everyone anticipates the first run of a long-awaited ski trip. You wake up giddy before sunrise, line up at the lift before it’s even turning, and, once on top of the mountain, drop into fresh stash, carving graceful arcs through untracked powder.
It’s all hard-charging fun at first, but after a few days in your standard destination resort—isolated from off-slope civilization and doing hot laps of the same, limited terrain—it starts to feel a bit stale, kind of like you’re skiing in circles. Ski. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
It’s time the annual ski trip got an overhaul. So skip the same tired resort with its cookie-cutter condos, lunchtime buffet lines (pizza and chili again?), and ghost-town atmosphere after dark, and pack your bags for a unique ski destination that gives you more to look forward to this winter—more terrain, more culture, more adventure, and, yes, more fun.
The City, Slicker || Salt Lake City, UT
Cozied up to the feet of the towering Wasatch Range, Salt Lake’s entire eastern aspect is bounded by snow-covered mountains that annually receive 500-plus inches of floaty powder. Tucked into the wrinkles of those mountains are no fewer than 13 world-class resorts comprising 26,000 skiable acres, all of them within easy striking distance of downtown.
But rather than picking just one, your best bet is to play a gravity-sports Goldilocks of sorts, sampling a new mountain each day and coming home to the rollicking après party that is Salt Lake’s burgeoning restaurant and bar scene. Mormons, it turns out, know how to party.
Explore two classics on one pass ($108): Alta (alta.com), with its mix of beginner-friendly groomers and experts-only terrain, celebrated for rustic lodges and a skiers-only policy; and Snowbird (snowbird.com), whose steeps and back bowls are incredible after it dumps.
Powder Mountain Resort ($69; powdermountain.com) sprawls across over 7,000 acres of undervisited lift-served runs and side country hike-to terrain.
Owing to its out-of-this-world terrain parks and U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s nearby Center of Excellence, Park City Mountain Resort ($84; parkcitymountain.com) is a training ground for countless elite skiers.
At Brighton (brightonresort.com) and Solitude (skisolitude.com), lift lines are unheard of, and the trees—especially off Brighton’s Great Western Express and in Solitude’s Honeycomb Canyon—hold some of Utah’s best powder. Even better, it’s only $84 to ski both all day.
Locals rush the two bigger resorts on powder days, leaving the stash at smaller, posher Deer Valley Resort ($114; deervalley.com) for you to ski.
Connect the dots with the Interconnect Tour ($325; skiutah.com), a guided backcountry adventure that links as many as six of the seven resorts you’ve already skied in a single day.
Stay: Hotel Monaco (from $119; monacosaltlakecity.com), a trendy boutique property in the heart of downtown, has free nightly wine tastings.
Eat: For cheap, delicious Mexican, try one of Red Iguana’s (rediguana.com) seven signature molé dishes. Or, for a long multicourse meal (two-plus hours), let Valter himself walk you through the menu of Tuscan specialties at Valter’s Osteria (valtersosteria.com).
Drink: All 36 of Epic’s high-alcohol microbrews are on tap at The Annex by Epic Brewing (theannexbyepicbrewing.com), a year-old gastropub where the food is nearly as good as the legendary local beer. Or try Copper Common (coppercommon.com), a swanky cocktail bar where raw oysters on the half shell are half price on Mondays until 1 a.m.
Play: They’re not winning any titles lately, but it’s still entertaining to watch the young guns of the Utah Jazz (nba.com/jazz) defend their home court against basketball’s best. Elsewhere, The Depot (depotslc.com) and The Capitol Theatre (thecapitoltheatre.com) regularly draw big-name performers like Wilco, Spoon, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Party With Your Boots On || Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is, by most measures, Europe’s skiing capital. Situated at the end of an Alpine valley in southwestern Switzerland, Zermatt is surrounded on three sides by the toothy profile of some of the highest Alps, including the iconic Matterhorn. More than 200 miles of slopes run down to the village on three different resorts, and the almost 7,500-foot drop is the highest on the Continent (and nearly twice that of Jackson Hole, America’s biggest vertical resort).
Despite all that, the Swiss are more apt to slow down and take their time on the slopes—sleeping in later, breaking for drinks, eating elaborate multicourse lunches, enjoying the local culture, and partying well into the night. In the spirit of cultural exchange, we’ve decided to take a page from their playbook and do as the locals do. This is, after all, vacation.
Rule No. 1: Slow Down
Avoid the rush to catch the first ride up the mountain (unless you’re heading to the more distant Italian side, where the resorts of Breuil-Cirvinia and Valtournenche await). Instead, linger over coffee and plan out the day—the slopes are spread out here, and linking them up requires some foresight.
Rule No. 2: Fuel Up For Maximum Fun
Some of Switzerland’s most celebrated chefs put in time on the slopes. Most on-mountain restaurants require reservations, and it’s worth making them. Instead of the burgers, chili, and fries you scarf down at American lodges, they’re serving hearty Alpine fare—rösti with veal sausage or locally hunted game like ibex and venison—on sun-splashed decks with panoramic mountain views. It’s slow food at its best, and will leave you fortified for the final hours of skiing.
Rule No. 3: Get Ready For a Nonstop Party—On the Mountain and Off
Stay warm throughout the day with regular breaks for Kaffee fertig, the Swiss take on Irish coffee—a strong, dark coffee laced with cherry schnapps. When the lifts stop running, instead of beating a hasty retreat to your hotel, join the parties on the decks of on-slope restaurants, where bands perform live and beer flows liberally. Head down when your legs are sufficiently relaxed, but plan to hit the pulsing clubs come midnight.
Rule No. 4: Ski Like a Boss Anyway
Tackle the Matterhorn Ski Safari Gold (matterhornparadise.ch), to ski practically all of Zermatt’s skiable terrain in a day, descending 40,000-plus thigh-melting vertical feet without riding the same lift or skiing the same run twice.
Stay: Backstage Hotel Vernissage (from $460; backstagehotel.ch) has a seven-stage spa perfect for muscle recovery. At Cervo (from $330; cervo.ch), enjoy your own outdoor steam room, hot tub, and fireplace.
Eat: On-mountain, Les Marmottes (les-marmottes.ch) serves traditional, locally sourced dishes. The Zermatt Yacht Club (snowboat.ch) provides unique and reasonably priced gourmet lamb and beef burgers alongside an assortment of creative cocktails.
Play: Downtown’s Hotel Post (hotelpost.ch) hosts five distinct bars and clubs, including the legendary Broken Bar Disco, which keeps the dance party going until the predawn hours—if you can keep up.