Hit the Road for the Ultimate Ski Trip Through Colorado and Utah

ski road trip
 Tony Savino/Corbis / Getty Images


For skiers and snowboarders, Utah and Colorado are a true playground. They’re dotted with unrivaled destinations for skiing and riding, they’re home to jaw-dropping mountain views (and plenty of vertical), and their ski towns are filled with great restaurants, things to do, and places to stay in both states. And with Ikon Pass, you’re free to explore all the great skiing these states have to offer, including the bounty of runs at Steamboat and Copper Mountain. If you’re itching to hit some fresh powder and make this winter one to remember, you can’t go wrong with a road trip.

Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite places to visit in both states and put them into one itinerary for a nine-day jaunt from the Colorado Rockies to Salt Lake City. Grab your Ikon Pass to gain access to world-class ski destinations along the way, queue up your best road trip playlist, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure.

ski road trip
Eldora, Colorado. Photo by Daniel Brenner. Courtesy Image

Day 1: Eldora, Colorado (1 hour, 15 minute drive)

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Where to Ski: Hop in a rental car and test out your legs at Eldora—it’s a short drive from Denver International Airport, so you can maximize your time on the slopes from day one. But prepare for a workout. Most of the mountain is expert terrain, and double black diamond runs abound. Find your groove in Eldora’s numerous tree runs—we like Salto Glades, Brian’s Glades, and Moose Glades, all accessible from the Corona lift.

Where to Eat: Head over to Timbers Tap Room and try out the Bacon Bloody Mary or sample a local craft beer as a reward for navigating all those chutes, and don’t miss the tasty house-smoked barbecue at The Smoke Shack.

Where to Stay: Options are limited close to the mountain, but if you want to stay nearby, the Boulder Creek Lodge in Nederland (the town’s only hotel) offers rustic digs just ten minutes away from Eldora. For something a little more upscale, try the St. Julien in Boulder, which includes a 10,000-square-foot spa and a full range of treatments to ease your tired muscles after a day on the slopes.

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Winter Park, Colorado Courtesy Image

Day 2: Winter Park, Colorado (1.5-hour drive)

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Where to Ski: Winter Park will get you deeper into the Rockies for even more unforgettable skiing and riding. With over 3,000 skiable acres acres spread across the Seven Territories, including over 1,200 acres of off-piste terrain, this destination boasts every kind of run imaginable. If you’re in the mood for something really gnarly, hop on the Cirque Sled into the Cirque Territory and work up the courage to tackle steep dives like the Alphabet Chutes. If the flakes are flying (or flew in the night before), get yourself to Vasquez Ridge Territory for epic powder skiing. And if you’re more interested in bumps than pow, the legendary moguls found in the Mary Jane Territory are always worth the challenge.

Where to Eat: Take a break from carving and crack open a beer at Alpine & Ales, a mobile bar that pops up at different spots around the mountain, which means you’re guaranteed a stellar view as you sip. For even more amazing views, step onto the gondola (free for non-skiers after 4 p.m.) and head up to the Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge for a spectacular three-course dinner, served Thursday through Saturday.

Where to Stay: You can’t beat the location of the Zephyr Mountain Lodge, located at the base of the mountain just steps from the gondola and Winter Park’s restaurants. Ski right up to your condo at the end of the day and then relax in one of four outdoor hot tubs located on the property.

ski trip
Highland Bowl, Aspen Highlands, Colorado Courtesy Image

Days 3-4: Aspen (3.5-hour drive)

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Where to Ski: As you might have guessed, there’s plenty of skiing and riding to do in Aspen. Your Ikon Pass unlocks adventures on the slopes at Aspen Snowmass, where you’ll have four mountains to choose from. We like Aspen Highlands, which is usually less crowded and offers some incredible terrain. Hop on the free snowcat at the top of Loge Peak chairlift for a ride up to Highland Bowl, which is an excellent place to get some double black turns in. Or head over to Snowmass, which has a great mix of terrain and offers something for every level of skier or rider: Carve up the laid-back groomers spread across the mountain, or head up the High Alpine lift to try your luck on some gnarly glades.

Aspen has a lot to offer both on the mountain and off, so it’s well worth spending an extra night here to explore it all. After two days of shredding, give your legs a rest and check out the Aspen Art Museum, which is filled with rotating exhibits featuring creators from around the world—it’s also free. Craving a different kind of adrenaline rush? Explore the backcountry on a dogsled with an hour-long tour from Krabloonik Dog Sledding.

Where to Eat: Unlike many other ski towns, where the local cuisine doesn’t venture far beyond pub grub, you can dine like royalty in Aspen. Case in point: Matsuhisa, an outpost of the original Nobu Matsuhisa in Los Angeles. This bi-level Japanese eatery serves up sushi and other specialties using only the freshest seafood, which is flown in daily. For even an even wider-ranging culinary experience, try Bosq, where chef and Aspen native Barclay Dodge combines local ingredients with influences from around the world to create a truly one-of-a-kind menu. For more low-key bites, head to So Cafe (located inside the Aspen Art Museum) for a menu of seasonal fare or Jimmy’s Bodega for seafood and an impressive tequila and mezcal selection.

Where to Stay: Hotel Jerome has been a landmark institution in Aspen for over 125 years, and it’s one of our favorites places to stay. It’s also one of the hottest après-ski spots in town: Check out the speakeasy-style bar Bad Harriet in the hotel’s basement, where you’ll find inventive craft cocktails served alongside tasty small plates. Beyond Aspen proper, if you’re looking to stay at the base of one of the mountains, try the new Limelight Hotel at Snowmass.

ski road trip
Stein’s Way, Deer Valley, Utah Courtesy Image

Days 5-6: Park City, Utah (7.5-hour drive)

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Where to Ski: With Ikon Pass, you can take your pick of some of Utah’s best mountain destinations. While staying in Park City, Deer Valley should be on every skier’s hit list. It’s known for a luxurious on-mountain experience and has all kinds of terrain on offer. Warm up with a cruise down Stein’s Way, named after Deer Valley’s former Director of Skiing, Stein Erickson, or carve with U.S. Olympic skiers through the Ski With a Champion program—where else are you going to have the chance to ride a lift with Heidi Voelker? If you’re in the mood for some powder, you’ll want to head directly to Ontario Bowl to spend your day floating through snow drifts.

Getting to Park City will involve a long driving day, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see along the way. Once you cross the border into Utah, make a stop at Dinosaur National Monument and visit the Quarry Visitor Center to see over 1,500 dinosaur fossils embedded in a cliff. A detour to the Dry Fork Petroglyphs outside of Vernal, Utah is also well worth your time. Stretch your legs with a hike through Dry Fork Canyon to see a massive collection of ancient figures and images, some up to 9 feet tall, drawn on the rock by members of the lost Fremont culture.

Where to Eat: For breakfast, head to Harvest in Park City, where you can grab coffee and a healthy bowl to fuel a day on the slopes (we like the Buddha bowl). There’s no shortage of options for lunch and dinner, either. Break up your day of skiing with a bowl of turkey chili at Royal Street Grill, located on the mountain, or chow down on tacos, fajitas, and other Mexican classics at El Chubasco in town. For dinner, make a reservation at Riverhorse on Main, one of Park City’s oldest restaurants and a recipient of numerous fine dining awards. The Trio of Wild Game, with cuts of buffalo, venison, and elk, is a definite standout on the menu. Afterward, head over to High West Saloon for a nightcap and toast your top-notch day of skiing with a glass of Utah whiskey. For options at Deer Valley, Mariposa is a great option for 5-star dining and includes an award-winning wine list, while the Seafood Buffet has fresh options along with prime rib and roasted duck. You can also get Deer Valley’s well-known turkey chili at multiple places, including Snowshoe Tommy’s.

Where to Stay: For a boutique hotel experience, try the charming Washington School House Hotel, located right in downtown Park City in a school house built in 1889. You won’t be roughing it here: The hotel’s 12 rooms all feature high-end linens and antique furniture, and there’s a heated pool and lounge to kick off your après-ski evening. Other options include The St. Regis, which is a AAA Five Diamond resort and has a private ski beach and a split-level infinity pool, as well as the Silver Baron Lodge, which has private hot tubs and a heated outdoor pool.

ski road trip
Mineral Basin, Snowbird, Utah Courtesy Image

Days 7-9: Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons (45-minute drive)

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Where to Ski: Tired of mountains yet? Of course not. Make Salt Lake City your base for the next three days—it’s perfectly located for day trips into Big Cottonwood Canyon, which has some of the world’s coldest, driest snow.

Little Cottonwood Canyon: Start at Snowbird, which is made up of mostly expert terrain and just a half-hour drive from SLC. Explore 2,500 acres of terrain, and make sure to head over to Mineral Basin for superb powder runs. Hidden Peak is another great spot, with panoramic views of the Wasatch Mountains and Salt Lake City in the distance. Alta is right next door, and it’s known for one thing: lots and lots of powder. With 545 inches of average annual snowfall, you’ll be cruising through more of the white stuff than you’ve ever seen before. Get your adrenaline pumping while diving through the Devil’s Castle area, or carve up the gentler terrain off the Collins and Sugarloaf lifts.

Big Cottonwood Canyon: For day two, head out to Solitude. If you have kids in tow, you’ll love how family-friendly this destination is. Take advantage of the on-site daycare and then hike up to Fantasy Ridge, which gives you access to incredible runs like the Black Bess Chutes and Honeycomb Chutes. Wind down with some easier runs like Dynamite or the blue squares off the Sunrise lift, and get a few turns in with the kids on the beginner terrain off the Moonbeam Express quad.

ski road trip
Brighton, Utah Courtesy Image

 

Brighton is another great spot to take advantage of Utah’s epic powder, especially since all of its terrain can be reached via high-speed quads. This snowboarder-friendly destination has something for everyone: there are five terrain parks to choose from, the bowls off the Milly Express are great for experts, and the more relaxed runs off the Snake Creek Express are perfect for families—or if you just need a breather.

There’s plenty to do in SLC, too. Grab a cocktail at Bodega (don’t miss the speakeasy-style bar hidden downstairs), or sample one of 200 beers from around the globe at Beer Hive Pub. On the third Friday of every month, art galleries across the city open their doors for the Gallery Stroll—check out the Rio Gallery, housed in a former train depot. And there are lots of ways to get outside, even in the winter. Head over to Canyon Sports to rent snowshoes and suit up for a hike on one of the area’s many trails—Little Cottonwood Trail is a good option for a laid-back trip.

Where to Eat: For on-mountain fare, don’t miss The Summit, Snowbird’s newest year-round grub spot,  which gives the traditional ski lodge a much-needed update with fresh, healthy menu options and craft brews in an airy space with incredible views. Find it atop Hidden Peak. At Solitude, be sure to grab a craft beer at Thirsty Squirrel and take in some live music, or munch on an appetizer and sip a cocktail in the cozy Library Bar. Need a midday pick-me-up at Brighton? Nachos at Molly Green’s are the way to go.

In SLC, start your day with a stop at Straw Market to sample their famous cinnamon rolls and cheap-but-delicious breakfast plates. Red Iguana is well known for its delicious Mexican food, but be prepared for a wait, since this place will draw a crowd (reservations are available for groups of six or more). For an upscale dinner with great cocktails, try White Horse in downtown SLC.

Where to Stay: Built in 1910, The Peery Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was once a big draw for railroad travelers, thanks to its running hot water. Nowadays, it’s an art-filled boutique hotel that showcases the structure’s Prairie-style architecture, and its downtown location puts you steps away from the city’s biggest attractions, like Temple Square.

From day trips to your favorite hometown mountain to incredible journeys across the Rockies, the open road is where you’ll find adventure, idyllic mountain towns to explore, and, of course, plenty of amazing skiing and riding. So grab your Ikon Pass and hit play on that road trip playlist. It’s time to see what’s out there.