Many of the resorts in Utah claim to have the “Greatest Snow on Earth.” Perhaps a trip to Hokkaido in Japan may put them in their place, but nevertheless, Utah has some excellent snow-covered terrain. However, not all of it is open to snowboarders, as a handful of resorts are ski-only.
Snowboarding is banned in Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen. But not in any of the other ski resorts in Utah. There are a few explanations why snowboarding is banned from these resorts, from preserving the mountain’s character to business decisions. However, these explanations are unfounded.
In this article, I’ll discuss which ski resorts permit snowboarding and why others don’t.
Utah gets incredibly dry powder which is an absolute dream to ride. There’s a lot of snow, too, as every winter.
Utah ski resorts are very attractive to powder hunters, with an average of 500 inches (12.7 meters) of snow.
Salt Lake City, Utah, hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, which increased the profile of Utah’s ski resorts.
This has led Utah to have 10 world-class ski resorts with well-developed infrastructures and modern lifts. There are a handful of lower-profile ski resorts too.
These ski resorts don’t have the resources or impressive infrastructure, but they are less busy, meaning you stand a good chance of scoring fresh tracks on a powder day.
The top-rated ski resorts in Utah include:
- Park City
- Deer Valley
- Mad River Glen
- Powder Mountain
Skiers can enjoy all of these resorts, but a few don’t allow snowboarders.
So before you head to any of these places with your snowboard, make sure you get to the end of this article to save yourself a wasted trip.
Alta was one of the first ski resorts to allow snowboarding. But it didn’t take long for them to ban it, and this ban has stood for well over 30 years.
This ban upsets local snowboarders who have to head over to Snowbird or take up skiing.
The ban is frustrating, as 84.6% of Alta’s slopes are on public land, and all other resorts that use public land allow snowboarding.
An excellent resource for information and a little bit of entertainment is the Wasatch Equality Facebook page.
Wasatch Equality is a non-profit organization in Utah dedicated to ending anti-snowboarding policies, allowing anyone to enjoy public land no matter what they ride.
Wasatch Equality has been fighting the ban for many years and first went to court in 2014.
Alta says that its ban on snowboarders is a rational business decision. However, several other appeals have been against the ban, and the resort’s arguments for banning snowboarders are inconsistent.
For example, one judge looked at Alta’s customer survey, which indicated most of the resort’s customers didn’t want snowboarders.
This goes with Alta’s explanation of banning snowboarders as a business decision.
However, another judge suggested that a snowboarder’s blind spot was a big enough reason to uphold the ban. But a third judge said the discrimination was against snowboards, not snowboarders.
This argument invalidates Wasatch Equality’s claim that “Alta is discriminating against snowboarders as a group of people that are protected under the 14th Amendment.”
If this is the case, what’s the difference between a snowboard and a monoski? Alta has no problem with monoskis.
Whatever the reason, Alta is still not accepting snowboarders. It’s a shame, as the terrain is supposed to be excellent.
But watching this video of the locals reacting to a simple question, you might not feel like you’re missing out on much.
Deer Valley is one of the few ski resorts in Utah that don’t allow snowboarders onto its slopes. Like Alta, they say it is a business move, but there are few details on this.
In my opinion, the snowboard ban at Deer Valley is historical.
In the early days of snowboarding, some skiers didn’t recognize snowboarding as a genuine winter sport, and they thought it was just a fad that wouldn’t catch on.
This news report is an excellent indication of the attitude towards snowboarders at the time; it’s pretty funny, really.
Deer Valley has held onto this mindset and has refused to change its rules, even when other ski resorts lifted their snowboard bans.
With this in mind, snowboarders will unlikely be allowed into Deer Valley anytime soon. However, it has been said that Deer Valley doesn’t have the best terrain for snowboarders anyway.
So, you’re probably better off spending your money in more snowboard-friendly resorts.
Mountain River Glen is the third ski resort in Utah that doesn’t allow snowboarders. Their explanation for this is on their snowboard policy page on their website.
They say snowboarders are banned “to preserve the mountain’s unique character.” It is a decision made by the shareholders of the Mad River Glen Cooperative.
Strangely, Mad River Glen allowed snowboarders on the mountain back in 1986. This was thanks to Betsy Pratt, Mad River Glen’s owner at the time, who was very pro-snowboarding.
However, there were safety concerns with snowboarders using the main chairlift that dated back to 1948.
Then she had a confrontation with some local riders in a grocery store, which led her to ban snowboarders during the 1991/1992 winter season (there must be an interesting story behind this).
Mad River Glen was taken over by the cooperative in 1995. The shareholders voted on the snowboard ban, with 75% in favor of keeping snowboarders off the mountain.
But there has yet to be another vote since. Mad River Glen says they have nothing against snowboarders, but making the mountain exclusively for skiers is the best thing.
For the snowboard ban to be lifted, two-thirds of the shareholders must favor welcoming snowboarders onto the slopes.
Snowbird is open to both skiers and snowboarders. This ski resort is linked to Alta, and you can ski in both using the same ski pass.
Strangely, Snowbird has the same owners as Alta, too, which makes it even more strange why you can snowboard in one but not the other.
The fact that you can snowboard in Snowbird means you can enjoy that super-dry powder from cold temperatures and dry air.
It is one of the Utah ski resorts that averages 500 inches (12.7 meters) of snowfall yearly. Snowbird’s ski area has steep terrains that are both interesting and challenging.
Apparently, the local skiers and snowboarders have a bit of an attitude problem, but this probably comes from their outstanding skills (still, there’s no need to be rude).
Luckily Snowbird has 3,240 feet (987 meters) of vertical and 169 runs covering 2,500 acres (1,012 hectares) of terrain.
So if you bump into a big-headed local, you probably won’t see them again for the rest of the day.
Snowbird is an excellent resort for beginners, as there are many green runs, but you need to pick the right ones, as the terrain can be overwhelming for a novice, and a couple of the lifts and runs could be more beginner-friendly.
If you’re an advanced snowboarder, you’ll love Snowbird. There are excellent diamond black runs, superb tree runs, and beautiful backcountry terrain.
Snowbird is close to Salt Lake City, so it’s easy to get to. Also, it’s a great base to visit other snowboard-friendly resorts that are just an hour’s drive away.
Snowbird is a well-established ski resort with great amenities. You can expect great food in many of the restaurants and great nightlife.
Snowbasin in Utah is one of America’s oldest ski resorts, but it has banished any old-fashioned snobbery.
Snowboarders can enjoy Snowbasin’s slopes alongside skiers and enjoy a drink with them in one of the superb day lodges.
You can’t stay in Snowbasin’s ski area, as there are no hotels or even a village. Snowbasin is a place you visit for an excellent day of shredding while staying in Ogden Valley in Huntsville or Eden.
You can play in 2,950 acres (1,145 hectares) of terrain on the mountain with 106 runs.
A good indication of the style of Snowbasin’s slopes is that the resort hosted the 2002 Olympics for the Downhill, Combined, and Super G. Therefore, you can expect lots of steep and wide runs.
Most of Snowbasin’s terrain is best suited to intermediate and advanced riders, but there are some areas for beginners to develop basic skills.
Snowbasin has great natural features and a few small parks if you like to catch some air.
There is some excellent backcountry terrain, too, allowing you to take advantage of the 300 inches (762cm) of snow cover per winter.
There is no village in Snowbasin, so the amenities are all in the day lodges.
These are pretty fancy, as they were built for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and you can expect stunning views, impressive fireplaces, and sun decks.
If you’re looking for a unique snowboarding experience in Utah, you should check out Powder Mountain (or “Pow Mow” to the locals).
In about an hour, you can get there by car from Salt Lake City, and it has 8,464 acres (3,425 hectares) of shreddable terrain.
One thing that makes Pow Mow a unique experience is that the number of people allowed on the mountain daily is limited.
This means that you have to get there early on a powder day to secure your spot, but this also means that you’re going to get fresh tracks.
Powder Mountain has an interesting layout, and it is almost an upside-down resort with two of its three main areas at the top of the mountain.
The three areas are called Powder Mountain Village, Sundown Lodge, and Hidden Valley. As a beginner rider, you have plenty of easy terrain to explore all over the mountain.
You can enjoy some lovely long groomed runs, especially near the Hidden Lake Express chairlift, which you can easily get to from all of the base areas.
Powder Mountain is an excellent place for intermediate riders to improve their skills while having lots of fun.
You will find some excellent off-piste accessible from chairlifts, but there are some nice groomed runs for testing your skills, too.
As you would expect, Powder Mountain is no stranger to deep snow. Therefore, it is ideal for advanced riders chasing fresh tracks. One of the best ways to get to the freshies is by heading to the Paradise lift.
From here, you can blast through glades and trees, which is perfect when visibility could be better.
Alternatively, more experienced riders should head to Cobabe Canyon and Lightning Ridge, where you can jump on a snowcat for cheap uplifts to incredible powder fields.
Solitude is an ideal ski resort for snowboarders; it has a laid-back atmosphere, seemingly bottomless powder, and quiet slopes.
The terrain here is varied enough for all levels of rider, and it is connected to the neighboring resort of Brighton, extending the terrain.
Solitude has quite a small ski area compared to other more high-profile ski resorts in Utah, as it only measures 1,200 acres (485 hectares). However, there is some incredible snowboarding here.
Intermediate snowboarders love Solitude, thanks to the perfect slopes around the ridges that lie on each side of the resort’s boundaries. These ridges are also home to some excellent advanced terrain.
The Sunrise and Apex chairlifts give you access to lovely cruisy runs, while Eagle Express is ideal for intermediate riders looking for a challenge to take them up to the next level.
There are better places for beginners, as the easy terrain is quite limited. But the beginner areas are suitable for those strapping in for the first time.
Advanced riders should head over to the Summit Express chairlift. You can get to some excellent tree runs in the Black Forest from here.
You can also access and enjoy the superb bowls and chutes in Honeycomb Canyon. As the name suggests, Powder Mountain really comes into its own after a dump of snow; it is out of this world!
If you know what you’re doing, head to the Powderhorn lift to access the Milk Run, which is the steepest run with a selection of cliffs.
Luckily, you only have to avoid Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen as a snowboarder.
Every other ski resort allows and welcomes snowboarders, as they don’t discriminate and realize that they would miss out on revenue if snowboarders were banned.
But this is their problem. Maybe these ski resorts will open up to snowboarders in the future when management, owners, and shareholders change.
If they don’t, there are plenty of other places to go snowboarding.
Even if the snowboarding ban was lifted on these resorts tomorrow, it wouldn’t be plain sailing. You’d have to put up with the negativity from skiers who favor the ban.
To me, this wouldn’t be worth the hassle. I’d much rather go to a snowboard-friendly resort and enjoy myself rather than stress over discrimination and small-mindedness.
My time on the mountain is too precious to allow anything to spoil it.