Ski in Utah, Even on a Budget

Even though times are tight, skiers will still find a way to ski and snowboarders will find a way to ride. If you don't live out West, a winter vacation in the deep, dry powder of the Rockies may seem out of the question this year, but don't despair. For the cash- and time-strapped, Utah offers a solution.

Even East Coast snow riders -- the new, industry-approved term combining skiers and boarders -- can frolic in the state whose license plate proclaims "Greatest Snow on Earth." Even better? They can do so without spending much more than they would on a trip to upstate New York or New England.

Why Utah? The best reason to go is the snow. The ski resorts closest to Salt Lake City average 430 inches per year -- many received 700 last year (58 feet!) -- and it's almost always light, fluffy powder. Colorado, the Sierra Nevadas and even the Pacific Northwest get plenty of powder, too, but Utah's dry climate and the effect of Great Salt Lake means exceptionally dry snowflakes, containing as little as 4% water. The result? Ice, a staple for East Coast and Midwestern snow riders, is virtually nonexistent. And in February, the sun shines about 60% of days.

Access and variety also separate Utah from the rest of the country. Seven ski areas lie within 38 miles of Salt Lake City International Airport, a major hub with 800 nonstop arrivals every day. There's also the Utah Transit Authority, or UTA, a public transit system that can get you from the airport, downtown or just about anywhere else in the metro area to the lodge quickly and cheaply.

Alta, Brighton, The Canyons, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, Snowbird and Solitude, each with its own character (and price range), offer a combined 14,000 skiable acres, compared to 5,800 for the combined membership of Ski Vermont.

If that sounds like something you'd love to experience this winter, here's what you need to know to do it on the cheap.

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