Cottonwood Canyon resorts skiing great despite lack of snow

Don’t cancel your Christmas skiing plans in Utah yet! Despite only receiving less than 50 inches of snow so for this winter, the ski resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons are skiing great. Round-the-clock snowmaking thanks to cold temperatures has played a big role. Plus, the terrain that is open is much more than just icy groomers. I skied Alta and Solitude over the weekend of December 16-18 and was surprised at just how good conditions were.

Alta Ski Area

Cottonwood Canyon Resorts skiing great

Morning light on Mount Superior from the Wildcat Lot at Alta. No crowds and great skiing in December. (Photo: Jared Hargrave – UtahOutside.com)

Over at Alta, three four lifts are open including Collins, Wildcat, Sugarloaf, and Sunnyside. Alta has top-to-bottom skiing on packed-down groomers. But if you want to get crazy, there is plenty of off-piste terrain open now as well. Off the Wildcat lift, most terrain between Westward Ho and Nina’s Curve is open. But the snow is thin and rocky, so vigilance and careful speeds are a must.

Sun Dog at Cottonwood Canyon resorts skiing great

I captured this sun dog over the Collins lift on December 17th. Is it a sign of good luck and snow in our future? (Photo: Jared Hargrave – UtahOutside.com_

The snow at Alta is great and despite the limited terrain, it does not feel crowded. The reason is that lift operations are only allowing every other chair to load. This spreads skiers out and preserves the quality of the ski experience. While this early-season policy makes for some long lift lines, there’s a lot less people dodging on the way down.

Solitude Mountain Resort 

Sunshine Bowl Solitude

Sunshine Bowl on Eagle Express opened for the season with ripping groomers and soft snow. (Photo: Jared Hargrave – UtahOutside.com)

Over at Solitude, the big news is the opening of Eagle Express. With a ton of snowmaking, the crews were able to open a considerable amount of runs, including a ripping groomer down Sunshine Bowl. With Eagle open there’s now 4 lifts running at Solitude including Moonbeam, Apex, and Link.

Like Alta, more challenging skiing is found off-piste, especially with the new terrain under Eagle Express. While wearing rock skis is still recommended, Solitude’s lower slopes are grassy. You may be mowing the lawn a bit, but you’ll also find soft, chalky snow that is softer than the man-made snow on the groomed runs.

Solitude Golden Eagle snow gun

Snow guns are working overtime to open new terrain at Solitude Mountain Resort. (Photo: Jared Hargrave – UtahOutside.com)

Sure the winter has started off slow, but the skiing is still fun in the upper Cottonwoods. With a few storms lines up the rest of the week and Christmas weekend, we may even see more terrain open for the holiday.

To keep track of current conditions at ski resorts around the state, check out skiutah.com