Alta and Snowbird are two major ski locations in Utah and they’re located right next to each other, but which is the best option? I’ll be providing an in-depth comparison between these two locations in terms of the terrain, dining, activities, ski schools, value for money and much so you can decide which to go to.
Alta vs Snowbird for Skiing
Snowbird has a longer ski season compared to Alta and more terrain for both beginners and experts. Alta has more on-mountain dining locations, accommodation options and offers better value for money as it has cheaper day tickets compared to Snowbird. Only Snowbird allows snowboarders.
|Aspect of the Location||Best Option|
|Beginner Level Skiers||Snowbird|
|Intermediate Level Skiers||Draw|
|Advanced Level Skiers||Snowbird|
|Opening Hours and Season Length||Snowbird|
|Best Value for Money||Alta|
Comparing the Mountains and Ski Areas
Alta and Snowbird have a similar total skiable area, with Alta having 2614 acres of skiable terrain and Snowbird having slightly less at 2500 acres. However, Snowbird has a greater vertical drop (3240 ft compared to 2538 ft), more trails and a longer run compared to Alta.
In terms of the terrain difficulty, both areas have a good spread of trails suitable for beginners, intermediates, and experts so you shouldn’t have any trouble at either areas if your party is made up of mixed abilities.
Snowbird caters more for beginners with some shorter and less difficult trails so is a good choice if you’re going with children or skiers with less experience. Both areas have a similar split of intermediate runs.
If you’re looking for a challenge you can’t go wrong with either. Alta has more terrain dedicated to advanced/ expert level skiers but Snowbird also has some really difficult terrain and is steeper.
Important Note: if you are a snowboarder than Snowbird is your only option. Alta is a ski-only mountain and does not allow any snowboarding. If you want to know more about the reasons why Alta does not allow snowboarding, check out this article.
Snowbird is the only location that has a park so it is the only option for freestyle skiing and snowboarding. Alta unfortunately does not have a park.
Please see the table below for a comparison of the mountain/ piste map statistics.
|Skiable Terrain||2,614 acres||2,500 acres|
|Vertical Drop||2,538 ft||3,240 ft|
|Base Height||8,530 ft||7,760 ft|
|Summit Height||11,068 ft||11,000 ft|
|Green Circle Trails (Beginner)||15%||27%|
|Blue Square Trails (Intermediate)||30%||38%|
|Black/ Double Black Diamond Trails (Advanced and Expert)||55%||35%|
|Longest Run||2.1 km||4.0 km|
|Number of Lifts||11||13|
Here is a link to the piste map for each location:
Ski Seasons and Opening Times
The lifts are open an hour earlier and half an hour later in Alta compared to Snowbird so you’ll get a longer day on the slopes if you head to Alta.
- Alta Lift Operating Hours: 8:00am – 4:30pm
- Snowbird Lift Operating Hours: 9:00am – 4:00pm
The ski season in Snowbird usually lasts 5.5 months in Snowbird making it slightly longer compared to Alta’s typical ski season which generally lasts 5 months. Alta usually opens a week earlier than Snowbird in late November however Snowbird remains open until mid-late May whereas Alta usually closes in mid-late April.
See the table below for the past ski season start and end dates for both locations.
|Season||Alta Open||Snowbird Open||Alta Close||Snowbird Close|
|21/22||24th Nov||1st Dec||17th Apr||1st May|
|20/21||21st Nov||30th Nov||25th Apr||19th May|
|19/20||29th Nov||29th Nov||13th Mar||15th Mar|
|18/19||23rd Nov||24th Nov||28th Apr||27th May|
Snow Quality and Weather
Snowbird and Alta have very similar climates with both being very cold in December, January and February averaging roughly -9°C (16°F).
Alta has a slightly higher altitude compared to Snowbird so when it’s slightly warmer the snow quality tends to be a bit better here at the start of the season. However, later in the season during Spring, Snowbird usually has better snow as it warms up a bit faster here in the mornings.
Snowbird’s lift chairs are at the top of the resort so when the wind speeds are high they are more at risk of closing which can cut off a significant portion of the mountain. This isn’t as much of an issue with Alta as the lift chairs are further down the mountain so are more sheltered.
|Month||Temperature in Alta||Temperature in Snowbird||Snowfall in |
|Snowfall in Snowbird|
|November||-4.3°C (24.3°F)||-3.3°C (26°F)||12″||19″|
|December||-9.5°C (15°F)||-8.7°C (16.3°F)||82″||87″|
|January||-8.9°C (15.9°F)||-8.4°C (16.8°F)||76″||90″|
|February||-8.0°C (17.6°F)||-7.3°C (18.8°F)||73″||84″|
|March||-4.5°C (23.8°F)||-3.7°C (25.3°F)||63″||70″|
|April||-1.6°C (29.2°F)||-0.5°C (31.2°F)||37″||61″|
Village, Dining and Other Activities
Alta doesn’t really have a ski town and is instead regarded as a ski area. This means is has dining options on-mountain and at the base, as well as access to some winter activities but it’s not a fully fledged resort with loads else to do.
Snowbird has a little bit more a village compared to Alta but again it is quite limited particularly in comparison to somewhere like Park City. You’ll get a few more restaurants and shops but it’s still mostly about the slopes.
Both Alta and Snowbird have on-mountain dining options but there’s more choice in Alta. Both on-mountain dining options on Snowbird are self-service. Here’s a quick list of the different locations:
Alta On-Mountain Dining:
- Baldy Brews (coffee, grab and go food)
- Cecret Coffee (casual dining and drinks)
- Watson Cafe (self-service, mixed cuisine)
- Collins Grill (fine dining)
- Alf’s Restaurant (American cuisine)
Snowbird On-Mountain Dining:
- Creekside Café & Grill (casual dining)
- Mid-Gad Restaurant (American cuisine)
In the base area there are plenty more choices for food and drinks in both locations. Alta has 14 locations in the village and Snowbird has 17 locations. There are options for quick grab-and-go snacks, or fine dining experiences at both locations so you’ll be able to find a suitable option at either.
In terms of the winter activities on offer, both locations are pretty much identical. Here’s a list of activities available at both Alta and Snowbird:
- Helicopter skiing
- Backcountry skiing
- Snowshoe tours
- Birding on skis
- Snowcat skiing
- Tram rides
Alta and Snowbird both have great ski schools with experienced instructors who offer group and private lessons for all ages.
In terms of the group lessons, Alta currently offers 2 and 4 hour lessons for kids whereas Snowbird only offers 5.5 hour lessons. This makes Snowbird more expensive but means it does offer better value for money if you work out the cost/ hour. The same is true for adult group lessons which are either 2.25 hours or 6 hours long.
If you are just booking a private lesson for a single person then Alta offers better rates. However, if you are booking a private lesson for at least 2 members of your own party, then Snowbird will work out cheaper especially if you increase the number of people.
Here’s a table summarising the types and prices of lessons on offer.
Costs are based on the most recent ski season at the time of writing and are subject to change. Please check the resort websites for up to date prices. Prices are in US dollars.
|Lesson Type||Alta Price||Snowbird Price|
|Kids Group (2 hours)||$98||N/A|
|Kids Group (4 hours)||$195||N/A|
|Kids Group (5.5 hours)||N/A||$225 – 283.50|
|Adult Group (2 hour 15 min)||$114||N/A|
|Adult Group (6 hours)||N/A||$275|
|Adult/ Kids Private (2 hour)||$290 ($80 per extra skier)||N/A|
|Adult/ Kids Private (3 hour)||$435 ($120 per extra skier)||$540 (for part of 1-5)|
|Adult/ Kids Private (6 hour)||$870 ($120 per extra skier)||$882 (for party of 1-5)|
Accommodation Options and Prices
Despite considering itself more of a ski area rather than a ski village, Alta has more accommodation options and prices in comparison to Snowbird.
|Type of Accommodation||Alta Options||Snowbird Options|
The average cost of accommodation is similar in Alta and Snowbird, however there are some more budget-friendly options available in Alta.
Here’s a quick summary of the average cost of a 6-night stay in each resort for 2 adults in January.
- Alta hotel: $1600-$4000
- Snowbird hotel: $2800-$6000
- Alta condo: $3000-$7000
- Snowbird condo: $6000
Keep in mind that you can find some cheaper accommodation options if you look in the surrounding area as well.
Location and Traveling
Both Alta and Snowbird have good accessibility for ski locations. They are located next to one another so it takes the pretty much the exact same time to travel from all locations. The drive between Snowbird and Alta is roughly 5 minutes, or a 40 minute walk.
The closest major airport to Alta and Snowbird is Salt Lake International Airport (SLC). From the airport you can book a shuttle to either location which takes approximately 45 minutes.
Driving and Parking
Free parking is available at Snowbird on a first-come-first-serve basis. If you want to guarantee parking you can make a reservation for $25.
In Alta parking reservations are required Friday-Sunday & holidays from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. Parking is not permitted between midnight and 8:00am except for early access parking reservations which are available from 6:00 am. Parking reservations cost $25 per day.
Note: state law requires you to have snow tires on the vehicle or carry chains in the vehicle between November 1st and May 1st.
Accessing Other Locations
Here is the average drive time from key locations to both Alta and Snowbird:
- Salt Lake City: 40 minutes
- Park City Ski Resort: 1 hour
- Deer Valley: 1 hour
- Provo: 1 hour
- Wyoming: 6 hours
- Idaho: 6.5 hours
- Denver: 8 hours
Snowbird ticket and rental prices are significantly more expensive compared to Alta. Alta has cheaper day lift tickets for both adults and children.
For example, for two adults and two children during peak season, the day lift ticket price would come to $454 at Alta and $512 at Snowbird. Factor in equipment rental as well and you’ll make a huge saving if you go to Alta instead.
Please see the tables below for more information to help you plan your trip.
Costs are based on the most recent ski season at the time of writing and are subject to change. Based on daily rates when buying in-advance online (better value for money offers are available when booking for multiple days). Please check the resort websites for up to date prices. Prices are in US dollars.
|Ticket Price Day Lift||Alta||Snowbird|
Since Alta and Snowbird are located so closely together, you can also get discounted tickets for both locations. Alta-Bird lift tickets start at $175 for adults for a day ticket.
|Equipment Rental (Daily)||Alta||Snowbird|
|Demo Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)||$65||$77|
|Performance Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)||$50||$67|
|Sport Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)||$35||$57|
|Junior Demo Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)||$45||$50|
|Junior Sport Package (Skis, Poles, Boots)||$25||$32|
|Demo Skis Only||$55||$72|
|Performance Skis Only||$40||$62|
|Sport Skis Only||$30||$52|
|Junior Demo Skis Only||$35||$45|
|Junior Sport Skis Only||$20||$27|
Which Location is Best?
Snowbird and Alta are right next to each other so if you have the opportunity to ski both, then I’d recommend doing so. However, if you are only visiting one, then here are some things to keep in mind.
- Snowbird offers the most varied terrain so has more options for beginners and mixed ability groups
- Snowbird offers the most challenging terrain as it is steeper than Alta, so will be better for advanced/ expert skiers
- Alta offers the best value for money in terms of both lift tickets and equipment rentals.
- Alta has more accommodation options and choice for lower budgets.
- If you are a snowboarder or like to ski in the park then Snowbird is the only option that will be suitable.
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