Snowbird vs Alta: Which Skiing Location is Best?


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 LocationBest Option
Beginner Level SkiersSnowbird
Intermediate Level SkiersDraw
Advanced Level SkiersSnowbird
Opening Hours and Season LengthSnowbird
On-Mountain DiningAlta
VillageSnowbird
Ski SchoolAlta
Accommodation OptionsAlta
Best Value for MoneyAlta
Alta vs Snowbird for skiing
Alta ski area

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.

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.

StatisticsAltaSnowbird
Skiable Terrain2,614 acres2,500 acres
Vertical Drop2,538 ft3,240 ft
Base Height8,530 ft7,760 ft
Summit Height11,068 ft11,000 ft
Total Trails119169
Green Circle Trails (Beginner)15%27%
Blue Square Trails (Intermediate)30%38%
Black/ Double Black Diamond Trails (Advanced and Expert)55%35%
Parks01
Longest Run2.1 km4.0 km
Number of Lifts1113
Alta vs Snowbird mountain statistics

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.

SeasonAlta OpenSnowbird OpenAlta CloseSnowbird Close
21/2224th Nov1st Dec17th Apr1st May
20/2121st Nov30th Nov25th Apr19th May
19/2029th Nov29th Nov13th Mar15th Mar
18/1923rd Nov24th Nov28th Apr27th May
Alta vs Snowbird ski season lengths and dates

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.

MonthTemperature in AltaTemperature in SnowbirdSnowfall in
Alta
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″
Data from en.climate-data.org and onthesnow.com
Snowbird ski resort

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
  • Spa

Ski School

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 TypeAlta PriceSnowbird Price
Kids Group (2 hours)$98N/A
Kids Group (4 hours)$195N/A
Kids Group (5.5 hours)N/A$225 – 283.50
Adult Group (2 hour 15 min)$114N/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)
Alta vs Snowbird ski school lessons and prices
Snowbird ski resort

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 AccommodationAlta OptionsSnowbird Options
Hotel54
Condo111
Chalet110

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.

Flying

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
Alta ski area

Additional Costs

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 AltaSnowbird
Adult Off-Peak$113$145
Child Off-Peak$54$87
Adult Peak$151$160
Child Peak$76$96
Alta vs Snowbird ski lift ticket price comparison

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)AltaSnowbird
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
Helmet$12$15
Alta vs Snowbird ski equipment rental price comparison

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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Rosie

I have been a keen skier for a number of years, skiing in different locations around the world, and have a real passion for snow sports. My favourite ski resorts are Lake Louise in Canada and Obergurgl-Hochgurgl in Austria.

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