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Choosing favorites: Why students favor some Utah ski resorts over others

Maddie Lowe, vice president of the Ski and Snowboard Club at Westminster, hikes the Alta backcountry on March 26. Lowe said the terrain and culture are what keep her coming back because “you’re always running into so many people you know but everyone’s mentality is to ski hard all day.” (Photo Courtesy: Maddie Lowe)

Temperatures dropping, clouds rolling in and skiers driving into the mountains. 

As winter approaches, Westminster College students are preparing for a fresh season of skiing and snowboarding at local resorts. 

Recently named one of the top snowboarding colleges in the United States, Westminster is a perennial hotspot for skiers and snowboarders alike. 

But as runs open and lifts are flooded with snow enthusiasts, some Westminster students will stick to their preferred resort. Some resorts offer more of a “party vibe” while others stay family-friendly. While some are geared toward snowboarders, others attract skiers. 

It’s all personal preference, according to students.

Those searching for a lowkey, friendly atmosphere can often find success skiing at Brighton. Cailin Saggese, junior art major and snowboarder, said she admires the sense of community Brighton has. 

“It’s a community of people who enjoy what they do,” Saggese said.  “Everyone is there to help one another and progress so much.”

Skier/snowboarder and junior communication major Erin MacInnis echoed that sentiment. 

“Brighton is more of a family-friendly and laid back mountain, but they focus a lot on their parks,” MacInnis said. 

MacInnis said that she primarily hangs out at Brighton and Alta. 

“I pretty much decided on both of those mountains because that’s where my friends skied, and skiing is more fun with friends,” MacInnis said. 

Alta is known for its tough competition and tough terrain. Some skiers and snowboarders attribute the fun atmosphere to Alta’s “party mountain” reputation.   

Maddie Lowe, senior aviation major, carves down the slope at Alta Dec. 15, 2019. As ski resorts begin to reopen, Lowe said she uses her IKON pass benefits, “to ski Brighton, Snowbird and Deer Valley.” (Photo Courtesy: Maddie Lowe)

Maddie Lowe, vice president of the Westminster Ski and Snowboard Club, said she is a true Alta enthusiast. She’s skied there ever since she arrived at Westminster for school. 

“As a freshman, I had an Alta/Bird pass but picked Alta because I liked the old school vibe better than the big resort,” Lowe said. “I also ski Solitude with an IKON pass so I use those benefits to ski Brighton, Snowbird and Deer Valley.”

Lowe said she chose Alta as her preferred place because of the terrain and people. 

“I really liked the vibe at Alta, it felt less ‘resort-y’ than most mountains here,” she said. “I like the terrain and how you’re always running into so many people you know but everyone’s mentality is to ski hard all day.” 

Besides the vibes, price was also a factor for Lowe. 

“Price and where all my friends get a pass is what influences my decision,” she said.  

Easton Albert, junior aviation major and skier, said he also prefers Alta because of the terrain. 

“Alta, in my opinion, has some of the best all-mountain terrain in the state,” Albert said. “A few things that influence my choice of resort are terrain, snowpack, and the environment you’re in while you’re there.”

Price and accessibility are the most common turn-offs for students. MacInnis, who both skis and snowboards, said the price of the resort pass affects her decision on where to ski.

“I refuse to ski at Park City because they got bought out by Vail and now they are way too expensive,” MacInnis said. 

Other issues, like parking, affect whether students will make the drive up the canyon. 

“I used to like Solitude because it was so quiet but now the parking is a disaster and the lift lines are a free-for-all which can be frustrating,” Lowe said. 

However, many students said they are satisfied with wherever they can get a good run in. 

For example, Saggese said she doesn’t necessarily dislike any of the Utah resorts. 

“I think [the resorts] all have really great things about them, but as someone who loves that huge sense of community Brighton has always been my favorite.”

Albert echoed that sentiment, noting it’s more about the community than the location. 

“There’s no resort I will not ski at,” Albert said. “To me, it’s more about the people you’re with and it will always be a good time.” 


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Melissa Reeves is a senior communication student. She is a Pacific Northwest native who moved to Utah to avoid the rain. She thoroughly enjoys overpriced coffee and long walks around her college housing. When she's not scouring Salt Lake City for gluten-free food, you can find her on the lacrosse field.

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