Snowbird is famous for, you know, being steep and deep all winter. It’s also famous for spinning lifts longer than any other ski area in Utah. Ski corn (and slush) into June while the Salt Lake Valley roasts in shimmering heat.
While the lifts continue to run as of press time, they eventually will stop. Even the diehards will need to find something else to do. Embrace the sunny summer season and see what Snowbird has to offer besides that whole skiing business, and boy does it offer a lot.
As heretical as it is to say, sometimes we tire of skiing and – even while there may technically be snow on the ground – other joys beckon. Little Cottonwood Canyon and Snowbird are chock full of fun things to do that are not skiing.
The Wasatch is beautiful as the snow melts and the wildflowers pop, and it is beautiful as the fall colors and flurries paint the landscape in sharp, vibrant relief. So let’s relish it year round. The canyon may seem small, but it’s far from it and chock full of excitement and serenity. Explore what Snowbird and its environs have for you to discover.
Summer Activities At Snowbird Resort:
Summer visitors can find plenty of in-bounds recreation at the ‘Bird, whether it’s strenuous or casual. Most of the activities sponsored by the resort – i.e. the roller coaster, tree and rock climbing, the ropes course – cost some money, collective passes for all of it are considerably cheaper than a day ticket in the winter.
Trust me, it’s a whole lot for a day. An all-day, most-activity adult pass will run you $50, and that includes a tram ride. Kids cost $37 for the same.
Once the snow melts, fun times, especially for the kiddos, begin. Boasting a dizzying array of theme park-like activities, you can play at the ‘Bird all day. There’s tree climbing, rock climbing, bungee jumping, vertical drops, and pint-sized versions of all of those for the little ones.
Mountain Coaster – Perhaps the most well-known summer attraction at Snowbird is the Mountain Coaster, which runs top to bottom. While it thankfully has brakes, it is about as high-octane as summer gets at the Snowbird Center.
It certainly isn’t your grandfather’s rollercoaster, as it is thoroughly modern and firmly attached to the track for the entirety of its run, but you won’t be thinking about that as you whiz and whoosh down the mountain. There are size limits, so make sure there’s someone responsible to ride with the little thrill-seeker. Free with an all-day pass.
Mountain Biking – The resort also has many miles of lift-serviced downhill mountain biking trails, along with a XC style network near the base. The downhill trails, namely “Big Mountain” and “Peruvian Gulch” are difficult : 2900′ down Snowbird’s gnarly winter terrain, so bring your A game.
These trails are downhill only, so you will need to purchase tram tickets. $28 for a single day and $135 for the summer season. Full kit rentals are also available, if you just forgot your bike at home. The lower mountain trail network is considerably friendlier, and its trails are mostly blues. This uphill-accessed network is free.
Scenic Lift or Tram Ride – You can also ride the Tram without a bike, heading up to eat lunch at the Summit, ride down the Peruvian Chair or hike around Hidden Peak. A Tram ride can also be a great jumping-off point for greater adventures on the south side of Little Cottonwood, with abundant hiking options into American Fork Canyon, Alta, and further down the canyon towards White Pine.
Guided hike – Snowbird offers guided hikes as well. $20 to ride the Tram without a bicycle. The Tram and the upper station are both wheelchair accessible, so everyone can enjoy the views. Make sure to spy the beautiful wildflowers, especially in July. And stop for a moment to savor our incredible home range.
Climbing, Jumping, Ropes and Gems – The other amusements around the Snowbird Center are, in no particular order, a rock climbing area, a tree climbing zone (roped up, of course), a bungee trampoline, an obstacle race course (the Wrecktangle), a ropes course, a gemstone mine, summer tubing and, of course, a water slide.
There’s at least a full day of rambunctious adventure in the base area, and more than enough to tire out little and not-so-little vertical enthusiasts. Most of the activities, barring the gemstone mine, are included in an all day pass. Bring closed-toe shoes for the Wrecktangle, as well as the climbing activities.
Summer Dining Options In Snowbird and Alta
At some point you’ll tire of all the excitement and need to take a load off, maybe grab a bite to eat. Maybe more than a bite. Maybe a steak. Regardless, Snowbird has you covered. Abundant dining options exist throughout the summer, but please check the snowbird website to confirm seasonal hours.
The Wildflower, Creekside, Mid-Gad, the Lodge Bistro and the Rendezvous are closed for the season. There’s everything from deli sandwiches to fresh lobster to be had, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Albion Grill at Alta is open seven days a week in the summer. Alta Lodge also serves a mean, mean Sunday brunch. Menu here.
Me? Brown bag. No one makes a PB&J with chips like I do.
Lodging Options In Snowbird – With A View!
Many Salt Lakers find the idea of a night spent in the cool, clear mountain air irresistibly attractive come July and August. The city becomes hot and dusty, but up at the ski areas everything is green, vibrant and temperate. A day spent hiking among the wildflowers and on stay-cation at Snowbird is something to be treasured. Summer rates at all the hotels are lower, and the competition for rooms is relaxed without all that snow on the ground.
Top pick – The Cliff is especially attractive for its no-holds-barred roof top spa, included with most rooms. Sitting in an open-air hot tub looking across the canyon to Mt. Superior is an experience very worth having, even without a desire to ski it. See the rooms here.
The Alta Lodge, a far more traditional hotel, is also open to guests June through October.
Oktoberfest – Biggest Beer Festival in Utah
There are periodical goings-on during the off-season, with the headline attraction definitely Oktoberfest at the ‘Bird. Running weekends August 17th through October 20th (including Labor Day), Oktoberfest is a raucous rendition of the holiday, set in the mountains, with the keen anticipation of winter. It runs from noon to six all weekend, with music, festivities, all the usual fun plus, of course, beer.
The party seems never-ending, as it starts up again every Saturday.
I prefer the earlier, warmer weekends, but some seek out the more seasonal October weekends, even with the real chance of snow! Regardless, the changing colors in Little Cottonwood as the day grow shorter are not to be missed, beverage in hand or not.
Snowbird bills it as the biggest beer festival in Utah, so make sure you have a safe ride down the canyon or to your room. The event is free but parking is $10. Please carpool, for your wallet and the traffic. And enjoy the finest beer Utah has to offer.
Venture Outside The Resort for Spectacular Hiking
Beyond the confines of the resorts, other activities, tame and exciting, beckon. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is full of treasures year-round, it just takes a few extra steps to find them. Explore the canyon on hikes and more technical climbs to get a new perspective on the place we love in the winter.
The hiking in and around Little Cottonwood is spectacular: so close to an urban area, but still beautiful, untrammeled alpine terrain. Lisa Falls and Red Pine Gulch are common hiking destinations. Hogum Fork, a longer walk, is well worth it for the breath-taking cliffs and ragged ridgelines.
Some of the best backcountry skiing in the Wasatch sits in Hogum, though by summer most of the snow has melted. Link up a walk up White Pine with a walk down Mary Ellen Gulch and American Fork Canyon for a very full day of hiking! A car shuttle is necessary if you plan on doing that.
Summer Skiing Behind Mt. Superior
For those still seeking turns on snow, patches will lurk in the north facing drainages (White Pine, Red Pine, Maybird and Hogum) well into the summer. I won’t promise the skiing will be good, but there will be snow. Cardiac Ridge, behind Mt. Superior, is a classic summer ski destination for desperate locals.
By that time in the year, the Utah Avalanche Center will have ceased issuing daily forecasts. If you are going out, know the problems and how to mitigate risk. In the summer, that means leaving early and getting out early. Know before you go, then go earn your turns.
World Class Granite Rock Climbing
For those no longer pining for huge plastic boots, Little Cottonwood hosts world-class granite climbing. The lunar north side of the canyon has distracted many a driver on highway 210. Much of the classic climbing receives lots of sun, so plan on climbing early or late.
The southern side of the canyon has some great, shadier climbing as well. If you’d like to check out rock climbing for the first time, or just want to be shown around the canyon, a number of excellent guide services in Salt Lake City can show you an excellent, safe time among the granite.
This article is just a sprinkling of highlights. Summer visitors will find an overabundance of activity: there will be concerts at Snowbird through June, the wildflowers will bloom in Albion Basin, and a sea of granite sits below it all. Every time I drive up the canyon, I find another reason to spend the day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Enjoy finding your own treasures in this beautiful place.
Mountain/ski guide and instructor