Does Colorado or Utah Have Better Skiing? Snow Quality Vs Best Resorts

by Anthony Schwabe | Updated On: September 9th, 2022
Spring skiing in Colorado

Photo by Snow Snow licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. We may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

Utah and Colorado exemplify the quality of skiing in the United States. The two states have been arguing over which has better skiing for years. Let’s chime in and see if we can figure it out. 

Colorado and Utah are very evenly matched in terms of their skiing. Utah has better snow quality, but Colorado has longer seasons. Both states have excellent resorts on offer, from more affordable to extravagant. If there has to be a victor, it is Colorado. 

The rivalry between Colorado and Utah has been running for a very long time, especially when it comes to things like skiing. We’ll do our best to determine which of these great ski states takes the win in each of the following categories:

Colorado vs. Utah

Skiing in Utah
Utah – Photo by Lietmotiv licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Skiing

Of course, the most important factor when it comes to comparing these two states is the skiing itself. While it’s fair to say both Colorado and Utah have epic skiing, that isn’t really enough to go on to make a decision on which is really better. 

These are some of the most important categories to consider when we think about the quality of skiing: 

Which is Best for Beginners?

Despite the high altitudes and having some of the steepest vertical drops in America, Colorado actually has some excellent beginner terrain on offer.  Breckenridge and Copper Mountain are two of the best resorts in the country when it comes to their beginner terrain. 

Copper Mountain Ski Slope
Photo by Matthew Juzenas under CC BY-SA 2.0

Over in Utah, there is a little less choice for beginners. Most resorts over some form of green cruising run, but they’re not as good as in Colorado. 

For a more in-depth breakdown check out our articles on the best Utah ski resorts for beginners and the best Colorado ski resorts for beginners.

Winner: Colorado

Which is Best for Intermediates?

Both Utah and Colorado have outstanding intermediate skiing. Most of the more prominent resorts offer at the very least a great set of intermediate runs. 

Utah Skiing
Photo by Mark Lehmkuhler under CC BY-ND 2.0

Utah’s runs skew a little more to the advanced, which is great for any intermediate skiers that feel they are ready to step it up and try a challenge. Park City really excels when it comes to intermediate terrain.

In Colorado, resorts like Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Snowmass really deliver exceptional intermediate skiing. Another interesting spot worth checking out is Purgatory.

Winner: Tie Break

Which is Best for Advanced & Expert Skiers?

For the most part, Utah takes the lead in the more challenging ski terrain. 

Alta and neighboring Snowbird offer some of the best advanced skiing in the United States. These two resorts have a huge amount of terrain that runs from the more intermediate to the extreme

Alta
Alta – Photo by rome.dome licensed under CC BY 2.0

Park City also shines very brightly, having some excellent advanced runs on offer.  Over in Colorado, Crested Butte, Telluride, and Silverston are truly terrific. There are plenty of incredibly steep vertical drops on offer in the high elevation

Winner: Tie Break

Telluride Ski Resort, Colorado
Telluride Ski Resort, Colorado – Photo by Snowboardguides.com licensed under CC BY 2.0

Which is Best for Off-Piste Backcountry Skiing?

When you’re talking about two states with arguably the best snow quality in the United States, it’s pretty obvious off-piste powder hunting is important. 

See also  7 Best Idaho Ski Resorts for Families

Off-piste skiing at most of the best resorts in these states has plenty to offer. Busier resorts like Park City can make heading off-piste the only option to look for freshies (fresh snow)

Again, Alta and Snowbird offer some exceptional off-piste skiing, along with Powder Mountain.  In Colorado, Silverton, Vail, and Wolf Creek typically deliver impressive off-piste powder and exciting terrain.  

telluride colorado
Telluride Colorado

Colorado’s backcountry access is considerably larger than Utah’s, including areas like Aspen, Telluride, and Silverton. The San Juan Mountains just outside Telluride is also very highly rated. 

Considering Colorado’s high peaks and elevation, there are some serious backcountry adventures just waiting.  The biggest issue with backcountry skiing in Colorado is the risk of avalanches. Colorado is infamous for them, so be careful

Utah’s backcountry skiing is quite a bit more limited. The main areas are found just outside Salt Lake City. The best of which is the interconnected runs that run 25 miles and link to most of the ski resorts found just outside the city. 

Winner: Colorado

Which Resort Has The Best Snow Quality? 

Beaver Colorado
Photo by Robert Tadlock licensed under CC BY 2.0

This might be the most difficult comparison to make. On the one hand, Utah has trademarked “the Greatest Snow on Earth.” On the other, Colorado advocates like to bring up statistics about higher altitude peaks which makes for the longest season.

Here are the most important points of difference between Colorado and Utah:

Which State Has The Best Powder?

Of course, the debate revolves around the gold standard of snow powder. Both states have a fair claim to having some of the best powder in America. 

Coloradans believe their snow is lighter and fluffier, while Utahns believe they receive just as fluffy snow but in much greater quantities. Realistically, both states will produce an amazing powder in the right conditions.

Winner: Tie Break

Which State Has The Most Snowfall?

High average snowfall is a great way to choose between the two states. The more snow, the better skiing conditions are for longer. Because of the popularity of both states, fresh snow doesn’t last very long, so it’s important there’s a lot of new snow often. 

Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek – Photo by Zach Dischner at licensed under CC BY 2.0

Utah has four resorts that will typically boast on average 500 inches of white stuff per season. That’s a huge figure!

In Colorado, Wolf Creek leads the pack with an average of 430 inches per year. What’s more, there aren’t many resorts in Colorado that get near as much snow as even Wolf Creek. 

While that’s nothing to scoff at, Utah definitely takes the victor here. 

Winner: Utah

Which State Has The Longest Ski Season?

Colorado ski

When it comes to seasons, Colorado is the clear winner. Most likely owing to the higher elevation, Colorado’s ski season runs significantly longer than Utah’s. 

Expect mid-October all the way through to April typically. Arapahoe Basin is famed for having an even longer season though, running well into June. 

The ski season in Utah starts off a bit later, around mid-November, and also ends around April. Snowbird boasts the longest season in Utah, claiming to end at the beginning of July. While this is longer than A-Basin, it certainly isn’t the norm in Utah. 

Winner: Colorado

Cheapest Lift Tickets & Cost?

Colorado Ski Trip
Photo by Bryon & Olivia licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

How much you have to shell out for a good ski experience is another big consideration to be made. Both states have their fair share of spots that can cost a premium, as well as more affordable spots. 

Lift Passes

With the exception of places like Deer Valley, Utah does seem to be more affordable for the most part. 

See also  9 Best Ski Resorts On The West Coast For Families (USA)

In fact, most lift passes in Utah are cheaper than the average cost in Colorado. The average lift ticket price in Colorado is around $140 per ticket. Over in Utah, only four resorts have ticket prices over $140. 

These are resorts like Park City, Snowbasin, Snowbird, and, of course, the high-end Deer Valley. 

Accommodation

Telluride Colorado Accomodation
Telluride Colorado

Another important part of a ski trip is the cost of accommodation and lodging. 

Again, Utah takes the win here by a little bit. Most of the big resorts are only a stone’s throw away from Salt Lake City. This means there is an abundance of affordable accommodation to choose from in the city. 

The accommodation in Colorado can be expensive depending on where you go, but it definitely doesn’t need to break the bank. Places like Vail and Aspen can be pricey, while smaller resorts are much more wallet-friendly. 

Winner: Utah

Which State Has The Best Ski Resorts?

The quality of a ski resort has a huge impact on your experience. There are so many good resorts out there that they can all get blurred, but there are certain factors that can set a great ski resort apart. 

The first edge Colorado has in terms of ski resorts is the fact that it has nearly double those in Utah. This gives skiers plenty of choices and helps disperse vacation crowds a little. 

Colorado Ski ResortsUtah Ski Resorts
26 14
Source: NewToSki Resort Explorer

Colorado’s Best Ski Resorts

1. Aspen Snowmass, Colorado

The quintessential American ski resort, Aspen Snowmass has it all.  The purpose-built ski village is home to a huge vertical drop, excellent Aspen quality facilities, and a great variety of terrain. 

2. Telluride, Colorado

Telluride is a rider’s paradise.  There is a nearly endless amount of runs to be found at Telluride amidst the boxy canyon.  It also features an awesome modern resort that counters the seemingly quaint historic old mining town. 

3. Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge is another historic mining town that has pivoted to become an incredible ski resort town.  Breck, as it’s colloquially known, is home to some of the best beginner and freestyle terrain out there. 

Utah Best Ski Resorts

1. Park City, Utah

One of the best ski resorts in Utah, Park City is just outside Salt Lake City. Being right outside the city means you get all the perks of a world-class ski resort without the drawbacks like overpriced accommodation. 

Park City also has some of the best intermediate and off-piste terrain out there, but realistically all of the terrains are a choice here. 

2. Alta, Utah

Possibly the best skiing in Utah, the only problem (depending on who you ask) is that Alta doesn’t allow any snowboarders to join the fun. 

The exceptional snow quality and terrain mean Alta is probably the best resort in Utah. And Alta relies on this as there isn’t as much to the resort as some others. It’s really quite bare necessities.  Snowbird is also right next door and features equally awesome skiing. 

3. Snowbasin, Utah

Not to be confused with Snowbird, Snowbasin is yet another excellent resort found a short drive from Salt Lake City. 

See also  6 Best Minnesota Ski Resorts for Families

Snowbasin lacks a few amenities in terms of a ski resort, but the skiing more than makes up for it. You’d be hard-pressed to find something missing in terms of terrain. 

Utah offers an amazing skiing experience, but Colorado puts up a stronger fight for a lot of people. There’s a reason resorts like Aspen and Vail are synonymous with skiing in America. 

Colorado ski

These high-profile resorts have made a name for Colorado skiing over the years, while towns like Telluride simply back up the quality of the state. 

While the snow quality is not as good as in Utah (depending on who you ask), Colorado’s snow quality is very impressive. This makes for great ski seasons that last very long. 

Utah has die-hard fans and is certainly worth visiting. Anyone that wants to go on a ski tour and enjoy multiple resorts has to stop in Salt Lake City and sample the neighboring resorts. 

Winner: Colorado

Skiing in Utah
Photo by Lietmotiv licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

So, Which State Has the Best Skiing?

Both states have truly phenomenal skiing. Their titles as two of the best skiing states in North America are well-deserved, but there are still others out there that can hold their own as well and may just be even better. 

Of course, which ski resort you visit has a huge impact on the quality of the skiing. That being said, Colorado most likely has the better skiing, but the competition is certainly stiff. 

Does Utah Really Have the Best Snow?

Powder Mountain, Utah
Photo by Usestock licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

As we mentioned, Utah is really proud of the quality of snow, which explains the whole “Greatest Snow on Earth” trademark. But does it really have the best snow in the world? Debatable. 

While the snow in Utah is supremely excellent, it’s tough to give it an outright answer. People love to argue about their favorite spots for a number of reasons. In fact, people can’t even agree whether the snow is better in Colorado or Utah. 

Interestingly enough, Japan has a few contenders that could give Utah a run for their money.  Niseko, for instance, is just such an area. The area receives a colossal 590 inches of snow per season!

It is also incredibly dry and fluffy, which is exactly what makes Utah’s snow so legendary.  Then we have The Alps over in Europe. The snow quality in many areas is just as good as Utah’s, if not better. 

Having this many places with phenomenal snow makes declaring Utah the winner very difficult. It is certainly fair to say Utah probably has the best snow in the United States, but anything beyond that is a tough one, but it’s up there.

Brighton, Utah
Brighton, Utah – Photo by Matt licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Quick Recap

The debate has been around for years – Colorado vs. Utah. Skiing has always been close to the center of this feud, having patriots arguing over everything from snow quality to ski resorts. 

Both states truly epitomize American skiing, standing as some of the industry leaders. For the sake of closure, Colorado takes the victory for us, but Utah is just a whisker off.

You really can’t go wrong skiing in either of these states as they both have some true gems when it comes to their ski resorts. They are all a little different though, so be sure to do some research to find out which resort suits your needs best.

Utah Vs Colorado Category Winners

CategoryUtah or Colorado?
Best for BeginnersColorado
Best for IntermediatesTie-break
Best for Experts Tie-break
Best for Backcountry Skiing Colorado
Best PowderTie-Break
Most SnowfallUtah
Longest SeasonColorado
Cheapest Lift Tickets / AccommodationUtah
Best Ski ResortsColorado
Best SnowUtah

Overall Winner: Colorado

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