Nobody said the "Greatest Snow on Earth" would be cheap.
But Utah ski vacationers can seek bargains or find luxury, according to the travel website TripAdvisor that recently ranked North American ski destinations based on cost.
Salt Lake City ranked No. 4 in the top 10 "Best Value Ski Destinations."
In TripAdvisor's top 10 list of "Most Expensive Ski Destinations," Park City got the No. 3 spot behind Vail and Aspen.
But whether lodging at a five-star hotel in Deer Valley, replete with ski butlers, wine stewards and international cuisine, or packing it in at a Motel 6 downtown with cable TV, warm shower and nearby McDonald's, everybody gets the snow and comes away with big smiles and stiff legs.
Utah's capital city boasts seven major ski resorts within 45 minutes of downtown (on dry roads).
"Salt Lake City is a great ski value for families," said Tracie Cayford, deputy director of the Utah Office of Tourism. "We like to promote our accessibility and value."
Visitors can be skiing the same day they touch down at Salt Lake City International Airport, said Susie English, communications director for Ski Utah.
"Once they experience that and the variety of resorts and the quality of our snow, they come back," she said.
On the other hand, TripÂAdvisor's ranking on most expensive ski destinations put Park City in the rarefied atmosphere with Vail and Aspen.
And it's true that after the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City has attracted a handful of five-star hotels.
"We have a great selection of luxury accommodations," said Bill Malone, president of the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. "But that doesn't say you can't do an economy trip in Park City. Many people figure out how to do a ski vacation on a budget."
TripAdvisor calculated its rankings based on five categories, the average price of a:
• Single night hotel cost within a 5-mile radius of the destination
• Basic daily ski rental that includes boots, skis and poles
• Lift ticket
• Hamburger and fries from local restaurants
• Bottle of domestic beer
The single-day total of those categories for Salt Lake City was $245.31. The single-day total for Park City was $667.34.
The Park City total may have been skewed upward by the average hotel price, explained English, because hotels like St. Regis, The Waldorf Astoria and Montage are much more expensive than other lodgings.
Nonetheless, Park City has come a long way since it was an upstart, wannabe kind of place, said the town's mayor, Dana Williams.
He was the proprietor of Ryan's Bar from 1979 to 1985 when Deer Valley was brand new and the little ParkWest ski area occupied the mountain where Canyons Resort now stands in all its glory.
"A lot of people see Park City as this upscale place," Williams said. "But to the locals, it's still the funky, friendly place it always has been."
Park City and Salt Lake City share at least one thing in common: Both are rife with excellent restaurants.
It's possible to get a good dinner in Park City for $10, Williams said.
Of course, you can spend a lot more. And a growing number of people seek luxury on ski vacations, as evidenced by the "Park City Restaurant Guide."
But Salt Lake City, too, has a host of upscale restaurants that complement a huge array of family-priced spots, said Cayford.
"Utah has something for everyone high end or affordable."
Average per-day ski trip expenditures
Salt Lake City • Hotel, $121.32; ski rental, $31.65; lift ticket, $74.75; meal, $12.98; beer, $4.61. Total: $245.31
Park City • Hotel, $539.67; ski rental, $37.67; lift ticket, $86.67; meal, $9.75; beer, $3.58. Total: $667.34
Source • TripAdvisor
Best value ski destinations in North America
1 • Durango, Colo.
2 • Bend, Ore.
3 • Taos, N.M.
4 • Salt Lake City
5 • North Conway, N.H.
6 • Whitefish, Mont.
7 • Kingfield, Maine
8 • Sun Valley, Idaho
9 • Jackson Hole, Wyo.
10 • Banff, Canada
Source • Tripadvisor