A surprise Utah ski resort was named Ski Magazine’s ‘Best in the West’

Deer Valley drops, Ogden resorts rise as an abundance of snow, crowded Cottonwood Canyons and a move toward reflecting the ski experience created a shakeup in annual readers poll.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Early powder enthusiasts ski at Snowbasin Resort, Nov. 21, 2022. The Ogden Valley resort made its highest-ever showing in the 2024 edition of Ski Magazine's annual Best of the West readers survey.

Move over, Wasatch Front. The Back is apparently where it’s at.

Seven of Utah’s 15 resorts made the cut when Ski Magazine released its annual Best of the West readers poll rankings Friday. Four of those sit on the Wasatch Back — the east side of the range. Of those, three made the top 10, including No. 1 and No. 2.

Think you know which ones they are? You might want to reconsider. While Park City’s resorts have long held court on the list and at times been the sole representatives of the Wasatch Back, the write-up about the winner notes: “This one took the SKI staff by surprise.”

So what does it say that Powder Mountain was named the top resort in the West, followed closely by its neighbor Snowbasin? According to Nathan Rafferty, Ski Utah’s president and CEO, it means the secret is out about the Ogden Valley.

“The Ski Magazine readers and editorial staff finally are understanding what we knew all along,” he said, “which was that Powder Mountain and Snowbasin are amazing places to ski.”

Powder Mountain catapulted to the top from a No. 18 ranking in 2023. Snowbasin was No. 14 last year. Alta Ski Area jumped up to No. 7 from No. 17, whereas Deer Valley dropped from No. 2 to No. 9. The list also included Snowbird at No. 13, Park City Mountain at No. 15 and Brighton, which was left off last year’s rankings, at No. 17.

The major shift in rankings reflects, in part, a change in how Ski Magazine conducts its poll. This year, in response to reader feedback, it gave extra emphasis to categories that reflect the ski experience. Those include the quality of snow, how challenging a mountain is, terrain variety, grooming and lifts.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Starting in 2024-25, Deer Valley Resort will expand onto lifts and terrain built as part of the Mayflower development, shown here on Dec. 16, 2022.

An article explaining the changes noted that “resorts that scored higher in those categories will see a boost in their ranking.”

The new equation worked in favor of all of the Utah resorts on the list except one. As curious as the rise of Powder Mountain and Snowbasin was, just as notable was the fall of Deer Valley. Deer Valley landed among the top 3 of the list in 1998 and spent two decades there, including rising to No. 1 in North America in the 2018 survey.

“There’s no denying that the resort’s popularity has come home to roost,” this year’s writeup said.

While the Deer Valley’s trademark service and food still earned high marks, readers lamented the perceived increased crowds since Alterra Mountain Resorts, which runs the Ikon Pass, bought the property. The resort is working to remedy that issue, though. This season Ikon passholders will be required to make reservations. Next year the resort plans to open nine lifts and seven runs on 874 acres of terrain it absorbed from the neighboring Mayflower development.

While Utah as a whole benefitted from the changes in the survey, there’s no doubt the state’s exceptional snowfall last season also worked in its favor. Alta finished its record-keeping in April with 903 inches, which was more snow than any other resort on the continent reported and nearly twice its seasonal average.

The abundance of snow drew a record number of people to Utah to ski and ride, especially as seasons dried up early in the East. As they looked for new places to explore, and as the Cottonwood Canyons struggled with traffic congestion and avalanche closures, the state’s lesser-known, or at least less-crowded, resorts got their chance to shine.

Snowbasin impressed with its fast lifts, grooming and variety of terrain. The knocks against it? That it doesn’t have lodging and that, in its first year on the Ikon Pass, it is beginning to get crowded.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Powder Mountain General Manager Kevin Mitchell, shows the spot for the new chairlift at Powder Mountain Ski resort, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023.

The uncrowded nature of Powder Mountain, on the other hand, apparently helped readers see past its shortcomings. When billionaire Reed Hastings bought a stake in the resort in April, he painted it as a diamond in the rough. He acknowledged its lifts need upgrading and its facilities updating and it has no lodging or nightlife to speak of. Hastings began addressing the first of those issues this season as part of a $100 million investment that made him the majority shareholder and chief decision maker.

But none of those plans were in place when Ski Mag conducted its poll. The attributes that attracted Hastings to the mountain — in particular its limiting of ticket sales to reduce crowding — spoke to Ski Mag readers, too.

“We are thrilled to be #1 in the West, which obviously means #1 in the USA! Now we have to work harder to stay on top,” Hastings said in a message to The Tribune.

“We are not on Epic/Ikon, so we can remain uncrowded. If you’re frustrated by the ants-on-a-sugar-cube of other great resorts, come ride with us.”

Ski Magazine 2024 Best of the West


No. 17 Brighton (unranked)

No. 15 Park City Mtn (No. 30)

No. 13 Snowbird (No. 25)

No. 9 Deer Valley (No. 2)

No. 7 Alta Ski Area (No. 17)

No. 2 Snowbasin (No. 14)

No. 1 Powder Mtn (No. 18)