A Snowbird escape with alpine views
500 Rooms / 75 Suites
At The Cliff Lodge at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Utah, it’s impossible to escape the stunning alpine views. As the name suggests, this luxury ski-in, ski-out hotel is surrounded by the craggy peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, which provides a dazzling backdrop to the numerous activities available at the four-season resort.
Located 25 miles from Salt Lake City, Snowbird is a skier’s Shangri-la, averaging 500 inches of snowfall per year and boasting Utah’s longest ski season (mid-November to May). Daredevil skiers come out to tackle the challenging expert trails, heli-skiing and snowcat skiing. But you don’t need to be a ski pro to fill your days here — 27 percent of the trails are for beginners, plus you can try snowmobile tours, snowshoeing, aerial tram rides and more. The slopeside resort puts you in the midst of all of the action.
With its flattop roof and concrete and wood construction, the hotel’s minimalist vibe lets the beauty of the alpine surroundings take center stage while offering the necessary structural rigidity in the high-avalanche-risk zone. In the spring and summer, the grass that grows on the rooftop makes the lodge seem like an natural extension of the nearby mountains, with their jagged cliffs and green aspen trees.
Expansive windows throughout the hotel — including lofty floor-to-ceiling windows in the atrium — showcase the views, while wood paneling adds a cozy feel.
Each of the 350 guest rooms pairs mission-style wood furniture with earthy colors, nubby upholstery and streamlined décor. Bonus: All accommodations afford views of Snowbird's slopes or the glacially carved canyons.
Founder Dick Bass’s European travels influences the decor throughout the hotel. For instance, tapestries hung on the walls throughout the ski lodge are not reproductions but valuable Oriental rugs from Bass’s personal collection. (Tip: Stop by Marco Polo’s shop on the hotel’s lower level to purchase an authentic Oriental rug to ship home.) Every room includes access to a ski locker with built-in boot driers and space for up to four sets of skis. Adjoining rooms can be connected for apartment-style living that is ideal for families and groups.
The Cliff Spa is one of the oldest in the nation, opened in 1984 but recently renovated. The 30,000-square-foot sanctuary includes a fitness center, yoga studio and full-service salon with extended hours, so it’s easy to grab a hot shave or a quick blowout before dinner. Situated on the top floors of the hotel, the spa offers more than 30 treatments but is known for its Thai massage and Thai foot rub, which are pain-free ways to relieve sore muscles after an active day on the mountain. Set aside time to sit in the spa’s eucalyptus steam room, which uses a high-tech injection system to infuse the air with calming eucalyptus. It’s said to help with altitude adjustment, too — the Snowbird hotel is some 8,300 feet above sea level.
On the roof, an adults-only outdoor hot tub and pool with heated deck provide the perfect relaxation spot — and a popular place to take refuge during a winter storm. Glass walls enclose the pool and block the wind, so you can experience the majesty of a storm without standing in the cold. If you hear a cannon-like sound and feel vibrations when you’re taking a dip in the pool, don’t fret. Although it takes first-time visitors off-guard, the thunderous sound is part of routine avalanche control work.
In between the many activities — from skiing and snowboarding to mountain biking and outdoor painting — you’ll likely work up quite the appetite. There are three restaurants within the lodge to help you get your fill. In the morning, try The Atrium on the lodge’s B level for a gourmet coffee, pastry or hearty breakfast buffet. For a casual lunch or dinner, stop by El Chanate, a Mexican restaurant and cantina that is a safe bet for families. (Parents: After dining, send your older kids to the adjoining arcade so you can sample the extensive tequila collection at the bar.)
The Aerie, on the hotel’s 10th floor, is an upscale modern American gastropub. While you wait for a table in the 200-seat restaurant, look closely at the display of kimonos, part of Bass’s personal collection. The yellow threads running through the 18th-century Japanese garments are actually made from 24-carat gold. Or head straight to the swanky lounge to unwind in one of the low-set couches. Don’t be surprised if you turn your head and see a professional skier taking pictures with fans.
The cork floors and cork-backed menu hint at The Aerie’s extensive wine collection. The 40-page wine list has more than 1,000 offerings and a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator to recommend it. If you sit at the live sushi bar, be sure to try the delicious Snowbird roll with tuna, albacore, yamagobo (pickled burdock root), cucumber, avocado, hamachi, shiso leaf, crunchies, tobiko (flying fish roe) and spicy local honey. In the dining room, order the beef tenderloin with mushroom butter, roasted red onion sauce and potato flan, or maple-cured salmon with a mushroom risotto cake, fennel relish and a bacon vinaigrette.