Utah is plenty spoiled when it comes to mountains and resorts. From the locals’ only spots like Powder Mountain to the ritzy and glitzy Deer Valley Resort and everything in between, there is something for everyone in Utah. With more snow in the forecast to come, now is a great time to be flying to Utah ski resorts and experience some of the best snow in the country.
Previously, I had written a guide on how to get to Colorado’s ski resorts.
Flying to Utah Ski Resorts: Salt Lake City
The best part about skiing in Utah has to be the proximity of world-class resorts to a major air hub—Salt Lake City (SLC). Within an hour of leaving Salt Lake City, you can be at any number of ski areas, including those located in Park City (the aforementioned Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and the Canyons), Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude, to name a few.
And that’s just what’s immediately around Salt Lake City. If you want to go further afield, there are more that require several more hours drive. For a full list, check out Ski Utah’s comparison page.
As a hub for Delta, and destination of all of the other domestic major airlines, including American, United, Southwest, Frontier, JetBlue and Alaska. Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is also, as the name suggests, an international airport, with several direct destinations to Europe, Canada and Mexico (and soon Asia?). All in all, Salt Lake City boasts an impressive route network—getting there shouldn’t be an issue. Getting there with points and miles, however, is where the nuance comes in.
Flying to Utah Ski Resorts: Delta SkyMiles
Since SLC is a Delta hub, chances are you’ll fly with them. Delta’s SkyMiles program has a not-so-stellar reputation in terms of redemption costs. It’s no secret that hobbyists lovingly (or not) have coined the moniker SkyPesos to denote each mile’s lower value compared to other miles currencies. However, you can still find value thanks to the dynamic pricing that eschews a fixed award chart.
Nearly every day that I tried in February/March, I found flights for just 4,500 miles (that’s right—it’s not a typo). Although I’m only coming from Denver, this is an outrageously good deal for a weekend getaway.
For a more balanced view, I also tried a few other cities to see how the rates would stack up. From NYC (any airport) to SLC prices ranged from 10,500 miles to 38,000 one way. And from Los Angeles (LAX) to SLC ranged from 4,500 miles to 23,500 miles, depending on dates. All taxes on these flights came out to $5.60 which is the standard federal September 11 passenger security fee levied on all tickets.
As you can see, flexibility in travel dates is paramount for navigating Delta’s nebulous award program.
Flying To Utah Ski Resorts: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
If you don’t have a SkyMiles stock, co-branded Delta Card like the Delta Platinum Card from American Express or don’t hold a Membership Rewards earning American Express Card (Delta is a transfer partner), there is an alternative you can use to fly on Delta metal.
The workaround is to use Delta’s joint-venture partner, Virgin Atlantic, and its Flying Club rewards program. Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of all three major currencies (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points, in addition to Marriot Bonvoy) and frequently runs transfer bonuses.
The fixed award chart pegs each domestic flight at 12,500 miles, making it an affordable way to get to Salt Lake City. However, Delta only releases seats to Virgin at the lowest price level. This means that the same flight that would have cost me 10,500 miles using SkyMiles will cost me 12,500 Flying Club Miles. Not exactly a deal, but not awful if I can’t scrape together the SkyMiles necessary to book through Delta.
While domestic flights might not be the best redemption for Flying Club miles, those coming from overseas can find outsized value through this program. For a one-way economy ticket originating in London during the month of February, Delta wants anywhere between 40,000 and 90,000 SkyMiles plus the obligatory UK passenger fees, which range from approximately £230- £250. For Delta One, the airline wants a crazy 135,000 to 320,000 SkyMiles plus around £440.
Compare similar dates to Virgin Atlantic, which will charge 20,000 to 30,000 in economy plus about half the fees. In Delta One, the disparity is even greater. Although dates are somewhat limited, you can find awards at exactly half of the cheapest Delta One ticket at 67,500 Flying Club miles and with fewer fees than Delta.
If you’re low on points to transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, consider applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is now offering an elevated sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles after you spend $4,000 in the first three months after opening.
Flying To Utah Ski Resorts: Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
Southwest will forever remain the champion of the ski vacation, as long as they remain famously “fee-free,” among other reasons. With two checked bags for free (three if you check your ski bag and boot bag as one item), it’s easy to save at least $100 per person per round trip, if not more.
While Southwest’s Rapid Rewards points have a fixed value of about 1.5-1.6 cents, they’re easy to earn as a transfer partner of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, with some cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve earning 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining.
Furthermore, Chase’s Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card now has an elevated sign up offer, with up to 75,000 points (40,000 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, with an additional 35,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first six months). This is the highest ever sign up bonus for the card, and one which puts you in striking distance of the legendary companion pass. The points earned from this offer will surely get you and at least a loved one (possible the entire family) to Utah for its skiing vacation.
Flying To Utah Ski Resorts: United MileagePlus
As SLC is not a United Hub, connection options are limited. The only direct flights are from United hubs. So if you’re not coming from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Denver (DEN) Houston (IAH), Chicago (ORD) or Newark (EWR), you’ll have to connect in one of these hub cities.
Like Delta, United recently made the switch to dynamic pricing for award flights. In my search, flights start from 14,000 miles and range all the way up to 34,500 miles depending on the routing and departure time. This is generally higher than getting to Salt Lake using Virgin Atlantic or Delta’s award programs. However, if you live near a United hub and have a stash of miles, this is a suitable option. Again your mileage may vary because of dynamic pricing.
If you’re running low on miles, United Mileage Plus is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, or you could sign up for Chase’s United Explorer Card, which is also offering an elevated sign-up bonus of up to 65,000 miles (40,000 when you spend $2,000 in the first three months and an additional 25,000 after you spend $10,000 in the first six months).
Along with the sign-up bonus, you get access to expanded award inventory and the first checked bag free for you and a companion when you book directly with United using the card as a way to reduce costs.
Flying To Utah Ski Resorts: American Airlines AAdvantage
Again, since SLC is not an American Airlines hub, there are only direct flights offered from actual American hubs. So unless you’re coming from Charlotte (CLT), Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX) or Phoenix (PHX), American does not offer a non-stop option.
Depending on the day and origin, fares from PHX range from 10,000 to 50,000 AAdvantage miles in Main Cabin, with prices ranging from 20,000 to 75,000 in Business/First.
While the only transfer partner to the American Airlines AAdvantage program is Marriott Bonvoy, Barclay’s AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard is currently offering a 60,000 mile sign up bonus when you pay the $99 annual fee and make one purchase in the first 90 days.
In addition to this bonus, you will get an introductory companion certificate—good for a $99 companion fare—$25 statement credit on in-flight Wi-Fi purchase and the first checked bag free for you and up to 4 companions on the same itinerary (regardless of what card with which you purchased the tickets).
Flying To Utah Ski Resorts: British Airways Avios
If you’re coming from an American Airlines hub nearby (PHX or LAX), you should take a look at British Airways Avios prices. Thanks to a distance-based awards chart, British Airways has become a sweet-spot for short-distance, direct flights. For any of these hubs, flights start at 7,500 Avios for economy and just 15,000 for business.
Not only is this a great way to save miles, but Avios are much (reiterated—much) easier to accrue than AAdvantage miles. This is thanks to their partnerships with both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards and Capital One. If flying from any of the nearby American hubs, this should be your first choice of redemption, pending availability of course.
Just to summarize, here are some great cards that will help you earn points or miles towards your next trip.
- Delta SkyMiles: Delta Platinum Card from American Express
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (a transfer partner of Chase, Amex and Citi): Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, American Express Platinum Card, Citi Premier Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Points (a transfer partner of Chase): Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve
- United Mileage Plus (a transfer partner of Chase): Chase’s United Explorer Card
- American Airlines AAdvantage: Barclay’s AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, Marriot Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Credit Card
- British Airways Avios (a transfer partner of Chase, American Express and CapitalOne): British Airways Visa Signature Card, American Express Gold Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Salt Lake City should be on the list of destinations for any serious skier or snowboarder. With world class snow and a multitude of mountains within an hour’s drive (and more just outside that radius), you can easily find a mountain or resort that fits your ability and budget. SLC has positioned itself as a major regional hub with some international connections, making it easy to get there from pretty much anywhere in the world—and inexpensively if you use points.
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