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Salt Lake City's New Airport Raises the Bar for Skiers

The new Salt Lake City Airport is open and will make it easy for traveling skiers to get to the mountains of Utah even faster.

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Travelers seeking “The Greatest Snow on Earth” will quickly feel welcome when arriving at Salt Lake City’s new airport.  The first phase of the new airport, Concourse A, officially opened September 15, 2020, and Concourse B will now open by the end of October, just before the snow starts falling. The entire complex is LEED Gold-certified.

With ten world-class ski resorts within about 60 minutes traveling by car from the airport, it’s clear the new facility kept skiers in mind throughout the design and construction process. The new airport has implemented a new baggage system to specifically accommodate skiers and oversized luggage. Previously, ski gear and large items would arrive in a completely different spot than general suitcases, making for an inconvenient and nerve-racking process when collecting bags on arrival. Even when they arrived unbroken, it took twice the amount of time for skis to be thrown out onto the silver carousel. 

According to Ski Utah, the new airport utilizes seven miles of conveyor belts in the new baggage system, and every inch is designed to handle outdoor sports equipment. The new automated system requires less human labor and puts less physical strain on gear. Plus, the new baggage claim area conveniently located on the same level as ground transportation, so there is no need to drag claimed skis and boots up and down stairs or escalators.

Upon arrival, the Utah experience starts before even leaving the airport with stunning views of the Wasatch Mountains through a new glass wall in “The Canyon.” Created by a California based artist Gordon Huether, the Canyon plaza represents the deep and narrow valleys of Utah, home to many ski resorts.

For skiers, the convenience of flying into SLC does not stop within the walls of the airport. The ski resorts surrounding Salt Lake continue to be the most accessible in North America thanks to Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and their multiple public transportation options. UTA’s light rail system, TRAX, makes getting from the airport to downtown Salt Lake and beyond especially easy. UTA is also upgrading the airport TRAX station to better serve the new arrangement and location of ground transportation. Until this project is complete, however, there is a shuttle service to safely transport passengers to a temporary TRAX stop.

Oversize baggage claim at SLC International Airport
Looking a lot better than the corner where they used to throw out the ski bags.Photo credit: Anelise Bergin / Ski Utah

Not planning to use public transportation? There are still plenty of upgrades for skiers to enjoy. The SLC airport’s brand-new elevated roadways offer more room for passenger pick-up and drop-off, and a large designated space for Uber and Lyft drivers. These changes make the stressful, fast-pace airport curb process smoother. There are many private shuttle options taking passengers directly from the airport pick-up to the ski resort of your choice, including Airport Express Shuttle and Utah Mountain Shuttle.

Although the UTA Ski Bus does not transport skiers directly from the airport, there are stops throughout Salt Lake county that can be accessed via TRAX. By taking the train to one of these stops, skiers can take the UTA ski bus services ski areas in Big Cottonwood Canyon (Solitude and Brighton) and Little Cottonwood Canyon (Snowbird and Alta). The bus service is free to season pass and Ikon Pass holders. The UTA Ski Bus runs all day and every 15 minutes during peak hours. Not only is this service convenient for travelers, but it also reduces canyon congestion and carbon emissions as well.

Sneak in one more run on your last Utah powder day leaving you with no time to stop for lunch before catching your flight out of town? No worries, the new airport offers local food options at street prices. This means you will not have to pay absurd airport food prices for a bite to eat before boarding.

This is especially appreciated at the new Squatters Craft Beer and Wasatch Brewery locations at the new airport, including the all-new Craft Café from Squatters. The Craft Café replaces the Squatters’ location in the old C Terminal with a larger space and will feature specialty sandwiches as well as draft and canned beer from both breweries and a number of other tasty beers from the CANarchy collective, including Oskar Blues, Cigar City, and more. Wasatch Brewery plans to open a new location in the new airport in the near future, and both locations will continue to be staffed by both companys’ own craft beer creators and bartenders instead of traditional airport staff. Both locations are places you’re sure to find other traveling skiers of all types.

Rendering of the Craft Café at the SLC Airport
Rendering of the Craft Café at the SLC AirportPhoto courtesy of Squatters Brewery

All of this, plus linear concourses for faster departures and arrivals and the capacity to support the growing region at a lower cost per passenger than most major U.S. airports, means Salt Lake City has set a new standard for skiers traveling in America going forward. Let’s hope other airports under renovation (like the one just down the road from SKI Magazine’s office, wink wink) follow suit.

Jon Jay contributed to this article.