From Desert Solitude … to Powder Altitude

By Neill Pieper

Take a quick road trip to the west and discover Colorado’s fraternal twin, Utah. A culture dominated by outdoor pursuits, Utah is becoming more and more a destination that not only provides adrenaline-filled activities, but also great food and libations after a hard day in the hills. 

Two standout areas deliver a superb getaway for the craft-loving Colorado outdoorist.

In the mountains near Salt Lake City, an average of 500 inches of annual snow is amplified by 16 nearby breweries. To the southeast, Moab area’s two national parks, Canyonlands and Arches, ride tandem, so to speak, to the town’s brewery and distillery.

There is no question that Utah makes a great getaway for adventurous Coloradans who like to earn their libations and calories.


  • About eight hours drive from Denver
  • Nine ski resorts within one hour
  • Sixteen breweries
  • Eight distilleries

While Coloradans feel spoiled with Steamboat’s Champagne powder, Salt Lake City residents and visitors are graced by nine ski resorts within one hour that offer some of the driest, lightest powder found in the Rockies.

Salt Lake City’s four closest resorts lie a mere 25 to 30 miles from downtown in the striking Big & Little Cottonwood canyons. Solitude, Brighton, Snowbird and Alta resorts seem to tower over Salt Lake like wardens, offering great powder and turns just minutes from the state capital.

It’s safe to say the skiing is top notch.

If skiing is your game, check out the Alta’s Wildcat area. Here you may “bump” into Westward Ho, a legendary run where you can almost always find powder stashes.

If boarding is more your style, right next door is Snowbird. Ride the iconic tram to the top, cruise on the Cirque Traverse and drop into Silver Fox or Dalton’s Draw.

Even though Utah’s liquor laws are not quite as friendly as Colorado’s, the foundation for a vibrant craft scene has been poured. Tap beers in Utah max out at 3.2 percent ABV, but most breweries will be happy to crack open a full-strength bottle or can. 

Brewers like the Utah Brewing Collective (made up of Wasatch Brewery and Squatters Brewery), Uinta Brewing and Epic Brewing are must-stop destinations for the beer enthusiast. Meanwhile, High West Distillery pours some of the most sought-after whiskey in the West.

Locals rave about Red Rock Brewing’s Imperial Red Ale. However, under-the-radar-standouts Proper Brewing and A. Fisher Brewing are expanding Salt Lake’s neighborhood brewery scene.


  • About five hours drive from Denver
  • Two nearby national parks 
  • Hundreds of miles of trails
  • One brewery
  • One distillery

Moab is truly a land of enchantment. Known as a haven for adventure-seekers worldwide, the area includes some of the best hiking, biking, skydiving and four-wheeling among a wonderland of arches, canyons and sandstone spires. While the popular Arches National Park is one of the most surreal places on earth, there are numerous escape routes nearby to get lost from the crowds. For an incredible day hike, first journey south to the Needles District of Canyonlands and find your way to Elephant Hill. Here, you’ll find the 

out-and-back Joint Trail, a formidable 11 miles or more. The trail has it all: arches, inspiring rock spires and views for days. After the grueling hike, head back to town to quench your thirst at the Moab Brewery. Moab’s only microbrewery offers nine year-round beers, the most popular of which, the Dead Horse Amber Ale, is named after the nearby Dead Horse State Park.

If coasting and pedaling on two wheels is more your style, you can’t leave Moab without first conquering the world-renowned Slickrock Trail, just minutes from town. The challenging 12-mile loop is located above town in the Sand Flats Recreation Area and boasts views of the nearby La Sal Mountains and the Colorado River. After the ride, you can coast back into town and stop at the famous Milt’s Stop & Eat for a much-deserved burger and shake. Milt’s has been around since 1954 and serves grass-fed burgers alongside homemade ice cream. There is nothing better than well-made comfort food after a day on the trail.

Neill Pieper uses his considerable thirst for the craft beer scene to provide editorial, marketing and photography at Thirst Colorado.