Salt Lake City is known for...
Almost universally, Mormons are the first thing people associate with Utah. It was this group, the Mormons, who first settled the state, arriving in Salt Lake City on July 24, 1847. Officially called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these people had been rejected from every city they had previously occupied, and so headed west to the barren Great Basin Desert. Armed with industriousness and fervent beliefs, the Mormons went head-to-head with the challenging climate and laid their roots. Completely isolated from outside society, their religion bloomed and spread. Though passing decades would dilute their population with miners, railroad workers, and other “gentiles,” the Mormons will forever be intertwined with the history and culture of Utah. Today you can visit their most famous landmark, Temple Square, at no charge.
Salt Lake City occupies one of the nation's most spectacular and unique landscapes. To its immediate west, the Great Salt Lake occupies an area between that of Rhode Island and Delaware (depending on its water level), and has roughly 10 times the salinity of ocean water. If you can tolerate its strong odor, take a dip in it; you won't be able to sink! From the surface of the lake, at an elevation of 4,210 feet, the landscape climbs 1.5 vertical miles to the peaks of the adjacent Wasatch Mountains, which top out at 11,928 feet, on the summit of Mt Nebo. On its ascent to the craggy tops of the Wasatch, it passes through many climate zones contained on the valley floor, on the foothill slopes, and in the deep mountain canyons.
Exactly because of this crazy landscape, the skiing in the Salt Lake City area is utterly world class. Major winter storms tracking northeast sweep easily across the low, west desert before plowing into the Wasatch Mountains. Pinned against this wall, the clouds dump an average of 500 annual inches of extremely light and fluffy snow. The result is four major ski areas operating within 35 minutes of Salt Lake City: Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, and Solitude. Within another 30 minutes of driving, you can reach three more in Park City (The Canyons, Deer Valley, and Park City Mountain Resort), and another two in Ogden Valley (Snowbasin and Powder Mountain).
4. 2002 Winter Olympics:
Given the Wasatch's first-rate ski conditions and resorts, these mountains were a logical choice to host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. With events taking place across the Wasatch region, the Olympics left behind many beneficial structures in the community, including the Utah Olympic Oval skating facility in Kearns and the Utah Olympic Park in Park City. Today this contains one of a handful of North America's Nordic ski jumping, bob sledding, luge, and skeleton facilities.
Perhaps the least famous (or best hidden!) of its attributes, Salt Lake City has a thriving cultural scene. This includes its performing arts groups, award-winning (and generally affordable) restaurants, and, of course, the Sundance Film Festival. Home to the world-class Ballet West, the Salt Lake Symphony, and Utah Opera, among others, Salt Lake City lavishes its residents in the fine arts. Its restaurants, which cover every price range and global cuisine, leave nothing to be wanted. And the world's largest and most famous independent film festival, Sundance, makes its home in Park City every January –with many events spilling into Salt Lake.