If you are looking for powder, your best bet is Alta. Just be prepared to work for it. The best areas, and the longest runs, require some effort (hiking, side stepping, etc) to get to.
SLC is much closer to the Cottonwood Canyon resorts then Park City is. PCMR and The Canyons have some excellent areas, most of which are off the beaten path. Try to pick out a local and follow them. At both resorts, if one lift is crowded, another one will probably have no line at all. From PC to Alta, the drive, in good weather, is about 45 minutes to an hour. From downtown SLC to PC is about 30 minutes, to Brighton is about 30 minutes and Alta is about 30 minutes. While driving up the cottonwoods, be prepared to get stuck behind slow moving buses. Ifthe road is snowpacked, the drive gets considerably longer and the roads may be closed for hours, or even all day. Also consider Snowbasin, which is still one of the best "unknown" resorts around.
The fastest way to get to PC from Jackson (especially if teton pass is closed) is to take Highway 89 to I-80. The key is the weather. It can be anywhere from snow packed, white out conditions (in this case, don't make the drive) to clear sailing.
Maybe I misread the post, but Alta has never had ticket prices in the $50-60 range (I think that may be refering to the PC areas)
As far having beer and nachos at the end of teh day, all of the resorts have great little bars where the locals hang out. SLC actually has a decent, "underground" (term used loosely)night life. Plenty of bars, offering everything from high end martinis to fishbowls of coors light. For nightlife outside of PC, downtown SLC is your best bet.