Big vs Little Cottonwood Canyons...
Hey SB, I am including a link below that SHOULD show the relationship between BIG Cottonwood Canyon (Brighton/Solitude) and LITTLE Cottonwood Canyon (Snowbird/Alta).
740&P=|40.6235984712839%2c-111.711391154677|flag_start|Start|L1||40.588542502 3735%2c-111.645835032687|flag_end|End|L1|&TI=Peruvian+Acre +Rd%2c+Midway%2c+UT+84049
(you might have to zoom out, etc. to see the whole route???)
The green line shows the actual driving route between Brighton and Alta, but I'm sending it that way to highlight the canyon routes. The highlights make a "C", the top arm of it is BIG Cottonwood, the bottom is LITTLE Cottonwood.
A different way to describe what you see there; The suburbs of Salt Lake run right up to the edge of the first hills/mountains... (That would be where the vertical part of the C is) then narrow canyon roads zig and zag up to the two resort areas. In those nearest suburbs, Sandy and such, there are regular subdivsions, strip shopping centers, big box stores, restaurants, etc. I'm sure most of the national chains also have hotels in those nearest suburbs too. It's basically normal suburbia, but without liquor stores since it's utah!!! (there is 3.2 beer in the grocery stores, and a goverment liquor store is maybe 20 minutes from Sandy???)
I would think others will have specific recommendations for a place to stay for you, but as long as you are along a more major street I would think you could catch a bus? Haven't taken them though.
I have a buddy who lives a mile from the entrance to Little, so haven't ever had to find another place to lay my head. Speaking of it, he has a 1,200 sq.ft. walk-out BASEMENT finished with a guest room + the 2nd gorgeous kitchen (much nicer than mine) + media room with 72 inch high def TV and that BASEMENT has views out over the whole city of Salt Lake... glittering lights at night everywhere. I should hop in the car and head there right now!!! Dick & Cathy, I'm on my way, whooo hooo. (grin leaves my face and turns to horror as I realize I'm NOT really jumping in the car right now, dangit)
I've had turns at 3 of the 4, been with my family and had younger kids along so have NOT explored every part of the resorts... but that won't stop me from giving you an opinion will it?
Availability of some easier terrain to those with little of it would be IMHO; Brighton, Solitiude then Snowbird.