Alta for everyone: Why this Utah resort should be on your radar

With fourteen ski resorts within 45 minutes of Salt Lake City, it can be hard to decide which to call your own for your next destination ski trip. I love Park City, but don’t forget about the resorts tucked into the canyons just behind Provo, too!

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Alta Ski Resort sits in Little Cottonwood Canyon right next to Snowbird. Due to the terrain, skiers immediately feel completely tucked away and isolated from the bustle of Park City and SLC. In fact, you won’t find a ski village here, complete with manufactured pedestrian streets, ice rinks, and Patagonia shops. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but that’s just not what Alta is all about. Instead, Alta boosts five boutique lodges (the largest has only 90 rooms) nestled into the canyon, where guests sleep, eat, enjoy apres ski, and yes, dream about Alta’s epic powder.

What Alta’s all about:

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The first thing I noticed about Alta is, the people are different here. Firstly, they’re all skiers. Snowboarding is not permitted. For the most part, they’re serious about their winter recreation, and, in the case of Alta Lodge’s stellar return rate, over 70% of them have been here before.

Everywhere I went on the mountain, skiers were ardent Alta fans. The terrain is largely black diamond (expert), the chairs are mostly slow-moving doubles and triples, and the slopes are fairly unforgiving. Unlike at some resorts that plan out numerous cat tracks and groomers, Alta expects a lot of its skiers: there are many places its necessary to traverse, many opportunities to hike for higher terrain, and even a rope tow needed to get from one base to the next. In fact, long-time skiers affectionately joke Alta stands for Another Long Traverse Ahead.

Alta is an experience more than it is a mountain. It’s about the people, the traditions, the light, deep snow.

Average snowfall in Little Cottonwood Canyon is a whooping 551 inches per season, and Alta uses it to the max, with  2,200 lift-served acres (more if you skin it) and over 115 runs. Words to come to mind while I ski Alta include ‘authentic’, ‘old-school’, and ‘no joke’.

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While Alta is known as an ‘expert hill’, there’s terrain for everyone. On its Sunnyside base, the Alta ski school provides a welcoming, genuine experience, and there are plenty of green runs to get you going. What I noticed Alta lacked was the in-between: if you like long, blue groomer or rolling corduroy, it seemed to be in short supply. If you’re an expert, the Supreme and Collins lifts will take you to big bowls, powdery slopes, and tree stashes. We skied on a powder day, and there was so much terrain (with so few crowds), we easily found powder well after lunch.

Alta Lodge:

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As mentioned above, Alta Ski Resort has five lodging options, as well as a collection of mountain homes for rent privately. I stayed at Alta Lodge, situated just above the base area overlooking Goldminer’s Daughter and the expanse of the canyon. From the outside, Alta Lodge is decidedly rustic; in fact, it reminded me of the lodges we stayed in at Tahoe back in the ’70s and ’80s. A poma lift takes you to the door, which opens onto a cozy, warmly-appointed lobby and living space. Here, skiers can warm themselves by the fire in comfy chairs, enjoy coffee, tea, and cookies in the afternoon, and take in stunning mountain views in the small sitting room.

Downstairs, the ski locker room has been recently redone, and even features a ping pong table to use before or after your ski day. The lodge is ski in, ski out, and a four-course dinner and full breakfast is included in your nightly room rate.

Down the winding hallways of the lodge, two hot pools and saunas await skiers needing to soak, and upstairs, the Sitzmark Club offers incredible ambiance for apres ski drinks. It’s true that when not skiing, your Alta lodging choice will be where you spend all your time while in Little Cottonwood Canyon, but trust me, you won’t mind.

In fact, I loved the simplicity of knowing I’d park my car once, and spend all my time in the same cozy place.

During my stay at Alta Lodge, I noticed it was not unusual to see the CEO and the owners frequently. This lodge has been family-run since 1959, and is currently celebrating their 75 anniversary (of opening)! Guests come back year after year; in fact, return guests get first dibs at rebooking for the following year. I loved the all-inclusive feel to the lodge, as well as the genuine community atmosphere. Skiers mingled in the bar and at dinner, sharing stories of the slopes.

Included in the room rate:

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In addition to a full dinner and full breakfast daily, guests have complimentary ski lockers, the hot tubs, and a full childcare program. Kids are taken to ski school and brought back, given a kids’ dinner separately (while adults are still enjoying the bar or pools), and entertained in a staffed childcare area after dinner. They also transport kids to and from ski school lessons. (Note: full-time childcare is not available). I met the childcare staff and was impressed by the quality of this free program.

Guests can invite additional friends to dinner (using credit for the next night…eat out or trade with friends) or substitute a lunch for dinner. A full lunch is available at the lodge during the day (extra charge unless substituting). There’s also the daily afternoon tea, including pastries, cookies, and hot beverages, and complimentary yoga classes in the mornings before the ski day.

Standard room rates are around $400, with lower priced rooms that have not yet been remodeled, and even dorm rooms for as low as $122. All rooms, regardless of type, come with meals. I believe the value is absolutely there. We will be back with the whole family!

Skiing at Snowbird:

While at Alta, you should absolutely ski Snowbird as well. Located right ‘next door’, Snowbird offers terrain that rivals Alta (some say it’s better) and both can be skied with the same Mountain Collective Pass. It’s possible to ski from one resort to the other, so I absolutely recommend the dual pass. Alta lift tickets start at $89/day for adults, making it significantly less than larger Park City area resorts. Snowbird is under $100, and in spring, is reduced as much as 50%. It’s possible to upgrade day passes to include both Snowbird and Alta.

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We experienced Alta and the Alta Lodge as guests of Ski Utah, for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

 

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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Comments

  1. Hi Amy!

    I couldn’t miss out on chiming in on this one. Great post! Alta is just unbelievable, right? It’s hard to put into words the kind of snow that Little Cottonwood Canyon gets until you see it for yourself.

    I’ve skied Snowbird and Brighton as well (but not with the kids) and love the old-school, non-commercial vibe as well. Even in late March, they just get dumped on and it’s so much fun!

    Keep skiing!

    -Carrick

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