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Alta Ski Resort Review

Written by Andrew Mitchell   
Tuesday, 10 February 2009


35 Minutes out of SLC lies a throwback to the original days of skiing where men were men and the skis long wooden sticks with leather bits.  Alta might not pamper to the fake tanned Deer Valley set but is does provide a good old fashioned skiing experience.  An intimate resort with only 7 lifts serving 2200 acres of skiable terrain, Alta is not the biggest or most modern resort going around, but it was the first resort in the area (Utah) and one can’t help but to be reminded of how it must have been before Mr Gortex and his Nylon brothers came along.  Respect for the pioneering techniques established early last century is the main reason why snow boarders are not welcome at Alta.

The drive up to Alta provides a tasty morsel of the scenery to come.  The avalanche warnings are a little concerning, but only serve to remind that this ski resort is for real.  Little Cottonwood Canyon provides a spectacular backdrop to the varied terrain Alta serves up.  Skiers of all abilities are well served with steep gladed runs for experts and wide open trails for all to practice those carving turns.  There are groomed options from every chair and plenty of black runs to drop into for advanced skiers. Interestingly, Alta does not distinguish between advanced and expert runs (black and double black).

Intermediate skiers will enjoy the groomed trails Mambo & Main St from the top of the Collins lift and Sugar Bowl & Gravy Boat from the top of the Sugarloaf lift.  Advanced and expert skiers will enjoy the chutes in Catherines Area from the top of the Supreme lift and gladed runs off the Wildcat lift.  

Alta enjoys a higher level of snowfall than the resorts closer to Park City.  Over 500 inches of snow falls on average every year.  We enjoyed a healthy base of 91 inches during our stay and the snow was noticeably more consistent than Deer Valley or Park City (both of which had a several inches less base snow).  

Alfs Restaurant is a good option for lunch (the chilli bread bowl comes highly recommended) and the mid station café serves up an excellent hot chocolate to keep the ski legs going.  A hard day skiing is well rewarded with a pale ale from Slopeside Joe’s café.  

Alta provides a few accommodation options, however, a large number of skiers will travel from nearby areas such as Salt Lake City and Park City. Most of the ski in ski out accommodation is in the form of private lodging.

All up Alta is a rewarding experience for skiers of all abilities, provided you’re up for the drive and don’t mind riding chairs without safety bars* (if it was good enough for our forefathers it should be good enough for you – right?!). Skicow gives Alta a rating of 4½ moos.

* Comment on safety bars: Connie Marshall (Director of Sales & Public Relations) assured us that Alta has researched the pros and cons of safety bars on chairlifts and concluded few accidents result from chairlifts without safety bars. That is why Alta, in consultation with their insurance company, has opted to omit safety bars from their lifts.

Snowcat Skiing

Alta offers groups of up to 11 skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to experience guided off piste skiing in the 375 acre Grizzly Gulch Bowl which is located above Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The program starts at the Albion Base area of Alta. Snowcat skiing is for advanced and expert skiers and riders with strong off-trail skiing skills and experience.

No Boarders

With the exception of the Grizzly Gulch Snowcat program, Alta is one of the few resorts not open to boarders.

Cross Country Skiing

Complimentary to the traditional downhill ski experience, Alta provides a 5km groomed track for nordic skiing. Additionally, a track is also groomed half way up the mountain late in the season when weather and snow conditions permit. This track requires an Alta Nordic Pass.

Alta Snowbird One Ticket

Alta and snowbird have recently linked up to offer a ticket allowing skiers to access both ski areas, a total of 4700 acres and 205 trails.

Watson Shelter at Alta

Watson Shelter from the Collins high speed quad chair

Cafes and Dining

In addition to Alf’s Restaurant (mentioned in the introduction), Watson Shelter offers a good range of food and beverage half way up the mountain. Located on the first floor of Watson Shelter is the expresso bar, Baldy Brews. Alta Java in the Albion Day Lodge is a café that reportedly offers the best coffee selection in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Getting to Alta

Alta is located just 25 miles southeast of Salt Lake City at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. It's only 45 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport.

There are many transportation options to get to Alta from nearby areas such as Salt Lake City and Park City.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 12 February 2009 )


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