Firsthand Report: Alta 1
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

Alta is rugged, spectacular, and dramatic. It is probably closest to the “real” Utah - where purists just come to ski. In fact, their motto, written on the trail map, is “Alta is a skier’s mountain. Snowboarding is not allowed”. If skiers are worried about snowboarders crashing into them, they should look to their own first. On my visit on March 4, 2006, I nearly got wiped out at high speeds by the ultra daring skiers whizzing down from the tops of the peaks. The Alta terrain park skiers were quite skilled, fast, and daring. There were some practicing jumps and aerial flips, which where not very different from the maneuvers seen in snowboard parks.

Alta is also the most economical of the big Utah resorts, and can be $20 less than some of the other areas (although neighbor Snowbird is not much higher). Its general day rate is $49. But, there are always ways to get around the general rate. Try to get package or group deals when you book any trip. In Utah and Colorado, you can save quite a bit on ticket prices if you buy first in the city. Several stores and supermarkets offer discount prices. One we checked into was Sports Den in Salt Lake City. But research the Web - there are always deals and prices tend to drop as the weather gets warmer. A new approach is the Alta-Snowbird “One Ticket” which “gives you 4700 acres/1902 hectares of terrain”. There are two crossing points between the areas, but we saved Snowbird for another day.

Transfer point from one big ski area to another: the Alta/Snowbird gate. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

My only real complaint about Alta is the lack of bars on the chairlifts. I get really nervous on lifts which do not have bars; they can be especially unnerving during high wind or sudden jolts. I was freaked out enough by the altitude and the steep terrain around me, and hung onto the armrests of the chair for dear life. It is worse for the people sitting in the middle seats.

Despite these comments, Charles and I had a wonderful day of skiing in the bright sunshine of Alta. One handsome man even came up to me and said, “stop smiling, people will think you are happy!” We had some excellent runs on double blue trails, which are equal to black or double black back home. There is a good “green” side of the mountain from the Albion Lift. Our best runs were from the Supreme and Collins Lifts. The resort is high, with the peak of Mt. Baldy at 11,068 feet. You have to hike up to that part, and take the expert Baldy Chutes down. Sugarloaf and Collins Lifts go to about 10,400 feet. The base of Alta is 8,530 feet. It’s a challenge. I really felt the altitude and the vertigo, or dizziness. It took me a while to get over my initial panic. But, once we started, the trails were manageable. The snow was soft and forgiving, and it was easy to go right though the piles of snow in many cases. They looked like moguls, but were really piles of fresh fallen snow. Charles really loved the “steep and deep.”

View from the top of Supreme. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Alta is about an hour drive from Salt Lake City. Take one of the frequent UTA public buses from the city or shuttle from the mouth of the canyon. You can go all the way from University of Utah Guest House for $1.25 per person. It’s a little inconvenient to transfer from campus bus to UTA Rail to UTA Ski Bus, but it saves fuel, money, and maybe even lives when the canyon roads are snow covered. Unfortunately there was no sign at the free parking lot which transfers to the bus on the Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, right where the Wasatch National Forest lands begin. By the time we figured out that “It Must Be the Place” we were past the entrance and committed to driving up. Fortunately the “Four wheel drive or chains required sign” was already off and the overnight snow cover was melting. The canyon roads are subject to avalanches and falling rocks. At the mountain, there was a large parking lot, with spaces available, so that was not a problem.

In short, you will probably love your visit to Alta. But, make certain you and your equipment are in shape before undertaking it.

The new Watson Shelter at Alta. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.
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About Connie Lawn

When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.

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Reader Comments

Crush
March 19, 2006
Hi ! Glad you and C. got to the "Steep and Deep" ! Alta is great I was there on Fri Mar 17 and it was great but my fav area Glory Hole was closed off due to sensitve wind-deposited snow off the ridges. I know about the "no safety bars" on the chair lift thing .. my G/F gets a little scared over it too but hey Alta/Snowbird is pretty hard-core so .....

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