Alta

Utah, USA

Alta has just a few basic lodges making it feel more like what ski resorts would have been like in the 60s. But as much as people love it for the lack of overdevelopment seen in other resorts, the real reason they come here is for the mountain. Dedicated to skiers only it is steep and fast, has spectacular scenery and the powder snow is some of the best in the world.

Scout Loves

  • The lack of crowds, especially during the week.
  • Free refills. It’s not uncommon for it to be snowing so hard that by the time you get come back for your next run, all your tracks have been covered.
  • Down-to-earth, lodge-style accommodation (such as Alta Peruvian) where you mix and mingle with like-minded skiers.
  • The silver lining from staying on the mountain on an interlodge day, when high snowfall closes the road to the resort due to avalanche danger and guests must stay in their lodge. Once the mountain opens, lodge guests can often have the mountain to themselves, sometimes for hours before the road is open.
  • The Sitzmark bar in Alta Lodge – a favorite apres bar for many locals, and Scout.

Scout Tips

  • If you arrive from a flight you can convert your boarding pass into a half price Alta Snowbird lift ticket if it’s still within 24 hours of your arrival, Monday through Friday.
  • You won’t need a car in Alta. If you do want to ski Snowbird you can access it via gates or on the public bus.
  • Alta has very limited off-mountain facilities. Don’t expect a village with ice-skating rink, shops and restaurants.
  • The one access road up the Little Cottonwood Canyon can be slow mornings and nights. Allow extra time if heading to the airport. It also regularly closes due to bad weather or avalanche danger. It would be wise to take out travel insurance in case you are stuck.
  • Some of the lifts are old and slow. Relax and enjoy the scenery.
  • Snowboarders are not allowed.
  • Alta is part of the Mountain Collective.

Scout Review

Sometimes you wish you could bottle something and preserve it forever in its current state. Alta Ski Area is one of those. Situated at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, east of Salt Lake City, the resort is one of the least developed among those on Scout, but that is what makes it so special. If you’re after luxury and five-star amenities then you will want to go somewhere else. Alta is about as down-to-earth as you can get in the way of a ski resort, where people come to ski and that’s about it.

That’s because Alta is an incredible mountain. A series of new and old lifts service terrain that is varied – there’s something for everyone here - but the mountain does favor the more advanced skier who will be able to find a challenging run, every run. Alta has some of the gnarliest inbounds runs in North America, especially the Baldy Chutes and East Castle. The legendary High Rustler is a steep shot straight down to the base area while the Supreme lift and Catherine’s area have endless lines in trees – you’ll keep finding powder stashes here all day.

One of the most recent developments to Alta has been the opening of several gates to Snowbird and a joint lift ticket allowing you to ski both mountains in one day. It’s definitely worthwhile if you’re here for more than a few days.

Part of the fun of skiing Alta is watching everyone else enjoy it too – incredible skiers flock to the mountain and they can be inspiring to watch as they rip up the powder.

Alta feels like a real ski community where everyone is welcome and locals will happily show you their favorite line. Well, most locals will.

Alta Accommodation

There are just a couple of lodges in Alta, most of which work on the old-school basis of including breakfast, dinner and sometimes lunch in the rate. That’s because there aren’t really any other restaurants in the village. They’re more of a communal affair with large dining tables where everyone mixes in together. The lodges are all spread out however you can walk amongst them if you really wanted to, but it can be freezing at night. So usually once you’re in for the night, you generally stay in. See Scout’s favorite - Alta Peruvian.

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Resort Activities

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There aren’t fat stacks of other activities in Alta. You can experience snowcat skiing in Grizzly Gulch, which includes five guided runs and breakfast. There are several guiding operators who can safely take you backcountry from the resort. Scout has used Alaska Mountain Guides.

 

Getting There and Around

Salt Lake International Airport (SLC) is 33 miles from Alta. Travel time from the airport to Alta is about 45 minutes.

The Alta Shuttle departs every 20-30 minutes from the airport until 1am and costs $37 pp one way. Book in advance.

When To Go

Alta opens towards the end of November (usually around the 22nd, conditions permitting) and stays open until the end of April. It continues to open on weekends until the first weekend of May (conditions permitting).

Alta can get very cold – particularly in late December and January. But the snow can be fantastic. February is usually the most reliable month and sometimes the snow can be excellent until the end of the season.

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 8530ft / 2600m Express Quads 2 Beginner 25%  
Summit Elevation 10,550ft / 3216m Triple Chairs 2 Intermediates 40%  
Vertical Drop 2020ft / 617m Double Chairs 3 Advanced 35%  
Skiable Area 2200ac / 890ha Surface Lifts 4      
Annual Snowfall 560in / 14.2m          
Longest Run 3.1 miles / 5.1km          
Operating Hours 9.15am –3.00pm          
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