Alta is the place to turn a person who likes to ski into a powder hound. Are you ready to fall deeply madly in love with skiing like that? Then Alta is your spot. Alta is teaming with a specific kind of romance and it’s a lot more accessible than you might think: both geographically and topographically.
Alta has a reputation for serving only the die-hards. Time to dispel this myth. Where I’m from in NYC, the ski buzz about Alta is that it’s for hard-core skiers and that the lodging is “rustic” at best. I admit I was a little intimidated when I found out Alta was on my itinerary. My preconception was that I wouldn’t fit in with the crowd of weathered ski bums and businessmen on boondoggles. Alta doesn’t deserve this reputation.
Turns out Alta is for everyone that loves to ski. From families to girlfriends to octogenarians, the Alta secret shouldn’t be kept any longer. Let’s talk about some of the reasons to love Alta and why you should consider it for your next ski vacation.
FIVE REASONS TO SKI ALTA
- Crazy amounts of snow. Some years Alta gets 700+ inches. It’s a reliable spot for powder hounds to find nirvana
- Access to the slopes. Alta Lodge is at the base of Collins lift. You can be skiing in a matter of minutes after you finish breakfast. It is at the top of their personal poma lift.
- Variety of terrain. From big bowls to glades to gentle beginner runs, there’s something for everyone.
- Self-selecting crowds. Folks at Alta are there to ski. The vibe is both restful and active. Spend a big day on the slopes and then unwind at night. The après scene is minimal, it's about the snow.
- Proximity to the airport. After catching a morning flight from JFK direct to SLC I was on the slopes in the afternoon. Impossible to do at any Colorado resort.
Now that you’re sold on heading to Alta, let’s talk about planning your trip. I stayed at the historic Alta Lodge and loved it. TIP: Book your room WAY in advance of ski season. They have a ton of repeat customers and only 57 rooms—making it a primo reservation. Many folks go ahead and book their room for next year when they are checking out!
Service at the hotel is attentive and friendly. There is a BUNCH of steep stairs to deal with at check in. Call down and ask for help! The staff retention rate is pretty high and everyone we talked to seemed to have goggle tans. It’s clear why they are working at the family-run resort—access to the amazing terrain and the chance to serve a crowd of like-minded souls. When you come in from skiing you’ll be welcomed by Mikey in the lobby with cocoa, coffee or hot tea and fresh baked goods. His warm smile and hearty welcome pretty much sum up the service you can expect.
In 2016, Alta Lodge has a yearlong celebration of its 75th anniversary. The building has morphed over time, while still keeping it’s low-key, minimalist appeal. When it opened its doors to guest in November of 1940, there were 12 basic rooms, a dining room and one of the few bars in all of Utah. In 1959 a new owner Bill Levitt came in and infused some money into the lodge. He added rooms and updated the décor. The current management has added a few more luxe touches without departing from the original appeal. I appreciated the modernist furniture and attention to detail.
My room was basic, but bright and functional. I had great views of the slopes and a very cozy bed. Note: none of the rooms have TV’s which is fine with me. The rooms are restful, but don’t suck you in. I got the sense that the Alta Lodge wants guest in community spaces like the large lobby, media room or hot tub area. Tip: use the humidifier in the room. I woke up at 4am completely dried out from the elevation. I filled up the humidifier and added packet of salt and was soon sleeping soundly!
Favorite spots in the hotel were the media room (where you can get the afternoon tea and bites) where you can pop in a movie from the huge DVD library and the Sitzmark Bar. In the morning, the bar serves as a yoga room. All the furniture is stacked up for fireside yoga.
In the evening, the Sitzmark is a great spot to interact with other guests. I loved the roaring fire and the warm décor. This is an old-school spot so order a classic cocktail or hearty glass of one of the local Utah brews on tap and get ready to mingle. This is THE après scene. Did you know Utah is home to 22 microbrews? Try the Unita 801.
It’s not about fancy meals at Alta. You’ll find flavorful meals that can be filling and healthy, but it’s not fine dining. Breakfast and dinner are included with your stay. The breakfast buffet is full of the usual options—my favorite item was the house-made granola. Dinner is a 4-course affair with soup, followed by a crisp salad. Pick from a few options for the main course—there’s always a vegetarian choice and fish. Thumbs up to the local trout. Finish off with a chocolately dessert or fresh fruit. While they aren’t going to get a Michelin star any time soon, I found the food quite good. Alta skiers want to get in as much time on the mountain as possible, booking trendy restaurants and driving into town isn’t going to happen with this crowd.
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As for lunch, you can get soup and salad at the lodge, but why not eat on the mountain! On our day there we spent a big morning in powder. It was awesomely exhausting. We took our lunch break at Collin’s Grill, the full-service Euro-style restaurant located above Watson’s cafeteria. The building is located midway up the Collins lift. You can’t access it from the midway point of the lift, go up and ski down to lunch. It’s worth the navigating, trust me!
Once you find Watson’s, take off your ski boots and slip on the complementary slippers while you have lunch. I tried the gumbo and the dessert was pretty attractive too. Reservations are recommended (801-799-2297).
There is a kids' room and a dedicated staff member that will organize activities and lessons for the younger guests. The small children’s area is fine for spending a few hours watching movies, but is fairly basic. The staff tries to get the kids outside as much as possible. They can sled from the front door on the poma lift area (yes, that’s how you get back to the lodge…you ride the poma back up).
I think Alta Lodge would be best suited to a family of skiers with teens who love being outside. It’s also a great spot for a romantic skiers getaway.
Alta Lodge is truly ski in ski out and most people don’t venture further than the neighboring SnowBird resort on an Alta trip. After breakfast, head to the heated locker room to boot up. In just a few turns, you’re at the Collins lift and ready to start your ski day. I recommend taking the speedy Collins up to Mambo (a groomer) to get warmed up. I also recommend getting a guide. Alta has an excellent ski school and the guides can create a magical day for you. Our guide, Julia, had us traversing all over the place on the hunt for untouched powder. Without her, I’m sure my day would have still been great, but not spectacular. The powder gods smiled on us and we had a foot of fresh powder to work with, so staying on trail wasn’t too appealing. We chased powder in the trees all day with Julia in the lead.
If you’re not ready for steeps and bumps, don’t think you can’t ski Alta. One of the big misconceptions about Alta is that there is no beginner terrain. So untrue! There’s an entire area serviced from the Sunnyside lift dedicated to kids and adults who are learning. The area is tucked away so folks ripping down an expert trail won’t mow down newbies. In fact, 25% of the terrain is just for beginners.
Again, if you’re a first-timer get a guide or a lesson. I would have stuck to the marked runs and had a phenomenal day, but with a trusted guide to lead me, I really got to experience all that Alta has to offer. Favorite run: take the Wildcat lift to the black diamond Stimulation run. It’s a great place to get in some turns!
You could easily ski for a week at Alta and not get bored. Hop over a ridge and you’ve got all of Snowbird’s terrain to ski too! The two resorts are minutes away by car or shuttle and can also be accessed by trails. I highly recommend an AltaBird/joint lift pass.
One last note, I’m excited that Alta pays particular attention to women who ski. When we were there, we got to meet up with a bunch of gals attending the 4th session of the Alta Women’s Ski Camps. Now in it’s 9th season, these camps gather enthusiastic skiers (intermediate to advanced) to improve their skills and bond. The ski camps include food and lodging but the big deal is the instruction. Camps fill quickly and start at about $2500 for double occupancy. Get more details here.
The feel of Alta is about purity. It’s worth saying that you can’t snowboard here. There’s no app like Epic Mix and you’ll be hard pressed to find folks taking selfies at the top. What you’ll get is acres and acres of terrain that will blow your mind and a mountain full of folks who ski beautifully and are passionate about their sport. I loved hearing about folks who were 80 & 90 who are still heading to ski Alta. Count me in Alta. I’m ready to join the club.
Want more skiing? Check out our 2015/2016 Ultimate Family Ski & Snowboard Guide.
This is not a sponsored post.