Alta Ski Resort Profile
Summary: Less than 35 miles from Salt Lake International Airport, the best snow Utah has to offer is also some
of the most accessible anywhere. Skiers of all ability levels have enjoyed Alta Ski Area's incredible lake effect
snow since 1939.
Beware, families with boarders: snowboards are not allowed at Alta. However, neighboring Snowbird does welcome
them, and "AltaBird" passes are available for skiers to go between both areas without even taking off their skis.
Whether it's the lack of snowboarders or the lack of monstrously huge buildings (as seen next door at Snowbird),
Alta has a special and unique atmosphere. The ski area owns none of the small lodges at its base, though
package deals including lift tickets are available with lodging.
All five lodges at Alta are ski-in ski-out. Vacation homes are also available, as well as condos and larger hotels in
the Snowbird area. Newcomers will be stunned at how quickly accessible Utah ski areas are from Salt Lake City,
which of course offers everything from cheap motels to five-star hotels that are only 20-45 minutes drive from all
of the Cottonwood Canyon ski areas (Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, & Brighton). Nightlife up the canyon is essentially
non-existent, so vacationers looking for some fun after sundown may find staying in Salt Lake to be an excellent
There are many shuttle and taxi companies offering transport to and from Alta, and public transit through UTA is
also a cheaper but slower route. Free shuttles also run a loop between Snowbird and Alta, hitting key lodging
points along the way.
Folks don't come to Alta for a day of pampering at the spa or a night on the town, they come to ski. Instead of
expanding amenities at its base, Alta lets the quality of the mountain, the snow, and the outstanding terrain
access speak for itself. Management has focused on enhancing the skiing experience itself, and not the après ski,
perhaps as a part of its dedication to being environmentally responsible. While lifts and tows are frequently
updated, no major construction has occurred recently except for the replacement of the old Watson Shelter with
a new, more sustainable and efficient modern building.
While local skiers would like to keep Alta's abundant powder a secret (700 inches each of the past two seasons),
highly publicized praise for Utah's snowiest resort continues to escalate. Outside Magazine joins several other
publications in proclaiming AltaBird the continent's best ski area.
Alta is great for beginners and expert skiers alike. A discounted day pass accesses the three beginner lifts only.
Those who feel they have mastered the beginner terrain can pay to upgrade their pass and go try the advanced
terrain. Families with a range of ability levels can easily split up to go find their appropriate challenges, then meet
for lunch at one of three cafeteria-style restaurants.
The Alf Engen Ski School, staffed with excellent instructors, offers a wide variety of classes, workshops, and
private lessons for all ages and ability levels. The school, like the resort, is one of the oldest in the country, and it
continues to earn awards for being a top ski school in North America.
Lodging Choices: Vacation homes and ski-in ski-out lodges at Alta, condos and hotels at Snowbird. Nothing
available at the resort on a low budget, though the cities of Sandy and Salt Lake City are within 20-45 minutes
and offer all the lodging choices of a metropolis.
Terrain: 2,200 acres (25% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 35% Advanced)
Highest Elevation / Vertical Drop: 10,550 feet / 2,020 feet
Snow: Average of 500 inches per year. The last three seasons' totals have been 401 inches, 701 inches, and 696
inches (08-09). So it can vary by 300 inches from one year to the next, but a bad snow day at Alta is a good
snow day elsewhere.
Activities for Non-Skiers: Not much, once you have become a prune in the hot tub. Don't stick around, unless
you like snowshoeing or wilderness photography, spend the day in Salt Lake City (45 minutes to downtown), with
lots of shopping, arts, movies, and sporting events.
Ski School: One of the best around. Kids lessons range from $48 (half-day) to $118 (full-day beginner). Combo
ski school/day care option is available. Adult workshops are $48 (beginning/intermediate alpine) or $62 (advanced
or telemark). All private lessons are $90/hr, and advanced reservations are highly recommended.
Day Care: Under 3 years old: $95 full-day, $80 half-day. 3 years and older: $90 full-day, $75 half-day.
Getting there: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is less than 35 miles away. From there, several shuttles
and taxis are available. If you rent a car, make sure it has four-wheel drive, or else you might be turned away
from the canyon on a snowy day.
Logan Campbell is a local Utah skier, middle school teacher, and writer with published works of fiction, poetry,
op-ed, and now ski reviews. Contact Logan by email- firstname.lastname@example.org.