Alta, Utah

Mountain steepness for a once-a-year, barely intermediate skier:  A

On-mountain food:  NA (didn’t eat there)

Lack of Crowds: A


Alta, one of many ski resorts in the Salt Lake City, Utah area, is one of my all time favorites.  Why?  No snowboarders!!!!  New, apprehensive skiers, like I was for years (I only got to practice one week each year), do not need speeding snowboarders whooshing past them.  Alta does not have that problem, and I can tell you that the first time we went to Alta, what struck me most was how calming the place was.  If I had to rename this ski resort, I would call it Serenity.   The lifts are old and slow, but that purposely keeps less people on the mountain at any one time, so I was never fighting with a crowd.

Flying into Salt Lake City is always a pleasure; the airport is well laid out, and you can get your luggage and rental car and be on your way less than an hour after landing.  The rental cars are literally across the street from the airport terminal rental counters.  It doesn’t get much more convenient than that!

The snow at Alta is supposed to be some of the best in the world, and it certainly makes me feel like a better skier when I can just glide down runs.   Alta also sells a beginner lift ticket at a very affordable price for the lifts on the left side of the mountain, where the runs are very gentle, and absolutely perfect for beginners.  In fact, some places flatten out so much that with too much snow, you may have to start ski-skating to get moving again.  The runs off the Cecret lift are also surrounded by tall evergreens, so it’s a very beautiful, serene area.  When we’ve gone down those runs, we were often the only ones there.

I’m told there are some serious black diamonds here too, so if others in your party are at that level, Alta will make everyone happy.

I took a couple of lessons at Alta in previous years and thought they were beneficial.  Our kids seemed to enjoy the ski school when they were younger.  On our last trip, the kids (two high school junior boys and one junior high girl) were off doing some of the black runs on their own.  I heard they went off the main trail and tried to ski down through thick powder and got stuck.  The powder off the trail was so thick, that after helping his friend out, my son sank about waist deep in snow and then he couldn’t get out.  The powder is so light and dry that with every movement, he sank deeper.  Finally, he grabbed on to his friend’s skipole, and they rolled him out.  They said he looked like a snow burrito!

Alta is very popular with skiers, for obvious reasons, and on a good snow day, parking can be a problem.  I’ve seen people parking on the road up the street and walking down.  So expect some company if there’s powder.

Salt Lake City is a large city, which means it has all the benefits:  shopping, theater, arts, sports venues, etc., but also the problems:  traffic.  There’s a rush hour, like any big city, and it’s best to stay off the main freeways at those times.  We’ve become fond of both Powder Mountain and Alta, and since there are other resorts in each area, we now actually move our home base during the trip, spending part of the time in the south side near Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, and Solitude, and the other time in Ogden on the north, closer to Powder Mountain and Snowbasin.  The first time we visited Powder from our south homebase, we ran into rush hour traffic on the return drive, and it took nearly an hour and a half to get back to our hotel.  This is especially tiring after you’ve skied all day!

All in all, I highly recommend Alta if you like good snow, minimal crowds, and don’t mind old lifts.  It’s one of our favorites in Salt Lake.