Great marketing and great snow conditions have conspired to make Alta a cult resort for skiers seeking deep, talc-dry powder on steep and challenging terrain. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t good skiing for other skiers too.
OverviewBy European standards the resort is somewhat on the small side (even taking into account the link to neighbouring Snowbird, which actually makes it one of the biggest ski areas in the USA). As with many other North American resorts the vertical drop is also rather a small number (see right), and whilst the hype about the snow can sometimes be just that, when the going is good Alta can make for an off-piste paradise for skiers. Snowboarders should be aware that, somewhat bizarely in this day and age, they are not permitted to ride Alta's slopes.
Ski areaThe skiing is on the lightly wooded peaks of Mount Baldy (11,070 ft) and Point Supreme (10,500 ft), with a link to Snowbird via the Sugarloaf Quad. The slopes are rarely too busy and lift queues (or ‘lines’) are seldom a problem.
There are numerous steep slopes and chutes descending from the high ridges running off the peaks which when in condition have world class powder skiing for experts, although accessing the best lines requires local knowledge and involves a good deal of traversing.
For intermediates looking for challenging groomers Alta is ideal, with a fun selection of blue and more challenging black diamond runs (no reds in North America) as well as offering the chance to cut your teeth in the powder to the sides (the ski school here specialises in powder lessons).
For beginners there are some very decent novice slopes above Albion Base and you can get a cheaper lift pass covering just three lifts, but the somewhat gung-ho off-piste focus of the ski action in Alta isn’t really conducive to making it a place to learn to ski.
There’s also a Children’s Center at Albion Base for kids as young as six weeks.
Off the slopes and après-skiAlta is totally focussed on powder skiing, as can be seen from the dearth of anything else to do. There are just a few kilometres of cross-country and snowshoe trails and that’s about it, although it’s well worth a trip to nearby Salt Lake City to see the impressively wide streets, Mormom temple and a good selection of restaurants and bars (yes, Utah is not ‘dry’).
Après-ski is equally limited, with most visitors dining in their hotel (of which there are just a handful since Alta is a small resort strung along the bottom of what was once a gold mining valley). The Goldminer’s Daughter Saloon can get reasonably lively when the skiing has ended, but there’s nothing in the way of European style late night après-ski action.