Last year I picked skiing back up with my first season at Alta Ski Resort, and this season I’m excited to report that I’ll be back at Alta for round 2. While Alta is home to some of the world’s best powder and some incredible skiers, it’s a very welcoming mountain for skiers of all levels.
Thinking about heading to Alta for your next ski vacation? This post shares all of the details about Alta – from the terrain, lessons, and ski rentals to the on-mountain lodging and dining options. Plus, you’ll need to know where to get a tasty beverage at the end of a long day of shredding 😉
Here’s the Ultimate Vacation Guide to Alta Ski Resort.
Alta Ski Resort: The Ultimate Vacation Guide
••• Where is Alta Ski Resort•••
Alta Ski Resort is known for having some of the best powder in the world and has been a skiers-only mountain since it opened as one of the country’s first ski resorts in 1938. Its base is at 8,530 feet at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon about 35 miles from Salt Lake International Airport, making it slightly closer to the airport than Park City. If you are staying at one of Alta Ski Resort’s hotels, they can help arrange transportation to and from the airport, since you will not need a car once you are at the mountain. Everything is walkable.
••• Where to Stay at Alta •••
Alta Ski Resort has 5 different lodges right at the base. All of them are privately owned and breakfast and dinner is included at all. Each one has a different vibe and a price to match. For travelers on a budget, many of them also offer dorm rooms which are actually quite reasonable given that most of food is included. Last year I had the chance to stay at 4 of the different Alta hotels and really enjoyed my stays at all of them. For more details on some of Alta’s lodging options, click on the images below.
••• Where to Eat & Drink at Alta •••
Alta has 3 cafeteria style dining spots, on the mountain. The first is Albion Grill which is right in the upper parking lot next to the ski school. This is the #1 dining destination if you have young kids and want to grab a bite before or after they finish their lesson. Albion Grill is the only cafeteria that serves breakfast as well, and you can also grab a good cup of coffee at the Alta Java.
The second dining option at Alta is Alf’s at the base of the Sugarloaf lift. This spot is also more child-friendly due to the food and its location on the easier/intermediate side of the mountain.
The third cafeteria is called Watson’s Shelter and is located halfway down the front side of the mountain along the Collins lift. Here you can feast a 100% grass-fed, Utah raised burger and sip on local Uinta microbrew. Watson’s also has a coffee shop on the first floor with a small number of snacks and hot drinks.
If you want to go all out, make sure to check out Collin’s Grill which is a fine dining establishment on the third floor above the cafeteria at Watson’s. This is a”take off your boots and put on slippers” kind of joint, where you can enjoy dishes such as roasted duck breast and wild salmon along with a fine bottle of wine. They also mix up delicious cocktails, and it’s the only place on the mountain outside of the hotels that serves wine and mixed drinks. While you don’t need a reservation, they are helpful…so give them a call and let them know when and the number of people (801-799-2297 ). Dishes run about $16-24 a plate.
Photo: Alta Ski Area
If you’re in the mood for some bomb pizza or a huge plate of nachos and a cold beer, make sure to stop by the Goldminer’s Saloon on the second floor at Goldminer’s Daughter Hotel which is right at the main parking lot at the Collins lift. Goldminer’s also has a happening patio with the occasional live band and is a fun place to socialize at the end of the day.
The best happy hour spot at Alta is the upstairs bar at the Peruvian – known by locals as the P-Dawg. They have live music, cheap drinks, free apps while they last, and lots of big comfy couches with a view of Alta.
The Shallow Shaft
If you want a swanky dinner outside of the lodges, the Shallow Shaft located right across from the Alta Lodge is a cozy spot with an innovative regional menu. They also recently won an award for the “Best Wine List in Salt Lake” by the City Weekly Paper.
Photo: Shallow Shaft
••• Skiing Terrain at Alta •••
Photo: Alta Ski Area
While Alta Ski Resort is a frequent destination for competitive big mountain skiers, there is more than enough terrain to keep beginners happy and allow them to build confidence. In fact, last year was my first year back on skis in a decade, and I’m so happy I chose Alta as my mountain. The average annual snow fall of 500” means there is a plethora of amazing snow days, and there are tons of green and blue groomers to stay busy as you get more comfortable. Plus pretty much no matter where you are on the mountain, there is signage indicating the easiest way down. So beginners, don’t be intimidated by this world-class mountain.
If you are a beginner, you’ll want to start in Albion Basin. Most of the green runs are located on this side of the mountain. Once you are comfortable tackling the runs from the Albion Lift, you can continue up the Sugarloaf lift. This will take you high up on the mountain where’ll you get amazing views, and you still have a number of green and blue groomers to choose from on your way down.
The Supreme Lift goes further offering a diverse set of runs and a bit of backcountry access for those who are confident on groomers and want to try skiing some powder.
Once you’re fully comfortable with the blue runs that Alta Ski Area has to offer jump back on the Sugarloaf lift and take the East Baldy Traverse (EBT) over to the top of the Collins Lift. The terrain over there is mostly intermediate to advanced and offers steeper groomers and a ton of off-trail powder skiing. If you get caught over here, you can still make your way to the bottom on cat tracks and look for signs so you can find the easiest way to the bottom.
••• Renting Skis at Alta •••
There are a number of ski shops located at the mountain, and if you need equipment I’d highly recommend renting it at Alta, rather than down in Salt Lake. That way, if you have any issues with your boots fitting or you want to swap out skis, you can do so very easily.
The official Alta ski shop is located right at the base of the Collins lift right next to where you purchase your lift ticket. They have all types of packages from first-time skiers to advanced demo packages, which include a 4-buckle boot and some of the best powder skis you can buy.
If you are staying at any of the hotels at Alta, most of them also have their own ski shops on site.
In April every year, Alta does their Annual Demo Day. This is a super fun event where over a dozen companies bring all of their best skis for you to try out for free.
••• The Alta Ski School •••
Alta Ski Area has one of the best ski schools in the country, yet their lessons are less expensive than many of the bigger resorts like Park City and Deer Valley. They offer everything from group and private one-on-one lessons to advanced powder coaching. I took a half-day private lesson last year, and it was a great experience. Not only did it introduce me to all of the different parts of the mountain that I probably wouldn’t have explored on my own, my instructor Jonathan helped me refine my form and technique and by the end of it, I successfully made it down my first black diamond run.
Two-hour group lessons for adults run $70, while four-hour lessons for kids average $135.
Throughout the season, there are a number of multi-day ski clinics, including women’s specific ski camps. Most of are designed to help intermediate to advanced skiers kick up their skills to the next level. Alta Ski Resort also offers Alta Ladies Day – a 6-week program which runs Thursday mornings (9:30 am – 12:00 pm) from January 12 – February 16, 2017. This $540 program is a great opportunity to work with instructors in a small supportive group of women and to work on your technique in a variety of snow conditions.
••• Alta Lift Tickets •••
Thanks to Alta Ski Area for hosting me this season.
Unless noted, all photos copyrighted by Kristen Bor / Bearfoot Theory