It was the end of an epic ski day at Alta Resort in Utah. The kids were playing board games in front of a fireplace in the lounge of the skier’s classic Peruvian Lodge, while my husband and I snuck up to the bar for a quick après ski drink. We were trying to squeeze just a few more memorable moments out of our short stay at this powder seeker’s Mecca. I started pulling off my ski gear to reveal a freshly purchased Alta t-shirt. I don’t know what had come over me. I never buy the t-shirt. The last promotional t-shirt I purchased was probably at a Prince concert in the 90s. Yet, there I was, saddled up to the bar, drinking my local craft cider, sporting my latest purchase. Glancing past the bartender I noticed a bumper sticker stuck to a mirror that said, “NO ONE CARES YOU SKI ALTA”.
I couldn’t help but laugh as I tried to explain to my husband what had led to this unusual purchase. All I can say, is that after one of the best ski days of my life, floating through 12 inches of feathery powder all day with my kids, I wanted people to know that I Ski Alta. Like that awkward situation when Tom Cruise jumped on the couch on Oprah, I was head over heels in love and felt a deep need to share it with the world.
Why Ski Alta?
We had come to Utah specifically to ski Alta. Although we were on a Utah Sampler ski trip that would also include Solitude, Park City and Deer Valley — this was the main event. Alta is revered in ski communities for several reasons. First, as their tagline states, Alta is for Skiers — only. You want to snowboard? Go next door to Snowbird. Second, Alta oozes character, with its low tech vibe and retro village charm. Expect tired quads at the end of your ski day as there is nary a leg rest in site. Third, Alta is renowned for deep powder days. Due to its unique location in the Wasatch Mountain Range, it has by far the greatest annual snowfall of all Utah ski resorts, with almost double that of popular mountains only 45 minutes away (see the Ski Utah resort comparison chart). Alta almost always gets top billing for the best snow in all of North America. Speaking as a West Coast skier, where the snow often is a little heavier (and a lot more work), I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. I just floated through my ski day.
Alta Ski Resort for Families
While lively in the daytime, the mountain is pretty quiet at night, making it a perfect place to unplug and connect with family (If you require a lively village life or shopping, this is not the place). Kids 4 years and up will be tearing down the mountain in no time through the excellent lessons offered at the Alf Engen Ski School. The Alta Children’s Centre at the Albion Base provides daycare for children 6 weeks to 9 years (with an optional ski lesson add-on for kids 2-5 years). Several hotels offer specialized kids programming after the ski day is done (See Alta Lodge and Rustler Lodge for details). As and added bonus, lift tickets at this mountain are more than 30% cheaper than those of Park City and Deer Valley, which can add up to significant savings over a ski week.
Alta Ski Resort Terrain
While perhaps better known to advanced and expert skiers, Alta has a surprising amount of terrain for beginners and intermediates, making it easy to find something to satisfy the whole family. In fact, 65% of the runs throughout its 2200+ acres are blues or greens. I know for us, we often ski together, but my husband (by far the best skier of our bunch), will sometimes take off for a couple solo runs when he needs a bit of a challenge. See interactive terrain maps here.
Skiing Alta and Snowbird on the Same Day
These two side-by-side mountains can be skied on the same day by purchasing an AltaSnowbird Day Pass. Getting between the mountains is relatively easy via a connecting run at the top of Alta’s Sugarloaf Quad Chair.
Alta Snow Report
Snowfall and snow conditions are a big deal in Utah. Ski Utah has a whole bunch of reporting options available on their site (SMS/Twitter updates and more). The Alta website reports on daily conditions, the 5 day forecast, and you can also sign up to receive powder forecasts and alerts via email.
Alta Ski Resort Lodging
If you are thinking of a ski trip to Alta, book now. I’m not kidding. Somewhere between 60-75% of guests who visit, return, making booking ahead quite essential. Two great on-mountain choices for families are the Rustler Lodge and the Alta Lodge with options for family sized rooms and kids programming after the ski day is done. The Alta Lodge also offers several weeks a year outside of peak season where kids 12 and under can stay (and eat) for free. See Lodging at Alta for more a complete list of accommodation options.
If the accommodations at Alta are full, you can try Snowbird Resort next door (just a short shuttle ride away), or a hotel down below the mountains in Cottonwood Heights. Due to the last minute nature of our trip, there was not a hope of us getting a room on either mountain, so we stayed at the Hyatt Place Cottonwood, just a 25 minute drive away. We had a great stay at the property, which also happens to be very conventionally located if you plan on visiting several mountains in the area (Solitude and Brighton are also close by).
If you mention Alta to someone who has been, often the classic Peruvian Lodge comes up. Stopping in, we loved its classic ski chalet feel, but be aware that it is also the preferred hotel for men on “man trips”.
Of course, you can always look at other options including vacation rental properties on sites such as VRBO, which can sometimes save you money.
Getting to Alta Ski Area
Alta Resort is located about a 45 minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport, in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range. There are several companies that run shuttles to the base as well as public ski buses. If you are renting a car, be aware that at times you may experience full winter driving conditions on the road leading to the mountain (Little Cottonwood Canyon). Utah State law requires that you carry chains in your vehicle or have snow tires on your vehicle from November 1st through May 1st. Our visit happened to follow a great snowstorm and we were very happy to have rented an AWD from the airport. Find out more on Alta’s website under the heading Getting Here.
Want to Learn More?
You can also take a quick peek at our short YouTube video.
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Disclosure: During our stay at Alta, we were kindly welcomed by Ski Utah and Alta Ski Area. All opinions in this post are entirely my own. As always on this site, however, I strongly encourage you to also thoroughly read recent reviews from other travelers prior to making a property booking.