Alta Ski Resort Utah Review
Alta Ski Resort in Utah is amazing and it may be up there as the Powderhounds’ top pick for a ski resort in the world! That’s a bold statement, so Alta Utah must be pretty fantastic!
Alta is one of the oldest ski resorts in the US (it opened in 1939) and it retains some of its old-fashioned traditions, the most obvious being the prohibition of snowboarders. Despite significant protests and threatened legal action from some snowboarders, the tradition of skiing remains and only those with two sticks are allowed.
People who can’t pronounce “Alta” are not fully welcomed either – pronounce it AL-ta (like the man Al) rather than AHL-ta. Just joking! Everyone’s welcome at Alta Utah and there certainly isn’t any snobbiness or attitude. There is a little bit of hard-core ski culture, but the atmosphere of the Alta ski resort is incredibly friendly and welcoming to newcomers. Everyone is just happy that you love the hill as much as them. Alta has a close community of locals and regulars who have rich lives and rich histories (the average age of people that ski Alta is much higher than your usual ski resort)!
Alta Ski Area
The Alta ski area
has 2,200 acres (891 hectares) of terrain, 116 trails and an abundance of off-piste powder lines. The ski area only has 7 chair lifts (including 2 express quads) so there can be a lot of traversing to get to the best off-piste areas (so snowboarders might not like Alta anyway!). The elevation of the lift-accessed terrain is 8,530 ft (2,600 m) to 10,550 ft (3,216 m), providing a vertical drop of 2,020 ft (616 m).
The Alta Ski Resort isn’t as rugged as Snowbird, but it is pristine with a little roughness around the edges. It is well-known for its extremely challenging terrain including steeps, tree skiing and some rock hucking, but there is also a good spread of cruising slopes for beginners and intermediates with 25% green and 40% blue trails.
Alta ski resort is inter-connected with Snowbird
via the lifts and slopes (via the saddle off the Sugarloaf chairlift) or a free bus. If you pay the extra money for a combined Alta Snowbird lift ticket you can score even more terrain. Together the resorts provide 26 lifts and 1,902 hectares (4,700 acres) of terrain, making it one of the largest ski areas in the US.
The fabulous Alta powder is reminiscent of the renowned Niseko Japan
, but the Alta terrain is on steroids in comparison to Niseko. At Alta Utah, the quality of the powder is exceptional and an abundance of snow falls with 551 inches (14m) on average per season!
And the awesome powder is well preserved due to the lack of snowboarders, or so all the (possibly) biased Alta skiers claim!
Where is Alta Utah?
The Alta Ski Resort is located in the Wasatch Mountains at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, about 26 miles southeast of Salt Lake City
. The resort is about 45 minutes drive from the Salt Lake City international airport, and is located next to its famous neighbour, the Snowbird ski resort
The village remains fairly traditional. Alta calls themselves a “ski area” rather than a “resort” which reflects the no-frills ambience. The facilities and nightlife are a little limited, but more than adequate for families and those who want to focus their energies on skiing. The Prada wearing set are not well catered for at Alta, with limited shopping and day spas. Park City
suits this group well, which leaves the powder at Alta to those who are serious about their skiing. And when compared to the Park City resorts (Park City
, Deer Valley
), the Alta ski services such as ski school and equipment rentals are inexpensive.
There are no 5-star Alta hotels or resorts to be found on-mountain. Instead Alta lodging
consists of five rustic ski lodges that are incredibly charming.
Alternatively you can stay off mountain in one of the many Salt Lake City hotels
, but there is always the risk that the roads may close for avalanche control, so you might want to stay on the hill to get the most of the powder days.
Alta Accommodation Listings
Ski Alta UT Pros and Cons
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
- Alta and its ski lodge culture have history, nostalgia and romance, so you can’t help but fall in love with the place.
- Alta is blessed with loads of snowfall and the powder is often of outstanding quality.
- The terrain for advanced and expert skiers is awesome.
- There are good beginner and intermediate slopes, and a family friendly vibe.
- The combination of the challenging terrain, superb powder, and the uncrowded slopes (well on weekdays anyway), make this a great destination for powder hounds (for skiers!).
- The ability to access the interconnected Snowbird is a huge bonus.
- Après-ski in the lodge bars can get a little festive, but the nightlife (ie after dinner) is generally rather quiet.
- There isn’t much to do other than the skiing.
- There is no economical on-mountain lodging at Alta. Dorm style lodging is available, but half board with gourmet multi-course meals is included (and priced accordingly).
- Dinner at the Alta lodges can be a very social affair, but if you want to go to a resort where you eat out at a different restaurant each night, then Alta is not for you.
- No snowboarders are allowed on the slopes (unless they put skis on of course!).
Tours that include Alta Ski Area