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Alta

Annually buried in 500” of the “Greatest Snow on Earth”, the powder here is famed for its cloud-like consistency. Serious skiers travel miles for some of the gnarliest terrain in the States, families return year on year to its catered lodges, powderhounds go all starry-eyed at the mere mention; everyone loves Alta. Except perhaps boarders, who are banned.

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced

Snowboard

At a glance: • Snow sure • Historic village • No snowboarding resort

Great for: • Experts • Off-piste

Annually buried in 500” of the “Greatest Snow on Earth”, the powder here is famed for its cloud-like consistency. Serious skiers travel miles for some of the gnarliest terrain in the States, families return year on year to its catered lodges, powderhounds go all starry-eyed at the mere mention; everyone loves Alta. Except perhaps boarders, who are banned.

Alta Resort

When a resort has its own historical society, you know it’s got tales to tell and Alta more than most. Alf Engen, the first to spot its powdery potential, was an eccentric, ski jumping Norwegian, who taught here for over 50 years. He’s just one of the faces in the ski school’s Hall of Fame, a gallery of super skiers who’ve loved this rustic resort at the top Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon. Seeing 500” of powder a year and skiing out onto some of the steepest, most stimulating terrain your skis will ever meet, Alta's not hard to fall for.

Continuing to make modern history, Alta is one of 3 areas in the US that outright bans snowboarders. Having faced law suits over the matter, it remains a skiing purist to the end.

Besides boarders, serial shoppers and the party set should steer clear. There are no boulevards of boutiques, 5* hotels with all the trimmings or multi-floor night clubs. These aren’t really necessary, when you have a resort where every lodge has a story (and most a steaming outdoor pool…).

Between two base stations and the town of Alta, there’s plenty to provide interest for a skier who shares the local obsession with the mountains. Intermediates and up congregate at the Wildcat base, while the Albion base is pitched at beginners and those with kids. Super steeps, you see, are not all this resort does. The less well skied will find Alta a great spot for kicking their schussing skills up a gear.

Looping between the 2 bases, the town and all the condos along the way, a free shuttle keeps everything convenient.

The local ski area has 2200 skiable acres, but for voracious appetites it’s possible to upgrade to a Snowbird-Alta pass and unlock 4700 ridiculously snowsure acres including snowboard-friendly sites.

Stats & FAQ

Location: Utah, USA

Established: 1939

Open: November - May

Downhill: 2200 acres / 116

View our detailed Alta snow forecast or snow report and see all live webcams, piste maps, road and travel maps and lift pass prices. For a picture of historic snow conditions see the snow depths month by month with our Alta snow history.

Nearest Airport & Transfer Time:
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)35 miles, 50 minutes
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • 25%

  • 40%

  • 35%

Top Altitude:10,550ft / 3216m
Bottom Altitude:8530ft / 2600m
Resort Altitude:8530ft / 2600m
Longest run:2km
Slope Orientation:N E W
Vertical Drop:2020ft / 616m
Skiable Vertical:
Night Skiing:No
Glacier:No

Snow Report

  • Top
  • cm
  • Base
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  • Forecast
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Web Cam

Alta web cams
Downhill Runs:2200 acres / 116
Beginner slopes:25%
Intermediate:40%
Advanced slopes:35%
Lift Pass Price: $96 (adult single day pass)
Nearby resorts: Snowbird, Park City, Deer Valley

Skiing/BoardingSkiing in Alta

"Cold Smoke" is the term often used to describe the snow here, but that hardly does it justice. To highlight this point, Alta publishes snow’s water content alongside the depth. Anything under 6-7% is “very dry”, and Alta usually falls in the 4 to 5% range. It basically comes close to cloud consistency. This is the kind of snow that needs to be shared, so it’s fortunate that Alta’s 2200 acres include more than enough terrain for beginners and intermediates, alongside its revered expert offerings.

Alta's beginner skiing is focused around three chairs - Albion, Sunnyside and Cecret - which have traditionally seen cheaper lift tickets that can save you quite a few bob (costing the same as a child’s pass). Ranging from tree-lined runs to wide open-air cruisers, you can work out what runs you like best here without having to venture too far. The Ski School has three separate grades just for green trail skiers, so will know exactly what you need and help you progress quickly to the blues and panoramas at the peaks.

Whether you’re new to blues or a terminal intermediate in need of a push, Alta has you covered. The piste map marks the easiest ways down from each of the peaks, so you won’t end up over your head. Those looking for a challenge will find lots of the blue runs ungroomed, making this a good place to learn to ski bumps. This wondrously white ski area’s an obvious place to initiate yourself into the wonders of powder skiing. An Off Trail Workshop is a worthy investment in the first few days, for a guide to show you how it’s done.

This much snow, on top of world-class steeps, make Alta's terrain some of the most thrilling in the States - especially if you buy a pass for Snowbird too. The trees and sheltered gullies are rammed with delicious powder pockets to explore. As many require a hike or traverse (which are not always obvious), there are plenty of fresh lines to be had. A trip along the high traverse brings you to Alf’s High Rustler, one of Alf Engen’s favourite runs – a thigh burner to say the least.

Though you could well spend all your time getting lost in the in-bounds terrain, make the most of Utah with heli-skiing through Wasatch Powderbird Guides, or pass a landmark in your ski career with Ski Utah’s famed Interconnect Tour. You’ll ski up to 6 of the titanic Utah ski areas in a single day (Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird), traveling via backcountry routes with a monopoly on some of the most breath-taking scenes in the Wasatches. It’s the only tour of its kind in the US, and it’s phenomenal.

Alta Apres Ski

No frills, no attitude, no noise after 10 is the mantra this resort lives by and a traditional Alta experience involves staying in an all-inclusive lodge, skiing home to gourmet fare, award-winning wine and deep and meaningfuls with your fellow guests.

But if you’re not staying in one of the lodges, you won’t be left out in the cold. The saloon at the Goldminer’s Daughter is a buzzing après spot, with massive picture windows, gallons of local brews and bar food such as pizzas (big enough to serve as dinner for 2). The bar at the Peruvian Lodge (the P Dog to some…) will serve you shots from skis if you so wish, though does a better trade in local brews quaffed beneath mounted bison heads or in hot tubs on the deck. For a quiet, sophisticated drink in your Sunday best, head to the Eagle’s Nest Lounge in the Alta Rustler Lodge. To drink like a local, get the Sitzmark club’s bartender (who’s been here since 1992) to fix you a Gin Old Fashioned.

Look a little deeper into the resort you’re skiing and see if the historical society still holds their Fireside sessions, screening vintage videos of the resort back in the good old days. Or, if you’d rather be moving than mingling, join a Forest Host on a free guided tour of the surrounding Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Check out the Rustler spa for ski-focused treatments like the Ski Boot Soother or Altitude Therapy, which incorporates oxygen supplements to help you transition to the thinner air in these high hills.

Best time to go

Best time to ski Alta

When is the best time to ski Alta?

Alta's microclimate, super high elevation (the base stations alone sit at 8500ft) and a phenomenon known as the “Lake Effect” bring an average of 500+ inches of fresh snow to the canyon year, after year, after year. The fact that many of the ski area’s slopes face north further helps to keep the snow pristine and protected from inclement sunshine. This is why, despite the absence of a glacier, the Alta season is known to run till May. For spring skiing it doesn’t get more reliable.

A super sweet time to visit is late February to early March for the heaviest, most frequent dumps.

Peak Dates

The lodges are dressed to impress for Christmas in Alta, and if the holiday season for you is about hobnobbing with family and friends, there’s no place better than the lodge firesides or a ski-in/ski-out condo. Presents are just added extras when you’re waking up to this powder paradise.

The crowds can traditionally participate in a torchlit parade from the Collin’s Lift for New Year in Alta, and the resort encourages “creative light options” for some fun. Alternatively, take up front row seats sipping hot chocolate and hot toddys at Slope Side Joe or the Goldminer’s Saloon. Don’t overdo it if you’re staying in one of the lodges, where New Year menus deserve to be savoured course by delicious course.

At 8500 feet atop Little Cottonwood Canyon, Half Term in Alta feels like you’re worlds away, but it’s only a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City. It’s worth the hop across the Pond - snow this perfect and untracked is hard to find in Europe at this time of year.

The Greatest Snow on Earth is usually still going strong at Easter in Alta, and you’ll often find special deals in resort.

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Families in Alta

Families keep coming back to Alta because the bases are so cosy and snow so reliable. The resort has terrific day care, with supervised programs for rascals as young as 6 weeks up to 9 years, where they get creative and musical and have lots of opportunities to explore and play. The Pre-Ski program will inspire a life-long love of the sport in kiddie-winks as young as 2 with 45-minute lessons, while staff from the day care can drop them off and pick them up to make sure your adventures go uninterrupted. Some of the lodges even offer special supervised après programs for children, especially during peak periods, keeping them having a whale of a time while you make the most of the lodge bars and hot tubs.

For those comfortable on skis, mountain explorer programs and teen camps with the Alf Engen School will improve their technique in leaps and bounds. After class, you’ll have some of the best experiences of your year enjoying the glades, chutes, and powder bowls a family. Capture them on camera by booking a session with Peak Photo, for an awesome family photo of the clan in action.

Alta is big on filling kids with an appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds them, and the Ske-cology program has interactive activities and trails in the Albion Basin that highlight Alta's diverse and fascinating eco-system.

GroupsGroup Holidays Alta

If there’s one way to keep everyone in a group ski trip happy, it’s to set them at the base of 2200 skiable acres and the most reliable snow in the US.

As if the slopes weren’t enough, there are tons of activities here to enjoy with your nearest and dearest or to cement a new friendship. Take snowcat expeditions to Grizzly Gulch, indulge competitive sides with a little weekend race on the Race Hill or set off on the ski tour of a lifetime with Ski Utah’s Interconnect Tour.

If you’re the sort of group who like to socialise, the Lodges are the best place for you and will take care of breakfast, tea and dinner. Alternatively, you can turn a condo further down the mountain into a private party pad. The icing on the cake? For groups of 20 or more, the resort often offers discounts.

More Alta Holiday Resources


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