3 Days in Alta: The Perfect Long Weekend Getaway

Alta is known for its deep powder and steep runs, but there is something on the mountain for everyone.
Alta is known for its deep powder and steep runs, but there is something on the mountain for everyone. Photo courtesy of Alta
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Snow defines Alta Ski Area, a skiers-only resort renowned for massive dumps of powder snow and a variety of terrain that offers skiing for every ability. Tucked into Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City, Alta delivers the snow with an average of 551 inches of The Greatest Snow on Earth™ blanketing its slopes every winter. The area offers 2,020 feet of vertical elevation from the base to the top of Supreme Point and lots of skiable terrain. While Alta’s reputation is black-diamond runs, a full two-thirds of the ski area’s 2,200 terrain acres and 116 runs are for beginner and intermediate skiers. Alta is the perfect place to not only have winter fun but also to improve as a skier. Spend three days at Alta, skiing the easier runs and taking a lesson, and you’ll be a better skier when you go home.

Staying Overnight at Alta

Before heading to Alta, decide where you’ll spend the two nights. Alta’s five ski-in/ski-out lodges—Alta Lodge, Alta Peruvian Lodge, Alta’s Rustler Lodge, Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge, and Snowpine Lodge—are convenient to the lifts. Each lodge also offers restaurants and après-ski activities. Room prices include daily meals so you don’t have to fret about where to eat at the end of a perfect ski day, and après ski fun is as near as your room, including the pine-paneled Sitzmark Club in the Alta Lodge or the lively Peruvian Bar at the Alta Peruvian Lodge. Prices range from budget-friendly, dorm-style rooms to deluxe suites with mountain views. Other accommodations include nearby condos and vacation homes, and a variety ranging from luxury hotels to motel rooms in Salt Lake City.

Day 1

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If you are not staying at the mountain, start your Alta adventure by heading up Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, State Highway 210, from Salt Lake City. Alta Ski Area is divided into two sections—Albion Basin and Collins Gulch—that are separated by the northeast ridge of Mt. Baldy. The Albion Basin is the best place to get acquainted with the mountain with easy runs, varied terrain, and the Alf Engen Ski School. First, if you are not a lodge guest who has enjoyed breakfast at the lodge, grab a quick bite or a full breakfast at the Albion Grill or a coffee at Alta Java at the Albion Day Lodge. Pick up your rental skis and boots at Alta Sports downstairs, then walk next door for lift tickets, childcare, or to sign up for a lesson.

Start the day exploring Albion Basin. Get your ski legs back on Alta’s beginner and intermediate accessed from Sunnyside lift. The wide runs are perfect for families, including Crooked Mile, Patsey Marley, Dipsy Doodle and Sunnyside. Experts can do a quick warm-up on Vail Ridge, and then ride Sugarloaf Lift to blue runs like Razor Back or Rollercoaster or drop down the black diamond Sugar Bowl to Devil’s Elbow. Try the black diamonds including No. 9 Express, Sidewinder, and So Long.

Break for lunch at Alf’s Restaurant at the base of the Sugarloaf lift at mid-mountain. It offers hearty food, including vegetarian chili, soup in bread bowls, grilled options like burgers, brats and Reuben sandwiches, hot cocoa, and beer. It’s the perfect spot to meet up with others in your group. Time your lunch before noon or after one to avoid crowds. After lunch, jump on the lifts and hit the slopes.

Consider an afternoon ski lesson at the Alf Engen Ski School. Beginner and intermediate skiers can opt for a two-hour class with special lessons for children. More advanced skiers can take an Afternoon Workshop to focus on conditions of the day.

Day 2

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Don't think of tomorrow as Monday. Instead, think of it as one day closer to bluebird pow days like @kaylinrichardson is having in this picture by @louisarevalo. #skialta #powder #bluebird #skiing #microwave

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You can take it easy and revisit some fun runs or you can push the limits on your final day. Beginners could advance to fun intermediate runs like Rollercoaster and Razor Back from Sugarloaf Lift or head up to the top of the Supreme lift and ski down Upper Big Dipper to Rock and Roll or Three Bears to Big Dipper. Intermediate skiers can take black diamond challenges off Collins or Wildcat lifts or do harder blue lines like Aggie’s Alley to a finish on Lower Rustler. A good first black diamond run is Johnson’s Warm-up from Wildcat.

Experts can explore skiing on lines like Westward Ho or ski more glorious steeps off the High Traverse. Finish the final day by skiing at Catherine’s Area east of the Supreme chair. This high bowl usually holds fresh snow and offers terrain for every skier’s ability. Cutting wide turns through deep powder makes the perfect ending to a long Alta weekend.

Written by Stewart Green for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.

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