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Some Alta questions

NewEnglandSkier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#1
So, I'm trying to decide where I want to go for my early March ski trip this year. Alta is among the contenders due to the ability to fly nonstop.
I've started to enjoy skiing ungroomed terrain more than in the past but I'm far from great at it and still retreat to the groomers when my brain gets fried when pushing myself to ski outside my comfort zone--so I still spend most of my time on groomers. I'm an intermediate skier (will ski most anything groomed and will ski low angle bumps. I still struggle in powder but have made some improvement).
My question/fear of Alta is everything I read about having to traverse. Do you have to traverse to reach the type of terrain I mention above??
Everything I read kind of makes it out to be a harrowing experience where people are nasty and aggressive. Believe me, I have no desire to get in anyone's way or hold people up. I guess what I'm really wondering is if 1. you need to traverse to access normal intermediate terrain and 2. if Alta is the type of place where I'm more likely than most to encounter aggressive personalities--or are those people mostly found trying to get to the advanced or extreme terrain?
I've never encountered this anywhere else but some of what I read in various sources makes me take pause. Just trying to decide if Alta would be a good choice or if I should go elsewhere. . .(loved Solitude and Park City--didn't like Deer Valley. Also love Steamboat and Killington).
Thanks!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#2
The short answer is that there is nothing to fear at Alta for an intermediate or aspiring advanced skier who is more comfortable on groomers than off in the trees or in ungroomed powder. If you can stay at a lodge in Alta, go for it.

The intense traverses at Alta are only required for black ungroomed terrain. There is competition on those traverses only right after a powder storm. Pretty amazing how fast the more accessible areas get tracked out. It's fair to say that most of the people who post about Alta are advanced/expert skiers. Some may never have skied Alta as an intermediate, or only as a kid. Although seems like many more locals learn at Brighton than Alta.

My experience at Alta began long ago as an intermediate on straight skis. I loved it! Had the same reaction when I got to go back as an adult (still straight skis) for a day. I had only skied a few times in North Carolina after a 10 year hiatus. My daughter loved Alta as an intermediate ages 7-10. I was having a great time during our late season trips even before I had improved enough to go off the groomers more often. No snowboarders is a bonus. I know someone from the southeast who did an annual ski week at Alta with friends and family who only skied the groomers off the Supreme Lift. He was a happy camper.

Intermediates should start at the Albion base. Sugarloaf has nice long and wide groomers. Supreme was my favorite area when I started going to Alta regularly of not only because of the groomers, but also short blacks for a bit more exploration when I was with a ski buddy.

Alta is much more laid back than Snowbird. There is a reason that the Wild Old Bunch ski Alta. Midweek you'll find a collection of over 60 skiers at Alf's. Anyone is welcome to say hello and join in the fun. Note that even those over 70 are still skiing off in the trees when conditions are good.

Check out what the Brave Ski Mom had to say about the lodges at Alta a couple years ago. Note that Snowpine has been upgraded more since her blog entry was written.

https://braveskimom.com/the-five-alta-lodges-history-charm-and-family-fun

As you may have seen from my trip reports, Alta Lodge is where I stay for an annual get together with friends in late season. I've also skied Alta mid-season when staying in SLC. Planning a few days in SLC the beginning of Feb. Several of those I meet up with are older women who learned to ski as adults and ski groomers only. And then there is Naomi . . . over 90 and out on groomers every morning two weeks of every ski month.
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#5
I totally agree. If you're skiing the Albion side, in particular, no issues. Or anywhere on the mountain on an average day, for that matter is usually no problem at all. If you're trying to get to High Rustler on an epic powder day? Be prepared for battle with a bunch of young, aggressive, pro and wannabe pro skiers. You can still ski the Collins side on a powder day just fine, even powder, without traversing, and without the aggro crowd. You just have to pass on the classic expert runs. And if you're just learning powder, that's sensible to do anyway. You'll have an easier time learning to ski powder over on the Albion side anyway.

The expert trails I'm talking about that draw the aggro crowd require going through a gate to get to a traverse, so it's very unlikely anyone would just accidentally wander out on to them.
 

badger

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
NewEnglandSkier, After your many visits to Steamboat, a trip to Alta will be a fun change for you.

I have been to Alta three or four times. My fist visit was back when I was learning the sport. Alta truly is a great place to ski. The terrain offers as much variability as Steamboat---minus the beautiful Aspen glades--- and a more laid back vibe. That area that Alta Girl was describing for you is one that my skis will never touch, so I've been totally unaware of the nastiness competing for such desired real estate.
At the lower end of the skiing spectrum, there is the one annoying traverse to get back to the base area which can get crowded toward day's end but that would be the same with many other ski mountains... people tired and wanting to get to the parking lot I suppose.

Plus, a trip to Utah offers all the other resorts to boot. In fact, I have thought about getting back to Alta this season myself. It's fun to revisit terrain that seemed daunting in the past and might be totally doable to me now.:laughter:
Let the others chime in on Alta. But I highly recommend this resort!
 
#7
I first went to Alta as a low intermediate. Loved it.

Second trip as a solid intermediate, loved it to pieces.

Next trip as an advanced skier. Well, let's say I had high expectation by then, and Alta didn't disappoint!

All this while, I didn't do any of the traverses and still had healthy dose of challenge at whatever ability level I was at.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#8
NewEnglandSkier, After your many visits to Steamboat, a trip to Alta will be a fun change for you.

I have been to Alta three or four times. My fist visit was back when I was learning the sport. Alta truly is a great place to ski. The terrain offers as much variability as Steamboat---minus the beautiful Aspen glades--- and a more laid back vibe. That area that Alta Girl was describing for you is one that my skis will never touch, so I've been totally unaware of the nastiness competing for such desired real estate.
At the lower end of the skiing spectrum, there is the one annoying traverse to get back to the base area which can get crowded toward day's end but that would be the same with many other ski mountains... people tired and wanting to get to the parking lot I suppose.

Plus, a trip to Utah offers all the other resorts to boot. In fact, I have thought about getting back to Alta this season myself. It's fun to revisit terrain that seemed daunting in the past and might be totally doable to me now.:laughter:
Let the others chime in on Alta. But I highly recommend this resort!
It's definitely fun to ski at places you've been before after getting to another ability level.

Are you thinking of the transfer tow between Albion and Wildcat bases, or the Collins Return at the top of the Sugarloaf lift? I would think someone who skis blues and easy blacks at Steamboat would be fine taking the wide groomers on the Collins side to get back to the Wildcat side if needed. Of course, there are some days when Collins Return is closed due to high winds, low visibility, or avalanche concerns.

That reminds me . . . the Collins lift runs later than Sugarloaf and Supreme. So that's another reason to get over to that side before Sugarloaf closes. When picking up a kid from ski school at 3:30, we usually move as fast as possible to take the Sunnyside lift to get to Sugarloaf in time for a ride up. Even if we don't make it, getting onto the transfer tow with a moving headstart off the last groomer beats starting at from the ski school building. Going from Albion to Wildcat is slight downhill, so not bad at all.

For those unfamiliar with Alta, four of the five lodges are somewhere along the transfer tow. Peruvian is at the far end of the Wildcat parking lot, so can either walk or wait for the Peruvian shuttle bus. Rustler guests have an easy return because there is an on-demand chair lift. Alta Lodge and Snowpine have rope tows. Gold Miner's Daughter is right at the Wildcat base. Easy to return but less of a view.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
#9
I'm another person that skied there as an intermediate, on groomers only, and I had a very nice time. The place was empty--it was a Monday, and it hadn't snowed in a while--but like others said the aggressive skiers wouldn't be on blue groomers anyway. I also thought it was prettier than the other UT resorts I'd skied.
 

NewEnglandSkier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
One more question---in an "average/normal" year how does Alta typically ski around the first week of April? Now I'm toying with the idea of doing Alta over Easter weekend since I get Good Friday off and that would be around April 2-5. Does the snow typically hold up pretty well?
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#12
One more question---in an "average/normal" year how does Alta typically ski around the first week of April? Now I'm toying with the idea of doing Alta over Easter weekend since I get Good Friday off and that would be around April 2-5. Does the snow typically hold up pretty well?
I've been skiing pretty regularly during late season at Alta since 2008. If you go the first week of April, I'll be at Alta Lodge. :becky:

Two out of the last five years I've extended the late season trip by a couple days in order to catch a powder storm. Meaning 10+ inches of fresh powder. Note that Snowbird stays open well into May. The only reason Alta closes in April is because of the agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, not lack of good snow. Of course, there is the possibility of a warm day or two. In that case, people just wait until 10:00 or so for the groomers to soften up. Supreme lift is the place to start in the mornings in the spring.

Note that Supreme closes a week before the 7-day operations end. So April 12 will be the last day for Supreme. Alta Demo Day is April 11.

Trip reports from 2012, 2013, 2014
https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/alta-snowbird-april-4-9-2012.14568/
https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/alta-march-30-april-6.16261/
https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/tr-alta-april-5-17-2014.18070/
 

NewEnglandSkier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
Thanks--those trip reports make it look great.
I have to think seriously about doing this. I am really tempted to book Alta for early April, as I wouldn't have to take any days off work and I could ski Fri, Sat and much of Sunday (assuming no flight issues or inability to get into the canyon of course).
Then I could squeeze in another trip in March somewhere in addition to Steamboat which is already booked for Feb!
Financially, I think it would be quite "naughty" to book 3 western trips but I will turn 40 in 2015 so maybe a birthday gift to myself . . . .
Lots to think about!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#14
Not too likely to have issues getting with the LCC road in early April. There are a few days when the road is closed mid-day because of fast rising temps and/or snow management work but usually more mid to late April. Has only happened twice out of the 50+ late season days I've been at Alta in recent years. The first time I stayed at Alta Lodge with my daughter we had to take a really early shuttle to the airport the day we left to make sure we made it out. Another year we just made it before the gate was closed around lunch time. Luckily our baggage came out pretty quickly that trip. We had about 15 min to spare.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#16
Is there usually any warning if they are going to close the road or do they just close it?
For closings due to a fast warming day in late season, there is some warning to people running a lodge in Alta or an airport shuttle. I know that folks at Alta Lodge knew the evening before we have to leave early about the closure. So they made sure we were booked on an earlier shuttle that would definitely make it down the canyon. The shuttle folks knew that morning when the road would be closing and for how long.

As for closings due to a big powder storm mid-season, obviously that depends on exactly when and how a storm hits. Not something worth worrying about when planning a trip well in advance. Not much different than the possibility of a flight delay or cancellation due to weather.
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#18
I would agree that the majority of road closures are announced in advance. If it's snowing overnight, they will usually tell you what time the road will close/open for morning avalanche control. (on the Alta website, the UDOT website, the AM radio station in the canyon, you can sign up for text message alerts from the sheriff on road closures, etc.) The closure time is generally accurate - the reopening time, well obviously it depends on how things go. Sometimes it's faster, sometimes it's slower. Occasionally they predict a closure that doesn't need to even happen because it didn't snow as predicted. Booo....

Mid-day or afternoon closures are likewise announced in advance with the extremely rare exception of a natural avalanche that hits the road. (Honestly, delays due to a car accident are probably WAY more likely, and that's not really any different anywhere!) They will announce daytime closures on the website, and it will also be displayed on the scrolling announcement boards and white boards near the lifts so if you want to get out before a road closure, you should have time to do so, provided you're paying at least a bit of attention to the announcement boards. If it's not snowing or warming drastically in spring - it's not a concern at all.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#19
A few pics of the lodges.

Looking towards the Albion base. The big building is the Rustler. The Snowpine is just beyond it. The rope with people is the transfer tow.
Alta lodges -1.jpg

Looking towards Wildcat. The sign is in front of the ski school building. Transfer tow on the far left.
Alta lodges -3.jpg

Looking down at the Wildcat base and parking lot (behind the trees on the left). Alta Lodge on the right close to the road. Beige buildings next to the parking lot is Goldminer's Daughter. Peruvian is just off of the picture to the left.
Alta lodges -2.jpg
 

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