Alta Ski Area-USA

Alta Ski Area: The Original American Skiing Destination



An overview:

In the mountainous regions of Western United States is the Alta Ski area. To be precise, the said ski area is in-fact named after the town Alta wherein it is located. It is further placed in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah within the Salt Lake County. Alta skiing region commenced its operations way back in the year 1939 when they first inaugurated their making it stand among the oldest skiable resorts in the nation.

Broadly speaking, Alta ski area comprises of over 8.9 kilometres squared or roughly 2,200 acres of magnificent skiing terrain. In terms of base elevation levels, Alta varies between the bracket of 8,530 feet or 2,600 metres (above sea level) right up to a maximum of 3,216 metres or 10,550 feet. This further translates into a vertical gain of approximately 2,020 feet or 616 metres.

This particular region is best known for its high altitude and greater rates of snowfall as compared to other resorts in Utah. On an annual basis, the resort receives about 514 inches or 13.1 metres of snowfall. Today, there are only three such resorts in the whole of the United States which prohibit snowboarding. Other two are – the Deer Valley resort and Mad River Glen in Vermont.

The History of Alta


The Alta Ski resort is one of the oldest skiing areas in the United States of America. Also, it is among the only three skiing places which provide access to skiers alone. It is located at a distance of 48 kilometres or 30 miles from the Great Salt Lakes precisely at the head of the Little Cottonwood Canyon.

One of the most striking unique selling points of the skiing resort is its micro-climactic characteristics. Due to which the region can receive as much as 500 inches or 1,270 centimetres of snowfall. Snow here is high in terms of volume but remains low on moisture. The most important feature of the ski area is its long, pitches which are incredibly straight and proper fall lines. It refers to the line which runs directly downhill. Herein, gravity acts upon and the downward movements are generated. Therefore you will hear the local folks say things like – skiing the fall line. When you get here in Alta, you will also be told a great deal about the most popular fall line pitches. Namely, they are – High Rustler, Eddies High Nowhere, Stone Crusher and Baldy Chutes

Now, all the novices out there will typically hesitate when it comes to skiing. Nearly 40% of the skiing terrain is purely dedicated to facilitate their cause. Furthermore, Alta is famous for being oriented towards the family. Because of this reason the locals along with foreigners appreciate the hospitality. Alta also carries a global repute which concerns with its in-bound skiing area. It is in-fact considered to be one of the most challenging in the whole world. People of all capacities can find their own niche here and at the same time they can also go on and develop their skills

If you are interested in the history of the region, it would be a sheer matter of excitement knowing about. It was way back in the year 1871 that the Alta community was established. The initial settlements of that time came about due to the commencement of the mining operations at the Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Alta Statistics

Elevation: 2,600 m

Base elevation: 8,530 ft (2,600 m)

Top elevation: 10,550 ft (3,216 m)

The Little Cottonwood Canyon is situated within the protected region of Wasatch-Cache National Forest. This forest region is further located along Salt Lake Valley’s eastern side, approximately at a distance of 15 miles from the Salt Lake City in Utah. What is interesting about the canyon is its ‘u-shape’ and its glacial trough. Experts believe that this area was carved out during the last ice age (between 15,000 and 25,000 years ago) by an alpine glacier. Today one can find numerous rare and endemic species of flora and fauna. Among them and the most popular ones are the mountain goats. They are quite an attraction of the region.

Furthermore, back in the year 1878 most of the town of Alta was burnt down because of a devastating fire. This incident was followed by a catastrophic avalanche in 1885. All in all the mining industry of the region was also going downhill. As a result, the town was experiencing increasing levels of inactivity. About 15 years later, beginning from the 1900s, most of the inhabitants of the town started to move out, resulting in desertification of the region. Only a handful of miners and settlers continued to remain.

Towards the end of the first half, 1935 to be precise, the Forest Services of the United States decreed the potential of the region into housing a skiing resort. It was in-fact due to the recommendations of a noted skier, named Alf Engen. He was not only responsible for determining the future prospects but also due to his efforts more amounts of land in the surrounding area was purchased and further developments took place. Additionally, there was a certain Joe Quinney who initiated the formation of the Utah Winter Sports Association. Quinney was a noted lawyer who was able to influence the regional developers and businessmen and bring forth enough degrees of investments for the purpose. In the years that followed construction processes commenced and landscaping took place. All the equipment’s from the nearby mining areas such as cables and metal rods proved to be helpful in the construction of the original Collins chairlift. It is also important to note that it was only the third of its kind in the United States at that point in time.

After all the hard work and persistence the construction processes concluded by the year 1938 and the Alta Ski Area was opened for tourists on 15th January, 1939. Interestingly, the cost of a single ride on the cable chair car was a mere 25 cents

Contemporary Developments

In the year 1990 the first round of redevelopments of the region commenced. The following year saw the installation of the first triple which was an upgraded version of the Germania double chair. In the latter half of the decade snowmaking infrastructure was installed which was completed in the year 2000. Furthermore, since they are now able to produce their own snow they are also able to open up for tourists and enthusiasts much earlier in the season as compared to other resorts and it is the most helpful when drier weathers are underway. Further modern day equipment’s were installed between the latter parts of the 90s and early 2000s. A lesser known development was the replacement of the Sunnyside lift with a detachable triple chair in the year 1999. This in the later years would become a major attraction. In the same light, the Sugarloaf chair was also upgraded with a detachable quad.

The most recent changes were made with respect to the development of lift. It was between 2004 and 2005 that the Collins chair was installed along with a detachable quad, both of which replaced the Collins and Germania chairs of older generations. Beginning with that particular season, a mid-way loading station was also added to the Collins chair. However, right at the beginning most of the chairs get occupied, leaving just a very few for the mid-way boarders

In the 2007 and 2008 season, borrowing from the Solitude Ski Resort a RFID-based electronic ticketing system was introduced here at Alta. Many safety measures were also adopted in 2010 and 2011 which included the installation of safety bars on the Sunnyside lift, the Supreme chairs and the Sugarloaf

Also, if you wish to track your vertical and lift rides, now that is possible with the help of the brand new electronic systems at Alta. A few of the pipeline projects at the ski resort is a ticket vending machine, purely for the convenience of its customers. For the older folks and differently abled ones or for those who simply get tired because of all the escalation, there are conveyor systems installed right at the start of the Supreme lift. It not only helps the needy ones but also speeds up the boarding process

After all the modernisation processes were completed, the resort today has as many as two detachable quad chairs, a single detachable triple chair and another single triple chair with fixed grip. There are also three double chairs and five surface tows. If you were to classify the terrain based on different levels of experience, then 25% of it is meant for beginners, nearly 40% of it is for those at the intermediate level and the remaining 35% is meant for those at the advanced level


Within the locale of Alta Ski area is the Snowbird resort and beginning from the winter of the season 2002 skiers can now access both the terrains of the resorts. This allows them to not only access greater areas but also have greater amounts of fun. This offer also overlapped with the opening of the new lift in the Mineral Basin. Mineral Basin is basically owned by the folks at Snowbird right at the back of Hidden Peak and Sugarloaf mountains. So, now, the skiers can travel right across both these mountains without any restriction due to the accord. Another point to be duly noted is that the route is only open for skiers and they are meant to comply with the policies decreed by Alta. On the other hand, snowboarders should not get disheartened as Snowbird has no such restrictions with respect to snowboarders, so you can access their respective terrain if you wish to use your snowboards

A few facts and figures about Alta Ski area

List of Chairlifts and Tow Ropes

  1. Collins Express
  2. Sugarloaf
  3. Sunnyside Express
  4. Supreme Chair
  5. Wildcat Chair
  6. Albion Chair
  7. Cecret Chair
  8. Lodge Chair
  9. Transfer Tow
  10. Grizzly Tow
  11. Little Grizzly Carpet

Details about the Snow

For about a quarter of the winter days, Alta expiries 6 inches or more of the snow and this is quite interesting, half the winter months experience as much as 90 inches worth of snow and less than 2% of the winter months get to witness less than 30 inches of snow. Now, all of this might seem slightly confusing but never mind. The important thing to keep in mind is that the quality of the snow is of the heist grade, it is big bad blue chip of all the snows. Experts have studied the said and concluded that this snow is even better than the kind found in the Rocky Mountains.

A little over 50% of the terrain faces north and this factor particularly facilitates the preservation of snow during spring time. But also remember that this also means that because of the sun’s exposure, the snow would become icy and slushy. But generally speaking, more than three quarters of the terrain at Alta is skiable. They are equipped with a base of 3 to 4 feet.

Further about Alta Ski Area

Alta has been attracting skiers since the year 1938. The region is very popular primarily because of the sheer historicity that the area carries forward. Alta Ski Area was created by the very pioneers of skiing in the United States and it has managed to maintain the glory of its legacy ever since. It might appear old school to a great degree but that is the very charm which seekers of snow are drawn by. You will surely not find anything like it far and wide. Alta still has the lowest prices for its lifts and also is hard bent on not allowing snowboarding and also discontinued with the terrain park. Despite all of this there are devoted groups of people who flock here each year.

The essence of the area is enhanced by wide-open powder fields, constructed gullies, cruises through which you can meander to your heart’s content, and steep elevator shafts which deliver the much-needed thrill.

You are bound to fall in love with Alta Ski area and everything that it has to offer. Next to this resort are other ski areas such as that of – Snowbird, Jackson Hole and Whistler. Alta but none are like Alta. There are certain testimonials from previous visitors who have claimed that the entire experience at Alta was nothing less than being transformative. You will also find grandparents getting their progenies along and narrating memories from their childhood of Alta. There are very few such remaining destinations through which families can connect with in such intimate manners. Keeping in mind all that is happening due to global warming, you must take in all that Alta radiates, while it still can.

In addition to all the excitement, there is the very small town of Alta which inhabits more or less 400 individuals who are super friendly. There are a handful of lodges wherein you will receive the traditional hospitality and endless terrains to tread upon. The closest town to the resort is Salt Lake City which can be reached by travelling 25 miles.

If you like morning runs then you could go off the mid-mountain Sugarloaf lift. On the other hand, if you prefer the afternoon runs, in that case, the best place for you will be the Westward Ho. Herein you will find numerous trails studded with trees. They then take a plunge downwards leading you to Wildcat area.

A tip that will prove to be helpful is that after 3 pm each day rides on the Sunnyside triple chair becomes free, so you can use them and get access to as many as 8 runs. This will prove to be helpful if you are short of time. More importantly, if you have not chosen the Alta resort as your stay in destination, in that case make sure that you arrive early in and around the holiday period. You will be able to avoid crowds and at the same time be able to take up multiple rounds on the Collins chair (if that is what your mission itinerary states).

Alta is known throughout in the North Americas to have the best quality snow. Its terrains are without a doubt ranked amongst the highest of the order. As a matter of fact, it is the terrain which will strike you at the very first instance of your arrival. It is highly impressionable and quite simply, majestic. Some people even have equated the sheer sight to be as perfect as an advertisement from a ski magazine. Once you are right at the top of the High Rustler, it is at that moment that you will truly realise the accuracy of all the hype that surrounds Alta. Moreover, reaching Alta is in itself a task, leave aside exploring it completely. People who have been skiing in the area for over 2 decades claim that every time there is something or the other new that they had never seen before. Even the local folks, they too never really get bored of the amazing site. They too every once in a while navigate to the High Rustle and skate.

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