Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Early Season Trip to Utah Resort Pays Big Dividends for Skiers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Early Season Trip to Utah Resort Pays Big Dividends for Skiers

Article excerpt

ALTA, Utah -- An early December ski trip to a western resort can be a gamble in terms of sufficient snow cover to justify the expense and time to get there.

But that wasn't a problem at this Wasatch Mountain ski area less that an hour from the Salt Lake City International Airport, where they measure snowfall in feet, not inches. The average annual snowfall is 46.6 feet -- 560 inches.

The readers of Ski and Skiing magazines consistently have ranked Alta at the top in the United States for powder, snow quality, terrain and value. It sits in a high alpine basin at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Alta (pronounced Al-ta) has a well-deserved reputation for challenging terrain, but only 35 percent of its slopes and trails are rated "most difficult." Beginners, novices and intermediates will find plenty of well-groomed, comfortable runs off the Albion, Sunnyside and Sugarloaf chairlifts.

"Our best-kept secret is the great beginner and intermediate terrain," said Connie Marshall, director of marketing and public relations.

Getting to the Albion and Sunnyside lifts can be a bit of a stretch -- literally -- via a rope tow that runs back and forth along the base. A handle tow would be an improvement. We skied to the lift from our hillside accommodations at the Alta Lodge, a first- rate ski-in, ski-out facility.

Alta, the second-oldest ski area in the west -- Sun Valley is the oldest -- is a skier's mountain; snowboarding is not allowed.

It has 2,200 acres with 116 named runs served by two detachable quad chairlifts, one detachable triple chair, one standard triple chair, three double chairs, three surface lifts and one conveyor lift. We encountered no lift lines.

Lift tickets have radio frequency ID chips that open gates in lift lines. Guests are advised to place them in their pants pocket and away from their cell phones. …

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