Perhaps nothing evokes the feel of Utah's signature powder more than saying "Alta." Although the storms that dump on Alta obviously dump on Snowbird just over the ridge, Alta equals powder in the minds of many. That Alta also is a synonym for Utah skiing in general hurts neither Alta nor the many other fine resorts in the state. That said Alta, like other classics, has its own personality that sets it apart from the pack.
The narrow confines of Little Cottonwood Canyon and the potential for avalanches preclude extensive development. This is all the more welcome when you consider Alta's proximity to Salt Lake City and its international airport. Not that the area would have necessarily embraced large-scale development anyway. At Alta it's always been about the pure sport and art of skiing (not snowboarding; Alta remains one of four resorts in the country that won't allow snowboarding) and the pursuit of powder.
But skiers expecting a quaint collection of old-fashioned lifts, minimal grooming and no snowmaking are in for a surprise. True, there are a handful of doubles (up-to-date) and only 50 acres of snowmaking. But there are also two detachable quads, and a detachable triple. And the snowmaking extends all the way to the top of the Wildcat lift. The biggest surprise of all is Alta's extensive beginner and intermediate terrain, 65% percent of the total terrain in fact, which is frequently groomed into silky corduroy. Alta's rugged side is certainly on display and available for those who wish, but this is also a family mountain - as long as no one in the family snowboards of course. Boarders can go next door to Snowbird, and the two resorts offer a joint ticket. Passage between the two can be made via a high-speed lift in Mineral Basin and one on the Alta side. It's also possible to access Snowbird by the Keyhole and Westward Ho gates.
For advanced skiers, there are plenty of reasons to stick with Alta, from the numerous lines of Catherine's area to High Rustler, Greeley Bowl, West Rustler, and more. This splendid terrain is covered every season by 41 feet or more of dry Utah powder.
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