We all know the Greatest Snow on Earth lives up Little Cottonwood Canyon outside of Salt Lake City. Little Cottonwood is home to the legendary Alta Ski Area and Snowbird Resort. Both offer the same snow, right? Both offer the same pitches right? Well, not exactly. According to many, Snowbird, with it’s high-speed lifts and the flying dumpster, rules. To others, the moniker “Alta is for Skiers” is tatooed on their very souls. For these three believers, it gets even more personal.
Let’s get it on!
ALTA – The thirst quencher of my Soul
Ahhhhhh, the age old argument of diehard, core LCC skiers – which is better? Alta or Snowbird. I am not going to get into an argument over which area is better; I am just going to tell you why I, a skier with a soul, like Alta better.
The snow quality is always better at Alta; partly due to the fact that no snowboarders are allowed and partly due to the fact that in any given year Alta gets at least 20% more snow than Snowbird. Plus, everyone knows that Ullr lives in the Castle. With all the snow that Alta does get, it sure is nice having a patrol that gets all, and I mean all, the goods open the first day after a storm breaks. So many days a year the ‘trollers will stay late the day before or show up extra early the day of to do control work so that the whole mountain is open for us Altaholics after a two foot dump. Another nice thing the patrol does after a big dump is rope off all the lower traverses and post signs telling people to sidestep to the highest traverse cut in order to preserve the powder skiing experience that is Alta. I dare any newbie to Alta to not obey these signs; ridicule and getting run off the mountain are sure to follow if these warnings are not obeyed.
A lot of these “traditions” were set forth long ago somewhere in Alta’s history; which is very deep and storied. For instance, Alta had the second chair lift in all of the United States. Ski jumping was brought to our great country here by the Engen brothers. Much of modern avalanche science was studied and developed here by pioneers like Monty Atwater and Ed LaChapelle. If it weren’t for Alta’s visionaries, there wouldn’t even be a Snowbird; Snowbird only exists because Alta was there first and one of it’s employees had been skiing in Peruvian Gulch and contacted Dick Bass with the idea for Snowbird.One of the more modern attributes of Alta that make it so great is the fact that their website is up to date every hour of every day; very nice to have when you want to check the snow stake from your home before heading up to see how much pow, pow has fallen or how fast it is falling. Another modern convenience is that the lifts, all the lifts, are open until 4:30 every day. Also, there is no jib scene here or “attitude” getting thrown around; it is all about skiing pow, pow here baby.
Just ask the “powder cults” that show up an hour before that chairs fire up on a pow day; “cults” like the mono-boarders, the senior citizens and the younger skiers that have figured it out due to wisdom beyond their age. Finally, Alta has always had some of the best backcountry access in the world; places like Wolverine Cirque, Mt. Tuscarora, Sunset Peak, The Gargoyles, etc, etc.
Beyond traditions and more modern conveniences, I believe what really underlies Alta is the commitment to the mountain and the “full” experience of it by everyone associated with it. Those that run Alta listen to the skiers and are not some money hungry (B)ass. Lift tickets are amongst the cheapest in the country every year and Alta is the only ski area in Utah that has made money every year. Alta has never hired employees only to turn around and lay them off two weeks later and then one week later, after the snow comes, expect those laid off employees to return. The patrol doesn’t care how fast or how big you go; as long as you are not endangering anybody but yourself – go for it – there is an unspoken trust there. Also, those that laid the mountain out, laid it out so you have to work a little for the best stuff; kind of nice to not have to worry about some tourist being in your way when you are going to rip the Backside in 4 turns. Which leads me to my last point; Alta has the most continuous fall-line skiing in all the Wasatch – no ski, traverse, ski, traverse thing going on here – just rip it to the bottom baby.
The above words come straight from a skier with a soul that is in love with Alta and everything about it; and like any love it requires constant attention – that, I am ever willing to give back to Alta – a place that has given so much to me. Alta – the thirst quencher of my soul!!
More Info: Alta.com