Ski holidays in the US - Alta, the power capital of the world

It’s no secret that Alta is ranked as one of the best ski resorts in the United States. For consistent doses of fresh powder, there are few ski areas in the world that can compare with Utah.

Carved out by a glacier, Alta’s rugged terrain receives an average of 551-inches of snow a year. Together with the diverse and challenging pistes of the Wasatch Mountains, Utah’s Alta presents skiers with an exciting network of open bowls and deep chutes.

With 40% of the runs dedicated to intermediates and a further 35% to advanced skiers, there is little wonder the resort’s motto is “Alta is for skiers.” This is backed up by its somewhat controversial ban on snowboarding.

Alta lives up to its traditional roots. Established in 1939, Alta is the second oldest ski area in the States and the Collins lift was one of the first ski lifts to be installed in North America.

Alta Resort

The resort was designed by the eight-time world ski jumping champion Alf Engen. Alta was his home until his death in 1997 - but his memory lives on in various locations around the resort.

Despite its old-fashioned values, the resort has a high-energy buzz and pulls in some of the best skiers in the world. The vast majority of the runs are challenging, but Alta also caters for families with small children.

There are plenty of beginner slopes for newbies to cut their teeth on fresh powder, whilst a dedicated child care centre is available for parents with toddlers and infants.

Resort Statistics

Base: 2599 meters
Summit: 3215 meters
No. of Pistes: 116
Total Piste: 9 km
Cross Country: 0 km
Total Lifts: 11
Gondolas/ Cable Cars: 0
Chairlifts: 7
Drag Lifts: 4

Piste Map

Alta Lietmotiv 500X375

Alta Ski Areas & Slopes

Alta has a solid infrastructure for skiers of all levels. Intermediates and advanced skiers will find plenty of challenging runs to tackle, whilst beginners can take it easy until you build up your skills and confidence to take it up a notch.

Sunny Side Lift

The Sunny Side lift is a good place to start for skiers of all levels. The runs here are ideal for warming up and getting a feel for the terrain before tackling more challenging areas.

Intermediate-Advanced: Intermediates should head for Blue Bell and Race Arena for the first morning. Experts will also get a decent run out down Vail Ridge.

Beginners:A good starting point for beginners hitting the slopes for the first time is the Albion Base. Patsy Marley and Crooked Mile are steady runs and ideal for cruising back down to Sunnyside lift. When you’re ready to step it up a little, head for the wide, open path Home Run, then try Greeley Bowl just above.

Sugarloaf Area

The pistes on Sugarloaf presents skiers with more challenges and can be enjoyed by skiers of all levels. You can get over to the Sugarloaf ski area by taking the Dispy Doodle run from Sunnyside.

Intermediate-Advanced: Intermediates should take the Supreme Lift for the blue runs of Devil’s Elbow then turn onto Upper Big Dipper and Big Dipper. From the same lift, you can then try Sleepy Hollow, Three Bears and some mellow skiing through the trees to your left of the Supreme Access lift. Experts will prefer So Long, Sugar Bowl and Gravy Boat and the menagerie of black diamond runs from the top of Supreme Lift.

Beginners: Start with Birches, the Landing and Snowbrook trails before advancing on to the green slopes. Whiffletree is ideal for families.

Wildcat Area

Alta’s most iconic slopes are found in the Wildcat area and from the Collins lift. This is the most sheltered part of the mountain so the slopes retain powder longer and many of the pistes run through the trees.

Intermediate: Progressing intermediates should start with the Mambo to Meadow ski run and then on to Corkscrew. This is the easiest way down and is easily managed by lower intermediates. There are no green runs here. From Collins take the Ballroom. For advanced skiers and accomplished intermediates, you have a choice of Aggie’s Alley and Johnson’s Warm Up from the Wildcat lift - a nice introduction to the black-diamond runs of High Traverse and Alf’s High Rustler - the most famous pitch in Utah. For tree skiing head for Westward Ho at the end of Wildcat Lift.

Beginners: There is no beginner terrain from the Collins or Wildcat lift.

Ski Holidays in Alta

Thanks to a healthy dose of snowfall, the ski area of Alta, Utah is an excellent location for skiing holidays right throughout the ski season. No matter what class of skier you are, “Alta is for skiers”. Sorry snowboarders, planks are not permitted.

Alta Ski Passes

Ski lift passes for Alta may not be the cheapest in the world, but the cost is worth every penny. Discount prices are available if you book online in advance.

One day ticket passes are available for between €82 and €119 for adults online, and between €52 and €62 for children.

Family packages are available for €2,599 and it includes 2 unlimited adult season passes and 2 unlimited children passes.

Ski Schools

The only ski school in Alta is the Alf Engen ski school, named after the legendary ski jumper and eight time world champion. Engen ran the ski school here until he retired in 1989.

Skiers of all levels are invited to take a two-hour lesson with qualified instructors. The ski school also has ties with the children’s daycare centre.

Equipment Hire

The lodges in Alta’s ski resort are spread out but its relatively easy to find a reliable ski shop that rents out ski equipment. However, there have been reports that some ski rental shops on Alta do not show prices and their advertising is deceptive.

If you search for ski equipment hire in Alta online before heading out to the shop, make sure you confirm the prices you pay are as stated on the website. The Peruvian Lodge, The Alta Store and Powder House Ski Shop offer rental packages and demos.

Family Fun in Alta

Alta is blessed with incredible skiing conditions and has terrain to suit all levels. The diverse range of runs makes Alta an ideal destination for a family skiing holiday.

The Alta Children’s Centre provides a full-day service and is licensed to provide child care for children from 6-weeks old up to 12-years old. Meals are provided and the centre guarantee reservations if made within 24-hours.

When to Go?

There isn’t a strictly best time to visit Alta. Utah’s Wasatch Mountains receive a good amount of fresh snow throughout the season. However, depending on your preferences there are “ideal” times for a skiing holiday in Alta.

January to March are the most bountiful months for fresh powder. If you want deep snow, go in February. Skiers that want to avoid families and crowded lifts should obviously visit during school times and avoid the holiday queues.

Snow Report

Alta receives around 548”-554” of fresh powder a year - and snowfall is relatively consistent throughout the season although February and March are the most abundant. Temperatures in late December through to mid-March can be bitterly cold and the icy winds in the open bowl areas can be harsh. Utah is not without its sunny days, however, so keep your fingers crossed.

Operating Times

The ski season at Alta runs from mid-November to late April. The lifts open at 9.15am and close at 4.30pm.

Getting There

The closest airport serving Alta ski resort is Salt Lake City 32 miles away. The approximate transfer by road is between 40-45 minutes in regular traffic.

UK Airports

All the major airlines including British Airways, Air France and KLM provide flights from UK airports to Salt Lake City. Direct flights are only available from London Heathrow and Manchester. Other airports in the UK fly to Salt Lake City with one or two connecting flights.

Airport Transfers

To get to the ski resort from the airport, travellers can either hire a car or use one of the private companies that provide transportation. Alternatively, take the UAT public transport service.