ALTA - POWDER CITY

by Paul Maraschiello

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We had heard of the legendary powder in Utah and were looking forward to skiing in it. Alta did not let us down. We checked into the Alta Lodge and picked up our skis at the Deep Powder House. We received excellent service from the ski bums that work there and ran into three people who were friends of my old roomies at Killington. The ski world is a small place and it is no wonder that I ran into people I knew at the greatest powder stash in America. I was set up with a pair of Volkl G4s that were the perfect ski for deep powder. These skis are wide and stiff, like my Volkl Snowrangers but have a more shape. I give these skis four stars for powder and they carve really well on the groomed slopes too.



THE SNOW

We rode up the Collins chair and skied down Taint to the Germania chair. We warmed up on Main Street and took the chair back up to the top. This was our first time at Alta and we explored it carefully. We took Devil's Way over to the Sugarloaf detachable quad. On the way up, we met another guy who had moved to Utah from Vermont and knew some of my friends from up that way. We came down Little Dipper and skied Devil's Elbow and Roller Coaster a couple of times.



We had a good time exploring all the trails but kept away from the really difficult trails trying to acclimate to deep powder and the steep trails we found. We had a nice lunch at Alf's restaurant on the mountain and even took a ride up the Cecret chair. We got into some powder on Blue Bell and rode up the Albion chair. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring this vast mountain.



THE ALTA LODGE



The Alta Lodge is a ski-in-ski-out lodge at the base of the Collins and Wildcat lifts. As it is built into the side of a mountain, there are quite a few stairs. The cinder and cement block construction is avalanche resistant. That's important in an area like Alta. We had a nice room and relaxed in the hot tub and enjoyed the company of the many "regulars" we met in the water. We learned that there were families who were coming there for generations and the skiers who started coming in the '40s and brought their children were now seeing their children bringing their families with the grandchildren being introduced to the great powder at Alta.



Dinner both evenings was a gastronomic delight. This lodge runs on the modified American plan and provides a sumptuous breakfast and a superb dinner menu. The accommodations at this lodge aren't cheap ($467 per day double occupancy and includes taxes and a 15% gratuity). It was easy to see how the well-heeled could become "regulars" at this lodge. We were told that some of the guests come for the meals which are prepared by a chief that has worked there for over 30 years.



The lodge is family-owned and we had the pleasure of meeting the owner (who is also the mayor of Alta) and his wife the second evening we were there. They were really charming and interesting people and made us feel right at home.



BACK ON THE SNOW

The next day, we were provided with a guide named Al Geibel who gave us wonderful look at this world-class ski area. It had snowed again that evening, so there was even more powder. Al took us all over and encouraged us to ski some terrain we would not have skied by ourselves. We skied the bumps on Razor Back and the powder on Amen. He took us up the Supreme chair and we skied No.9 and Sleepy Hollow. He got us to go over the lip on the Germania Return and ski that headwall. I followed him down many trails, sticking to the powder on the edge while my assistnat skied on the hardpack. We all skied a little powder on Spring Valley and parted company with him just before lunch.



I had a buffalo burger at the Collins Grill on the mountain and really enjoyed it. After lunch, we explored the mountain on our own. After skiing with Al, our confidence had been increased and we skied a lot of trails that we would not have tried on our own.

By the end of the day, we were tired and very happy. My assistant finally learned why skiers like skiing in fresh powder. And if that is what you want, Alta is the place to go.



I've skied all over the USA and a few places in Austria and Italy and have never skied better powder than the powder at Alta. They are the highest mountain in the area and they get that light blow-away stuff you dream of. We kept running into locals that talked about "face shots" and "freshies". So if you are interested in skiing powder that is so deep that it hits you in the face and making tracks in un-tracked snow, Alta is the place to go. You don't need to be an expert skier to enjoy Alta, they have a lot of blue trails and they groom a lot of them. The expert will be absolutely delighted by the terrain and no mater how good they are, there will be tuns that will challenge them.





If you like skiing out the door of your lodge, I can recommend the Alta Lodge. The staff was friendly, the food was outstanding and we had a very nice time there. If you have the money, the Alta Lodge is an excellent choice when you ski Alta. It is also very near Snowbird, so a visit to Alta and Snowbird is very doable when you stay at the Alta Lodge. They have lift tickets which are good at both areas (add $20) but I think you are much better off skiing each ski area on separate days, unless you are only going to be there for a day.

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