by Paul Maraschiello


Riding up the new Collins chairlift at Alta, the terrain you could see from the chair really impressed the Killington local that came along as my assistant. "This is REALLY incredible," he said, as he got off the chair and looked around the vast panorama at the top of the mountain. With views of Mt. Baldy, Devil's Castle and over 115 trails on over 2,200 acres of skiable terrain, he was correct. I think Alta has some of the best skiing in America and have said so before.

We warmed up on Devil's Way to Glory Gulch and rode up the Sugarloaf chair to sample to snow on the Sugar Bowl. Alta had received over 300 inches of snow that season, so all the slopes had excellent coverage. After a few runs on the trails and slopes off the Sugarloaf chair, we began to explore the rest of the mountain. Every place we went, the trails were in excellent condition.

One Degree of Separation
We had lunch at the Wildcat Base Lodge and met a couple of guys that recognized my Killington friend. After living and skiing at Killington, VT for over 25 years, it's not surprising that he looks familiar to Eastern skiers who frequent that resort. In fact, all day we met people who we knew or who knew skier friends of ours. Alta attracts serious skiers and once you've skied there, you are going to put it on your "short list", the skiing is that good.

There was a movie a few years ago called "Six Degrees of Separation", that maintained that everyone on Earth is separated from everyone else by no more than six degrees of separation (or six friends of friends of friends). We met so many people at Alta that knew friends of ours that we concluded that among the good skiers at Alta, there was only one degree of separation. The ski world is a small world and all the good skiers who are "in the know", ski Alta whenever they can. One woman I met on the chair turned out to be a ski instructor that I featured in a story I did on Sunday River in Maine a few years ago. She now teaches next door at Snowbird.

After skiing most of the day with me, my assistant decided to head off on his own and explore the mountain by himself. He tied up with a couple of locals and followed them on High Traverse. He figured they knew some great trails and he was eager to sample some of the "private stashes" of snow that only the locals know about. They led him to the front of the mountain and down High Rustler, a very steep expert trail. As he proceeded down the trail, a dense fog descended and he had the dubious pleasure of skiing one of the steepest trails at Alta by brail. It was a somewhat harrowing experience but he is a very experienced skier and he was able to handle it. Although the number of times he told the story indicated that the experience really made an impression on him.

Ski-in Ski-out Accommodations
We were staying at the Rustler Lodge, a large, first class, modern ski lodge with views of the Wasatch mountains and Alta's slopes. You skied right from the back door of the lodge to the base of the mountain and there is a chair lift to take you back to the lodge.

Our room was large and spacious with two queen-size beds and a large bathroom that had an enclosed shower, whorl-pool tub with the toilet in a separate little room. All-in-all, the accommodations were really classy. Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rates that range from $161.89 per person total (including tax and gratuities) for a dorm room to $746.62 total (per room double occupancy including tax and gratuities) for a Superior Corner Room during the regular season.

The lodge provides a ski lockers for ski equipment; spa services that included a weight room, hot tub, steam room, heated swimming pool; computer room (to check your e-mail, etc.); ski shop; bar and restaurant. They have valet parking and excellent services provided by a congenial staff. Their sumptuous breakfast bar included juice, hot and cold cereal, granola, fruit, yogurt, bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, French toast, cinnamon buns, pastries, and a omelette chef who made omelettes to order. Free appetizers were provided in the bar during happy-hour where a roaring fire added to the friendly atmosphere. Dinners from a limited menu were excellent and included choices of soups, salads, entrees, and desert. All the meals were excellent and guests are treated to gorgeous views from the dining room windows. If you are looking for a really first class ski-in ski-out experience at the greatest ski area in America, I can highly recommend Alta's Rustler Lodge. For reservations call: (888) 532-ALTA (2582).

We skied for three days at Alta and had a real blast. Alta not only has outstanding runs to challenge the most experienced skiers (35% Expert) but provides a variety of trails for intermediate (40%) and even lots of trails for the beginner (25%). There are a dozen lifts that service the 115 trails at this world-class mountain resort with a 2,020 ft. vertical. They have 50- acres of snowmaking to augment the 500 inches of annual snowfall.

We had a chance to ski the trails on all of Alta's mountains and the snow was excellent on all the slopes. We had fun skiing the expert trails serviced by the Supreme chair and even used some of the beginner trails that lead to the Sunnyside and Albion chairs. I skied the bumps on High Main Street and made fresh tracks on Ballroom. I showed off in the bumps of Extrovert, under the Sugarloaf chair and did a lot of high-speed cruising going back to the lodge on Corkscrew and other easier trails and was delighted to find that there was a chairlift to take us back to the lodge at the end of the day.

If you are a serious skier, Alta needs to be on your must-ski list. But be careful, once you ski Alta, you might become spoiled and dissatisfied skiing at lesser mountains. If you are seeking vast terrain, steep expert slopes, extensive intermediate trails and unbeatable vistas, Alta will be first on your list. There are also plenty of easy trails for the beginner at Alta.