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Alta Ski Area: Wikis


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Alta Logo.png
Alta Little Cottonwood Canyon.JPG
established 1939
Location: Wasatch-Cache Nat. Forest
Little Cottonwood Canyon
Salt Lake County,
 United States
Nearest city: Sandy
Salt Lake City
Coordinates: 40°34′51″N 111°38′14″W / 40.58083°N 111.63722°W / 40.58083; -111.63722 (Alta)
Vertical: 2020 ft - (616 m)
Top elevation: 10,550 ft - (3216 m)
Base elevation: 8530 ft - (2600 m)
Skiable area: 2200 acres - (8.9 km²)
Runs: 116+ total
Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg 25% easiest
Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg 40% more difficult
Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg 35% most difficult[1]
Lift system: 7 chairlifts
- 2 hi-speed quads
- 1 hi speed triple
- 1 fixed triple
- 3 fixed doubles
5 surface tows.
Terrain parks: 0
Snowfall: 514 in. - (1306 cm)
Snowmaking: yes
Night skiing: none
Web site:

Alta is a ski area located in the Wasatch Mountains, just east of Salt Lake City, Utah. With a skiable area of 2200 acres (8.9 km²), beginning at a base elevation of 8530 ft (2600 m) and rising to 10,550 ft (3216 m) for a vertical gain of 2020 ft (616 m). Alta is one of the oldest ski resorts in the country, opening its first lift in 1939.[2] It has an average annual snowfall of 514 inches (1,306 cm).[3] Alta is one of three remaining ski resorts in America that prohibits snowboarders, along with nearby competitor Deer Valley and Vermont's Mad River Glen.[4]




Early history

Alta is one of the oldest ski areas in the U.S. and is one of just a few ski areas in America that limit access to skiers (snowboarders are not allowed). It is best known for the ash-light quality of its snow, commonly referred to as "powder" snow. Located at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon barely 30 miles from the Great Salt Lake, Alta resides in a unique micro climate characterized by high volume, low moisture snowfalls. Typical annual snowfall totals exceed 500 inches (1270 cm).

The Alta ski area features long, straight, fall-line pitches. Among the most well known and sought after of these are High Rustler, Eddies High Nowhere, Stone Crusher and the Baldy Chutes. Though widely respected as one of the most challenging of in-bounds ski areas in the world, Alta has always viewed itself as a local's and family oriented ski area with some 40% of its terrain devoted to intermediate and beginner skiers.

The community of Alta was established in 1871 as an offshoot of the silver mining operations in Little Cottonwood Canyon. A fire destroyed most of the town in 1878, then a cataclysmic avalanche in 1885—combined with the decline of mining—heralded a period of dormancy for the town. The area experienced a modest resurgence in mining in the 1900s, but the town declined again shortly thereafter, and was deserted with the exception of a few hardy miners who continued to intermittently prospect the area.

In 1935 the U.S. Forest Service retained the noted skier Alf Engen to hike into the area and determine its potential as a future ski area. Engen's reports expressed great promise for the area, and recommended the purchase of additional surrounding lands to form the ski area.[citation needed] In 1937 a prominent Salt Lake City lawyer, Joe Quinney, along with other local businessmen, formed the Utah Winter Sports Association to oversee the development of skiing at Alta. In the following year construction began on the original Collins chairlift, then just the third such lift in the United States, after Sun Valley and the Magic Mile at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.[citation needed] Alta opened to skiers for the first time on January 15, 1939,[2] offering a single ride on the chair for 25 cents, or a full day pass for $1.50.

Alta is best known for the verticality of its skiing pitches and abundant dry snow.

Alta is located in Utah
location of Alta, east of Sandy

Recent developments

Alta's original ski lift, the Collins lift, was fashioned from a surplus mining ore tramway system that featured a clamp-cam bullwheel that gripped a metal cable to which single-seat chairs were affixed. Slow but dependable, the lift's grip system emitted a disconcerting, high pitched wailing sound when in motion.

The ski area did not install its first triple chair until 1991, when the Germania double chair was upgraded. The resort did not have a developed snowmaking infrastructure until 1996, and the system was not completed until 2000. However, Alta has moved toward snowmaking in order to remain competitive by opening earlier in the season, and retaining good skiable conditions in drier years. The late 1990s and early 2000s were marked with further modernization. In 1999 the Sunnyside lift was replaced with a detachable triple chair, the resort's first detachable chairlift. Two years later the Supreme chair was upgraded to a triple, and the Sugarloaf chair was replaced with a detachable quad. The most recent lift development was the new Collins chair for the 2004-05 season, a detachable quad, replacing the old Collins and Germania chairs. Also, during the 2007-08 season, Alta introduced a new Axess RFID electronic lift ticket system, similar to that of Solitude Ski Resort.

Albion Basin base at Alta ski resort.

Eventually, users will be able to track their vertical and lift ride data online and purchase Alta Cards using "ticket vending machines". Most recently during the 2008-09 season Alta added a conveyor system at the start point of the Supreme lift that assists skiers in getting on the fixed-triple lift.

The resort currently has 2 detachable quad chairs, 1 detachable triple chair, 1 triple chair [fixed grip], 3 double chairs, and 5 surface tows. The terrain is classified as 25% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, and 35% Advanced.

Snowbird ski resort is accessible from Mount Baldy at Alta ski resort

Partnership with Snowbird ski resort

Beginning in the winter of 2002, Alta and its neighbor, Snowbird, began offering a joint day pass and a joint season ticket, allowing skiers to fully access all of the terrain of both resorts. The offer coincided with the opening of a new lift in Mineral Basin, a large bowl owned by Snowbird on the back of Snowbird's Hidden Peak and Alta's Sugarloaf mountains, that allowed access to Alta from the Basin. Other access points between the two resorts exist as well. The offer is open to skiers only, as a result of Alta's skiers-only policy; Snowbird allows snowboarders.


External links

  • - official site
  • Alta Skiing Guide Book - The Powder Hound's Guide to Skiing Alta, a 160 page guide book that describes each of the important runs on one of the most challenging mountains in alpine skiing.
  • Ski - Alta - current and removed lifts


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