Alta Lodge in Utah is the real deal for skiers. In the winter the place lives, eats and breathes skiing.
I’ve got friends that visit consistently on a close to annual basis. And 70% of the hotel guests are repeats. Many people book the same time year after year after year. It’s not often that you see a crowd of skiers that include a lot of 70, 80 and even 90 year old skiers. But here you do.
What is it that keep people returning to Alta Lodge?
Alta Lodge isn’t a fancy place by any means. But it’s super comfortable, very friendly and incredibly accessible – providing the road hasn’t been closed because of avalanches. It took John and I just 5.5 hours door to door, from Calgary to Alta Lodge – and that includes two hours of waiting time to allow for US Customs and airport security. A shuttle rather than a rental car is the way to get up to the lodge from Salt Lake City, and it takes less than an hour.
On our arrival we were warmly welcomed and given the lowdown on meal times and hotel amenities. Dinner was only 30 minutes away, but that was enough time to get ski rentals sorted out. It couldn’t have been easier. We did have to walk up two flights of stairs to the ski shop – but that was it. Within 10 minutes we were set with a couple of pairs of fat boy skis to handle the powder predicted for our three day stay.
You can also buy lift tickets right at the front desk so there’s never any waiting in lines.
The Meals at Alta Lodge
Breakfast and dinner as well as an afternoon tea are included in the price of your room at Alta Lodge. That’s part of the allure of the place. No thinking is involved. All you have to do is walk up or down a flight of stairs for a meal – and then make a decision on what you’d like to eat.
The day starts with coffee and tea set up at various locations around the hotel. Breakfast is served buffet style though eggs any way you like them can be ordered from your table. There is plenty to choose from including granola, cold cereals, yogurt, fruit, muffins, eggs, bacon…..
Starting at 3 pm there is an afternoon tea served in the common room – the only room sporting a TV in the hotel. You don’t want to miss it. Apart from tea – a lavender/Earl Grey mix when we were there or lemonade to rehydrate, there are trays of home-baked goodies – like gougère – a fluffy cheese pastry, lemon squares and cookies. The choice changes daily.
Dinner is served beginning at 6 pm. You have the option of sitting with whoever you came with to the lodge, be it friends or family, or with strangers at a larger table. Alta Lodge is a perfect place for the solo skier as you never have to dine alone. The meals themselves are delicious. Soup, salad, a choice of four main courses and desert is offered – though if the lodge is busy it goes to buffet style.
The Rooms at Alta Lodge
The rooms at Alta Lodge come in all sorts of different configurations – so families can easily share one of the larger rooms. They are fairly basic with a bed, bedside tables, a chest of drawers and a chair or two. There is free WiFi in every room and the toiletries provided are Aveda. Some of the rooms have awesome views of the hill – others less so.
One of the interesting amenities provided is a vaporizer and salts. It’s supposed to help you acclimatize to the altitude – which is at about 8500 feet – high enough that you have to take precautions to avoid getting sick. (Drink LOTS of water.)
There are a couple of hot tubs and a sauna – and as this is a casual kind of hotel you can comfortably wear a robe down to the hot tub. Cliff, the General Manager, tells a story about some of the get-ups people wear to the main room in the morning for coffee – including just a men’s Speedo bathing suit. Don’t do it! But consider throwing in a pair of slippers to pad around the hotel.
On arrival you’re given a locker combination and a ski storage locker in the basement. Access to the hill is right out the door from there.
We’ve Been Interlodged
Every so often, sometimes once a year, sometimes twice, occasionally never – you get interlodged while staying at the Alta Lodge. What that means is that it’s snowed so much and the avalanche danger is so severe in Little Cottonwood Canyon that you can’t leave the hotel. In fact no one in Alta is allowed to move outside of their lodging unless escorted by the sheriff.
We were interlodged at about 9 pm on the Saturday night. Initially it had no effect on us as we weren’t going anywhere but to bed. But the next morning the Interlodge orders went up a level to MAXIMUM SECURITY. (You could hear phones ringing up and down the hallways rousing people from their beds.) Everyone had to leave their bedrooms and congregate in the main room on the main level. The dining room was roped off initially – and even part of the main room. An avalanche has hit the hotel in the past so they don’t take any chances. Windows were boarded while the avalanche control work was done above the slopes of Alta.
Fortunately by 9:15 am Interlodge was lifted. The first few runs of the day were amazing, especially as the slopes weren’t crowded as only people in the Alta hotels had access to the ski area. People driving up from Sandy and Salt Lake City had to wait a little longer for the road to be cleared.
Alta Ski Area is one of a handful of ski resorts in North America that caters to skiers only. Snowboarders are forbidden though they are welcome next door at the Snowbird Resort.
Alta is renowned for its fluffy white powder and its enormous dumps of snow. We totally lucked out. Not only were the temperatures slightly above normal – so I never got cold – but it snowed continuously for two days and then the sun came out on our last day.
The ski area offers more intermediate and expert runs than many hills I’ve skied. Only 25% of the runs are for beginners. Average seasonal snowfall is a whopping 560 inches (1,422 cms). Although there is only a 2,020 foot vertical drop, there is so much terrain to ski that it’s hard to get bored. Plus you can catch a shuttle to Snowbird if you want more variety – and it’s only a mile away.
Cliff told me one of the big reasons people keep coming back is that it’s an easy vacation, especially with the meals included, and the snow is consistently excellent. He should know. He left Seattle 18 years ago and hasn’t returned.
And you? Have you ever skied at Alta or stayed at Alta Lodge?