A locals’ favorite since 1939, Alta has managed to preserve what some call "the soul of skiing". Without real estate development on the mountain and very little corporate clutter, you can imagine the thrills felt by the pioneers of skiing when little got in the way of the natural beauty of the area.
If you are looking for a ski vacation away from the bustle of everyday life, Alta just may be the place for you. Perched high above the Salt Lake desert in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta offers some of the best skiing in the world. The 500"+ of snow that fall at Alta each winter are amongst the driest snowflakes on earth. In fact, the powder is so light and fluffy that Alta actually publishes the water content of each snowfall. "Cold smoke" style snow is the norm here and a skier would have to be quite unlucky to pass a week at Alta without it snowing at least once.
Alta and Snowbird resorts now offer the Alta Snowbird Pass, enabling skiers to access both ski areas via the new high-speed quad in Mineral Basin that transports skiers to the saddle separating Alta's Albion Basin and Snowbird's Mineral Basin and connects the two resorts.
The combined ski areas in Little Cottonwood Canyon are justifiably considered as having the best powder snow in the U.S., but if you're looking for loads of thrilling nightlife Alta may not be the right place for you. The lodges are traditional, cozy gathering places for family and friends, but not really good for people who are looking for dancing and drinking. The ski season at Alta runs for five months from the middle of November to mid-April. Note that Alta does not allow any snowboarding, while neighboring Snowbird does.
Alta Pros and Cons
+ lightest, driest snow in North America (500" a winter)
+ excellent off-piste skiing
+ high base elevation
- limited nightlife
- not an option for mixed groups (skiers and snowboarders)
Updated for Winter 2014-2015