“That was so easy!", I remarked to my son Ted as we slipped onto the chairlift just after noon.
We had left our home in Phoenix just that morning, with a vague notion that we might be able to fit in a half day of skiing.
And we did!
The skiing options out of Salt Lake City are so numerous it is difficult to choose a final destination. With only a weekend ahead we decided to try out Alta and Snowbird, two resorts that came wildly recommended by our snow loving friends.
And of course , the dynamic combo has been ranked the No. 1 resort in the country by SKIING Magazine for four years running.
On Our Way
After an easy flight on Southwest, we collected our bags and had only to walk ten paces to make our final arrangements to head up the canyon. We had secured reservations with Canyon Transportation before our departure and were quickly loaded in a van and were on our way. The chatty driver was well armed with the lowdown on Utah skiing and restaurant suggestions that came in handy later in the day.
We were able to check in early at our home for the weekend, Snowbird’s flagship Cliff Lodge and Spa, before taking the handy shuttle a mile up the road to the base of Alta.
The friendly crew at the Alta Ski Shop and Demo Center were quick to help us gather the right gear so we could head quickly out the door. I’m not sure I’ve ever observed better use of every square inch within a retail operation. Had we forgotten a hat, socks or sunscreen we were covered. And I was even able to sip a latte from their espresso bar while filling out the rental forms.
After a fabulous blue bird afternoon, we were joined by my son Alex who took a break from his collegiate studies at USC to spend time with me and his brother on the slopes. We made plans to check out the other side of the mountain!
The next day was spent exploring the slopes of Snowbird and we weren’t disappointed. During our hot tub review session, we determined that Snowbird definitely feels like the more sophisticated cousin to it’s traditional relative, Alta. And depending on your mood or company you may prefer one over the other. Within our trio, we found lots to like about both venues over our holiday weekend.
And thanks to a combined ticket to both mountains you don’t have to choose. With the dual mountain pass, skiers have access to nearly 5,000 acres of the famous Utah powder.
They say Alta has “soul” and when you arrive, somehow you instantly know what they mean. It is peaceful and quiet. For skier’s only, you won’t hear the scraping of boarders moving down the hill behind you.
Located 33 miles from the airport, and covering 2200 acres with 54 runs, the resort truly has something for everyone. The variety of terrain, breathtaking alpine scenery and superb snow conditions combine to create a unique setting for an unforgettable outdoor experiences for skiers of every age and ability.
We were able to ride lifts that provided runs with through-the-trees excitement for the boys as well as more intermediate terrain for me, yet still meet at the bottom.
While riding the lift we were told about the Ski With A Ranger program. You’ll learn about the natural world and mountain culture of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest during an enjoyable complimentary 45-minute guided program down friendly terrain Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 1:30 p.m. Ask about the meeting spot.
For the little ones
The Alta Children's Center provides a unique atmosphere, blending warm, personal attention with creative educational activities. The children play and learn in various environments designed to make fun and education come together. A special area is dedicated to meet the needs of infants.
Under private ownership of Redwood Preschool, Inc., the Center is a state- licensed facility for children from ages three months- twelve years old. The Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Reservations are encouraged.
The Alf Engen Ski School has programs that allow every child to have the best possible learning experience in a spectacular mountain playground. The ski school offers Ski Adventures to children from ages four- through early teen, of all skill levels. Alta's goal is to give children the skills for a lifelong enjoyment of skiing. Participants can choose a two-hour adventure, an all day mini adventure that combines skiing, lunch and childcare, or an all-day adventure that includes lunch. The all day Mountain Explorers offers five hours of skiing and lunch to children from ages seven- early teens that are competent skiers.
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In addition to four lodges and 10 restaurants, Snowbird offers the Snowbird Mountain School, night skiing and snowboarding, a world-renowned children's program, snowmobile tours, snowshoe tours, tubing, ice skating, swimming pools, live music, movies, shopping, conference facilities and more.
Snowbird's luxurious Cliff Spa offers a full complement of pampering treatments as well as yoga and fitness classes. I can assure you that my massage at the end of the day was worth every penny.
You won’t find anything like the Snowbird Terrain Park, on the Alta side of the mountain. Accessed by the Baby Thunder lift, kids of all ages will enjoy this area dedicated to tabletops, hits, spines, jumps and rails of every shape and size. Snowbird’s Superpipe is located on the Big Emma run and is accessed by the Mid Gad or Gadzoom lifts. An intermediate park near the Big Emma Superpipe offers features and rails for skiers and riders looking to improve their terrain park skills.
Averaging 500 inches of near perfect powder a year, Snowbird boasts an aerial tram, that transports 125 people 2,900 vertical feet in approximately six minutes.
Other options include 10 chairlifts, including three high-speed detachable quads and seven doubles, plus two rope tows. While the resort is noted for its expert terrain, and there is plenty of it, I was impressed with the friendly and expansive beginner areas and Mineral Basin, all of which provide plenty of options for those not headed to the Olympic trials.
Snowbird’s original Peruvian lift was replaced with a new high-speed quad. At the top of the lift, a 600 foot tunnel with a magic carpet provides easy access to the popular Mineral Basin making it easier still for skiers and snowboarders to access this intermediate terrain.
Still, I found Snowbird more challenging than Alta and was quick to send my sons off to take advantage of the testing terrain. I enjoyed the sunny day on intermediate cruisers and made the most of a significant amount of powder still present from a recent storm. When we met at the end of the day they were exhausted yet elated from the full out effort required for the expert runs they chose. After hearing the first few accounts of their air-borne adventures I was glad we had parted ways earlier in the day.
Before catching our ride down the mountain with Canyon Transportaton, we were able to take advantage of the locker room and showers available to guests of the Cliff Lodge on check out day.
As we headed toward Salt Lake’s airport, I was happy to have had the time away with the boys. And, I could have used one more massage.
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