Alta is all about open slopes and big vistas. Here is Big Dipper, a beautiful "blue" level run. Credit: Harriet Wallis
Alta is all about open slopes and big vistas. Here is Big Dipper, a beautiful “blue” level run.
Credit: Harriet Wallis

It’s Vast Open Space And Powder.

Alta is the granddaddy of powder skiing. It averages 500 inches of snow a year which earns it the nickname: Skiers’ Paradise. It has wide, wide open bowls with groomed trails, but everywhere you look slopes are left au natural and full of powder. That’s ample for most senior skiers. But it also has tough, gnarly in-bounds chutes and cols that can only be reached by serious hikes.

As the day begins. Come early and park at the Albion Grill day lodge that’s just steps from your car. The sun pours in making it a cheery gathering place, and it’s the first place where seniors meet. They enjoy conversation as they boot up and fuel up with a hearty breakfast. Introduce yourself, and you’ll have instant ski friends.

Why does Alta have such wide open skiing? Ancient glaciers carved Alta. Fast forward to the days of pioneers and silver miners. They cut down the trees and hauled off the timber to shore up the mines and to build early Salt Lake City. The only thing left was stubble, and hungry sheep overgrazed it right down to the ground. Alta was a wasteland.

The U.S. Forest Service had domain over the vast area but had no clue what to do with it. That’s when it hired iconic ski jumper and legendary ski pioneer Alf Engen to check it out and see if the area had any value. Engen envisioned it as perfect for skiing – and Alta was born

Alta skiers, and especially senior skiers, are avid about the uniquely vast terrain with its wide open slopes. Watch this 95 year old senior ski Alta.

Lunch time. After a few laps on Supreme and Sugarloaf lifts, drop into Alf’s mid-mountain restaurant about 11 a.m. That’s when members of Alta’s Wild Old Bunch gather at the restaurant’s only round table. They’ll be having coffee or lunch and exchanging notes on their morning of skiing. It’s the second place where you can make more senior friends.

Buy a hot beverage at Alf’s and enjoy a free refill. My personal favorite is hot chocolate topped with a mound of whipped cream.

While at Alf’s, go to the farthest corner,  and you’ll find fascinating photos of Alta’s past.

What else can I do?  Alta has extensive rentals and demos, so check out some of the latest gear, especially if it’s a powder day.

On weekends and holidays meet trained naturalists at 1:30 p.m. at the top of the Sunnyside lift and take a tour to learn about the area’s environment, animals, and history. A Tour With a Ranger will not disappoint.

SeniorsSkiing.com's correspondent Harriet Wallis and friend have a cuppa java at the end of the day. Credit: Harriet Wallis
SeniorsSkiing.com’s correspondent Harriet Wallis and friend have a cuppa java at the end of the day.
Credit: Harriet Wallis

Wrap up the day with a specialty brew at Alta Java, an outdoor coffee bar at snow level just beneath the Albion Grill where you started.

I want to stay. Alta is within a national forest, so there are no shopping centers or high rise hotels. There are several lovely slopeside hotels that blend into the landscape and are scarcely noticeable. But book early if you want to stay there because they’re very popular.

Evening activities include fireside history talks and other local events. Alta is eat, sleep, ski. Repeat.

Bare bones facts.

1) Skiers only. Alta does not allow snowboards. 

2) Convenient. Alta is just 45 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport. If you stay in the city you can take a frequent UTA ski bus to the mountain.

3) Stats. 2,200 acres, 116 named runs, 7 chair lifts, and a surface rope tow that’s a hoot. You can ride both directions across the flat base area. Of course you don’t need to use it because you can ski all around the mountain. But it’s a novelty that you’ll find only at Alta.

4) Eat. Mid-mountain and base area restaurants.

5) Orion and the dippers. Enjoy the stars in the night sky because there are no interfering lights.

6) The Wild Old Bunch. If you missed Alta’s senior skiers at lunch, join them at Sweet Tomatoes, a soup and salad buffet restaurant on Union Park Avenue in Midvale. They gather every Wednesday night year round for dinner and conversation.

Bottom Line:

Alta has a $699 season pass for 65 to 79.  It’s $50 for 80 plus.  During the season, there are no senior discounts, but you can get reduced prices online, especially if you buy four days ahead of your visit.  Weekdays passes can be bought for about $73 online if you plan ahead, otherwise it’s about $89.  Multi-day discounts are also offered, the more days you buy, the lower the per day rate.  See the Alta website for details.

Alta Trail Map

Another view of Big Dipper. Alta is known as "Skier's Paradise". Credit: Harriet Wallis
Another view of Big Dipper. Alta is known as “Skiers’ Paradise”.
Credit: Harriet Wallis

9 Comments

  1. Love Alta
    Love Harriet
    Do you windsurf too?
    I am 80 and recently single (a bit heavily damaged)
    Love to meet you

  2. Dear Harriet

    Loved the story about Jedenoff and video. Would love to know what his exercise routine is since it obviously keeps him in superb shape.

    A 77 yr. old hoping to reach 95 and still ski!

  3. Harriet- you’ve done it again!! Just shared your article with a couple of ‘away friends’….just a bit of enticement to return to skiing and UT!!

  4. Harriet, it is well written.
    Thank you.

    • Avatar Nick Bowling says:

      Hi Hugh and Inhee,
      Hope your travels went well this summer. Looking forward to seeing you guys in early Dec.
      Nick and Carol

  5. Love your stories Harriet!

  6. Avatar Millie Wetterberg says:

    Harriet, you probably have forgotten me but we met at a ski lesson with Barb Hartman last year.

    I have been in Lux all winter with my daughter and family missing this year’s incredible snow. I return the end of the month and so HOPE some is left to take a few run at this amazing place Millie Wetterberg

  7. Harriet,

    Thank you for sharing Alta’s story. Great job!

    Connie Marshall

  8. Hi Harriet……heading to Alta in March on a Mother/Daughter trip (I’m the 65 yr. old mother :)) We are staying in an airbnb in a suburb of SLC and will take the shuttle in, but was wondering about the best place to find lockers close to the tickets booth/ lifts. Have a little trouble with a compromised ankle so walking very far in boots is difficult…..from Tahoe City/ Squaw Valley!

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