Skiing Alta when its crowded

I sat at my desk, looking out at the Wasatch front range. Wednesday it snowed.  Thursday it snowed. Friday it snowed.  Saturday morning it was clear.  Highway 210 was open, no chains required, Alta was calling.

Alta Baldy

My favorite ski area is Alta, and so, like almost everyone else who calls the Salt Lake City area home, after days of snow, and an open Saturday to boot, I headed to the top of Little Cottonwood canyon for a day of skiing.  By 10am every parking spot that could possibly be created would be filled.  Yet I was able to ski powder, on quiet slopes, picking my own line through the trees and enjoying intermediate groomers all to myself.  Completely leaving the crowds of Alta base behind.

The secret is to get to the back.  Parking at Albion basin, ride the Sunnyside chair, it takes you to the heart of the basin, and the best “learn to ski terrain” in all of Utah, then head south.  Instead of jumping on the big quad “Sugarloaf” at the bottom of the hill from Sunnyside, turn right and get on a second beginner chair, Cecret lift.   From the top of Cecret, ski back north to Supreme Lift.   Supreme lift takes you to the eastern ridge of Alta.  Its often overlooked by intermediate skiers because of all the black diamonds and cutes that cover most of this area. One bit of warning, there are no beginner, green runs here, if you need to snowplow on the steep, this is no place to be. However, if you can easily ski the blue runs in the rest of Alta, the Big Dipper, and Rock n Roll, running down the ridge near Red Castle are some of the best.

Find these runs from the top of Supreme by skiing south, a cat track runs towards the Red Castle cliffs and all along it are small runs falling off to your right.  The first few are very steep, and often full of moguls, Alta “black diamonds”, then the slope lessens some, and these great blue runs show up. The runs have lots of places to play in the trees, with a good mix of steep to bring on the thrill, followed by short outruns to let you catch your breath.   My favorite place to play in the snow, especially when there’s 26″ of new, dry, Utah powder on the top is this back corner of Alta.   Skiing Supreme means your usually away from the crowds.  The lift line moves fast, and though not always marked, a singles line on the left side of the line makes even quicker work getting onto the triple chair. At most yesterday, I waited 5 minutes for a chair, and most trips I stood in line for less than 60 seconds.  The Supreme lift is fairly fast, for me, its just enough time to catch my breath in the 10,500 ft altitude… and go again.  A bonus on the ride is are the folks skiing the chutes in Catherine’s area.  They provide great entertainment – ah to be young, skilled, fearless, and free….

Its not always crowded at Alta, but when it is, head to the back, you’ll be rewarded with the best skiing in the world.