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Alta / Snowbird

Discussion in 'United States' started by Gregah, Jul 7, 2019.

  1. Gregah

    Gregah Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Anyone taken their family to either? I'm in SLC with the fam in January 2020 and locked in an earlybird MCP which gives us Alta / Snowbird access. However subsequent research has me a touch worried that these hills will be great for me ("advanced") but not for the rest of my crew ("intermediate and beginner transitioning to intermediate"). Snowbird in particular seems particularly "low intermediate" unfriendly based on blogosphere comments. Thoughts?
     
  2. Seth

    Seth Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Either resort has plenty of cruising terrain.
     
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  3. Lady Penelope

    Lady Penelope One of some lot ... Ski Pass: Gold

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  4. CarveMan

    CarveMan Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Alta probably has more. It’s pretty mellow, I’ve skied there with my mum.
     
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  5. Legs Akimbo

    Legs Akimbo Grumblebum Ski Pass: Gold

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    Albion side of Alta, and Germania. Gad side of Snowbird (plus Peruvian. Lotsa a cruising.
     
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  6. MarzNC

    MarzNC One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Not only have I taken family (daughter, intermediate BIL) to Alta, I've also skied with quite a few adult friends who were beginners or cautious intermediates at Alta. Snowbird as well. As for kids ages 7-14, they all love Alta regardless of ability level. Daughter started there at age 7. Alta Lodge is full of families during spring break weeks in March and April. I was one of them when I was 14 because I got an invitation from a classmate. First time out west, only second season skiing (on straight skis). Alta remains my favorite destination resort (only skied in U.S. so far, but multiple regions). I've gone from an older advanced intermediate to an over-60 advanced skier in the last decade. Will post more later.

    Bottom line: Alta is great for any ability level from never-ever to experts. Meaning expert skiers who like steep, narrow chutes that require a significant hike. The Supreme lift is best for a multi-ability group from intermediate and up. As for Snowbird, can be fun for a day for even a cautious intermediate on a solo trip who does the free mountain tour, assuming Mineral Basin is open.
     
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  7. MarzNC

    MarzNC One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    When were you last at Alta? Few people mention Germania any more. Collins lift from Wildcat base to summit has been around for a while. :)
     
  8. MarzNC

    MarzNC One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Take a look at these threads about skiing Alta and Snowbird. Probably don't show up in typical Internet searches. The woman who wrote these trip reports learned as an adult. She's worked steadily to go from a cautious intermediate to a cautious advanced skier, mostly by taking private lessons annually at Steamboat. Her first trip to Alta/Snowbird was several years ago and it's become a regular feature of her ski season, flying from the U.S. east coast. I showed her around Alta during her first trip in April 2015.

    https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/some-alta-questions.18399/ - Fall 2014

    https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/alta-april-1-3.20732/ - April 2016

    https://www.theskidiva.com/forums/index.php?threads/alta-march-31-apr-2.21738/ - April 2017

    What are some of the destination resorts in N. America that your family has enjoyed, assuming this isn't their first time flying half way around the world for a ski vacation?
     
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  9. Sbooker

    Sbooker One of Us

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    My family is from Brisbane so we only ski about 15 to 20 days per year - so probably stuck in the ‘permanent (advanced maybe) intermediate’ phase. Alta/Snowbird is my family’s favourite place to ski in the entire world. It’s been a favourite for some time - even when the kids were comfortable on blues only.
    Snowbird has a undeserved reputation as being unsuitable for intermediates but much of the lookers right side of the mountain and Mineral Basin over the back is fine for those of us who aren’t gnarly.:)
     
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  10. Gregah

    Gregah Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Cheers everyone. Comforting feedback, much appreciated. Full steam ahead Alta / Snowbird...
     
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  11. Legs Akimbo

    Legs Akimbo Grumblebum Ski Pass: Gold

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    It's been a while. For the last few years I had been skiing with a teenage daughter who, for both our sanity, got a room of her own. A 2br condo or 1br+loft have been perfect. There is not much reasonably priced accommodation in that configuration in Altabird.
     
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  12. MarzNC

    MarzNC One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Understandable. My teen daughter happily went off to boarding school in the mountains (NY Adirondacks) where she could ride horses and go skiing, so hasn't been available for ski trips with me for a while. Long ago I learned to ski on straight skis on that school's ski hill (rope tow). For the rare late season trip, she's willing to share an Original Lodge room at Alta Lodge. Given the location, no need for a car, and wonderful meals, it's worth the splurge. She's starting college in a month so we're planning an early season trip right after exam week. The prices for renting a condo/house in SLC are certainly better than at Alta that close to a holiday week.

    Having Collins run to the top as well as Supreme starting at Alf's has definitely changed the traffic flow at Alta. The other thing that changed is that all the Alta lifts have safety bars. Still no footrests. I did the afternoon Adult Mountain Workshop in 2011 that included a women from Australia who came over from Park City for the day. She was pretty freaked out riding the lifts with no safety bars.

    Most of the Snowbird lifts have footrests. That fact, the views, and a chance to ride the Tram and/or go thru the Peruvian Tunnel are all good reasons for a traveler to spend a day there. Assuming of course decent visibility and no wind holds.
     
  13. tonks

    tonks Hard Yards

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    Slightly different perspective here. I spent three weeks at Snowbird in early 2018. I think you'd want to be a confident intermediate to really enjoy yourself on the mountain. By that I mean there's not a heap of terrain that would be fun for beginner-intermediates. I had a friend join me who's snowboarded a bit in Colorado. We just did a few runs on the Gad Valley side and one run down Chip's on the Peruvian Side. Alta sounds like a better choice, and then there's all the other resorts around SLC which are a lot more intermediate-friendly.
     
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  14. Gregah

    Gregah Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Thanks. Interesting. It's only just occurred to me that as the fam has another 15 days skiing between now and then we may be able to progress beyond the doubtful zone. More wallet abuse (lessons) and a stern talking to for the offspring will hopefully then progress us to the point where its a non issue. Also, we have 6 days in SLC so perhaps we'll do the first 4 in Alta then hit Snowbird for the last 2 once we've found our legs. We probably wont ski the other great Utah options as have prepaid Alta / Snowbird via the MCP.
     
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  15. MarzNC

    MarzNC One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Suggest you stay flexible based on the weather. Spending a day or two at Alta first makes good sense. Maybe a day to warm up and lessons the second day. You can see a bit of Mineral Basin from the top of Sugarloaf. If the next day is blue skies, then perhaps spend the day at Snowbird, including the free mountain tour. Then you can make informed decisions for the rest of the week.

    Note that visibility can be quite different in the different sections of Alta and Snowbird. Same for wind. If it's windy off Sugarloaf, can be better to ski off Albion or Supreme. If it's foggy or cloudy on Gad2, Baby Thunder can be quite fun for a bit. Like Sunnyside, there is green, blue, and black trails off Baby Thunder. A day or two after powder storm, the black trails off Baby Thunder can be fun because advanced/expert skiers don't go there.
     
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  16. tonks

    tonks Hard Yards

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    Sounds like a good plan. Fifteen days definitely provides an opportunity for the young ones to progress to a point where they'd enjoy Snowbird a lot more.
     
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  17. Gregah

    Gregah Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Thanks MarcNZ. That's all great advice - and we will definitely do the Snowbird free mountain tour!
     
  18. MarzNC

    MarzNC One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    One noticeable difference between Alta and Snowbird is that Snowbird has easy-to-spot mountain hosts all over. Alta has some experienced lifties who are happy to answer questions but doesn't really have a mountain host program. At Snowbird, easy to find a host at the Tram Deck, which is the main base. Also hosts who stand outside the Summit Lodge (top of the tram and Mineral Basin lift). So even for a warm up run or two before the free mountain tour starts, can ask for advice about where to go. The Chickadee lift is for beginners and right at the base, so is always an option. That's where there are lights for night skiing.

    Snowbird is a ski resort with one owner that owns and operates the lifts, all staff on the slopes, all the resort food service, and most of the slope side lodging. Alta is a collection of interdependent small businesses. Alta Lift Co. owns and operates the lifts, the snow maintenance operation, Alta Ski Shop, and Alta Ski School. The food service options are independent businesses who lease the buildings long-term. The five lodges in the town of Alta are all independently owned.

    For lunch at Alta, each place is unique. That includes Alta Lodge, Rustler, and the rebuilt Snowpine. Those dining rooms are open to the public for lunch. I would take older kids to Alta Lodge, but not Rustler or Snowpine. All have cool views. Eating at Alta Lodge can be cheaper than one of the on-slope food options. Definitely more relaxing to have table service in a quiet dining room. An Alta Lodge lunch is relatively quick. Most folks who stay there want to ski as much as possible.

    Another difference . . . Alta lifts start running at 9:15am. Snowbird base lifts start at 9:00am. Of course, if an area is not deemed ready by ski patrol, then delayed openings are always possible. Supreme at Alta rarely goes on wind hold, Collins is less subject to wind than Sugarloaf. The Snowbird Tram and Mineral Basin are more impacted by weather than the Peruvian chair or other frontside lifts.
     
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  19. Gregah

    Gregah Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Thanks again MarcNZ. Very helpful intel.
    I've read the books "A Powderhound's Guide to Alta" and "A Powderhound's Guide to Snowbird". These, plus a few blog posts, have me thinking that (for Alta especially) we are going to need to do a lot of traversing to get to the good terrain. I totally get that in the context of accessing advanced terrain - my question is, will it be that way to access the better intermediate terrain too? Cheers.
     
  20. MarzNC

    MarzNC One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    No need to do any traverse to ski intermediate terrain at Alta, assuming that's defined as blue trails on the trail map. If your kids are getting to the point of being adventurous, the first traverse to do is the Saddle Traverse (blue) on the Collins side. Can take it to Lower Sunspot. Suggest you figure it out solo before taking anyone else. The easier entrance is off Mambo, no need to ski down the bumps on Spring Valley (black). If there is just a few inches of new snow and Ballroom is open, can go out that traverse and ski down the first section that is rated blue (before the gate mid-traverse). Best to remember that Alta doesn't have "blue-blue" or "blue/black" or double-black trail designations. Big difference between a groomed black and a black run off the High-T or Ballroom or the top of Mt. Baldy (hike required).

    No traverses needed for any of the intermediate trails off Supreme. When you unload the chair, go right to the cat track. Note that Challenger is rated black. The top is quite flat. After making the turn, that's where it gets steep. If there aren't any tracks or very few people heading in that direction, be very careful the first time done.

    If you would like to be introduced to advanced/expert terrain at Alta, the Adult Mountain Workshop is quite a good deal. US$80 for 2.5 hours with a very experienced instructor as a guide. It's not really a lesson, but can ask for technique advice. They break up into 2-3 groups based on ability and interest. Can be especially useful on a day with low visibility because it's snowing. During his first day ever at Alta, a friend of mine spent the entire afternoon skiing off the High T in fog/clouds. Had no idea which runs he did but had a very good time. Much better than if he'd been wandering around solo with no idea where to go for the good snow.

    As for Snowbird, there are cat tracks to deal with for intermediates but no single ski width traverses. A lot of Chip's Run is essentially a road cat track with lots of switchbacks. Some parts are pretty narrow. That's one reason nervous intermediates usually aren't very happy skiing down Chip's from top to bottom.

    Fair to say that most Utah "powerhounds" learned to ski as kids. They don't remember being an intermediate by the time they write a book or post about fun times at Alta or Snowbird. I was lucky to have friends who know Alta very well who introduced me to ungroomed terrain a little at a time as I progressed from an advanced intermediate to a solid advanced skier (after age 50). My memories of having fun skiing groomers at Alta are clear. One of my best runs was on RockNRoll (off Supreme) in 4-5 inches of untracked on top of a groomed surface in April. It was closed the day after a snowstorm because of avalanche danger off East Castle. I know a man who only skied groomers who was quite happy to lap RockNRoll almost all day because it's so much fun. The other reason to head down RockNRoll is to see if the gate to Cabin Hill is open. Intermediates can have a very good time in that area when the snow is good.
     
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  21. CarveMan

    CarveMan Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    A simpler version of above - when I skied there with my mum, she would ski the groomer under the lift, CG and I would traverse a bit onto something steep and deep and meet her at the lift. She usually beat us.
    Alta is essentially 2 valleys with steep sides and a steep ridge in between. The main lifts run up the valleys and the runs down the middle of the valleys are mellow.
     
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  22. Gregah

    Gregah Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Thanks again. I'll definitely do the Adult Mountain Workshop and great to know there is plenty of good intermediate terrain that doesn't require a traverse.
     
  23. MarzNC

    MarzNC One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    I tend to think of Alta as four sections: Collins (Wildcat base), Sugarloaf, Supreme, and Sunnyside (Albion base) for beginners. Now that the Supreme high-speed quad lift starts at Alf's, it's much easier for intermediates to find. Also don't have to make an early decision about whether to ski off Supreme or Sugarloaf, which was the case when taking the Supreme cutoff at pretty high speed was the best way to get to the Supreme triple. Supreme is still the best lift for a mixed-ability group.

    The first season with Supreme as a quad from Alf's, I asked random people I rode up with what they thought of the new lift. One older man who was a local was very grumpy. He fussed about the fact that advanced kids (Level 7/8) from ski school could reach his favorite powder stashes off Supreme much faster. Before they had to take Sunnyside to Cecret (slow double) to Supreme (fixed-grip triple). Now it's just Sunnyside, direct route to Supreme (quad), and 7 min later they are ready to hunt pow.
     
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  24. Gregah

    Gregah Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

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    Hi MarzNC,
    I was going back over your post when I saw I'd missed your question at the end. We haven't done any US skiing, only in Australia and Japan. However when we arrive in Utah we will have just come off a week at Telluride. From what I can gather that's going to be more of an on-piste experience. Either way, our legs should be warmed up by the time we hit Alta / Snowbird!
     
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