Alta Ski Area outside Salt Lake City, Utah is a good option for skiing. Here’s a recap of our trip and what you should know!
Ski trips are a fun idea for a long weekend. Three full days of skiing is just enough time to have fun and wear your body out. After going to Telluride, Colorado last year, we were excited to try somewhere new. Salt Lake City is known for its many ski resorts, so we joined my sister-in-law at one of her favorites – Alta.
Here is a quick guide if you’re considering skiing at Alta.
Why Ski Alta
Alta is a favorite ski-only area near Salt Lake City. The terrain is 15% beginner, 30% intermediate, and 55% advanced, meaning there are more options for people who know how to ski. Skiing is open from December to May, and the mountain averages 540 inches of snow every year! It snows harder in December but snows the most days in February.
It’s a beautiful, challenging mountain where lots of locals visit. Its low-key, ski-focused vibe was a perfect fit for us.
Alta Quick Ski Guide
Here are some things to know about skiing Alta.
- Alta’s lifts open at 9:15 a.m. and the area opens at 8 a.m.
- Parking fills up, so if you want a spot close to the entrance, get there early. Paid reservations ($10) are needed on the weekends.
- There was little to no traffic during the weekdays before 9 a.m. and when we left around 3-4 p.m., but traffic will double on the weekends.
- There is a rental shop at Albion Base that you can walk in on your first day. The prices ($47-77 per day depending on gear type) are comparable to a rental shop like Christy Sports, so make it easy and rent here.
- Restaurants – There are a few cafeteria-style dining options on the mountain. They serve warm and hearty options like chili, sandwiches, and soups. They also have lots of seating.
- While we found it easy to store our things in the car while we were skiing and store our rentals in our hotel at night, there are lockers available.
- If you want to try more than Alta, Snowbird (more advanced) is next door and there are lift tickets to be able to experience both. There is also a connection on the mountain.
- Lift line wait times ranged from walk-on to 10 minutes. Typically it was about 5 minutes or less.
If you’re looking for a comparison of the ski resorts in Salt Lake City, see the Powerderhound website for more information.
One thing I’ll mention is Park City is one of the most popular ski areas near Salt Lake City. We decided not to go here because while the mountain is bigger (more runs), it has a lower percentage for beginners and the area (rental stays, restaurants) are more expensive.
About the Runs
I am a green/blue skier and there were just enough runs to satisfy me. Their greens are short and limited (did all of them and they are pretty easy) and blues are a bit steeper to me (who skied blues for the first time this trip). See the trail map here and these are some runs I liked:
- The Sunnyside lift will take you to all the greens. Crooked Mile and Home Run are two long green runs.
- After the Sunnyside lift, take the Supreme lift to my favorite run Big Dipper. It’s an easy blue with a few challenging spots. You can also veer off of Big Dipper to Rock ‘n Roll, which is a harder blue with a few steep drops.
- After the Sunnyside lift, you can also take the Sugarloaf lift up. Devil’s Elbow is an easier blue with some tricky spots.
- The Sugarloaf lift will also take you to the slow EBT to Collins and connect you to Mambo – Meadow – Corkscrew, probably the hardest of the easy blues. You’ll end up on the Collins lift.
We visited the last week of February and got lucky. Alta had recently gotten snow and two of the days the high was almost 20 degrees F but it was 0-10 degrees most of the time. This meant a few breaks were necessary to thaw out fingers and toes! On the third day, it was up to 30, which feels like a big difference (so hot!) when you’re bundled up in thermals.
It was hard to get warm sometimes. I was wearing two layers of thermals (wool) on top plus my ski jacket, a fleece gaiter, fleece headband, two sets of gloves, thermal pants under my ski pants, and ski socks. If I’m skiing at this temperature in the future, I’ll need to find warmer gloves and socks and/or use warmers.
How to Get There
You’ll fly into Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), which is about 15 minutes from the downtown area and an hour away from Alta. Everything is relatively close when you stay just outside of downtown. Keep reading to learn more about where to stay.
How to Get Around
You’ll need to rent a car with four-wheel drive in the winter and there are plenty of rental options at the airport. We rented a Jeep and it was about $40 extra a day for a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The total price was around $500 for four days.
Having a car is ideal (and my preference if/when we visit again) but there is an extensive light rail – TRAX – and there are bus routes that take you to the ski areas. However, remember you’ll need to tote your ski rentals to/from your place.
Where to Stay
There is not really a restaurant area in Alta (lodges have their own restaurants), so if you want a little more adventure, your best bet is to stay outside of the ski area. Hotels and rentals can be found 30-45 minutes away. We considered rentals in Draper, Midvale, Murray, and Millcreek. All of these areas are about 20-30 minutes from Downtown Salt Lake City and had lots of restaurant options, so skiing and exploring the city’s restaurants are relatively easy and you get the best of both worlds.
If you want to stay as close to the ski area as possible, there are five lodges and 11 condos in the Alta area. View all the Alta lodging options here.
We stayed at Tru by Hilton in Midvale, which was a no-frills, limited-service hotel. It included breakfast and quick access to the highway. We would have preferred a vacation rental, but since we booked last minute (so options were limited), a hotel would be comfortable enough and would save us some money.
I would check vacation rental sites months in advance. The typical price is $136 per night. There are a lot of cute options, and I would look for a place with free parking and a hot tub.
Where to Eat – SLC Restaurants
We focused on healthier restaurant options this trip and enjoyed our meals. We ate very well, so these might be a bit “fancier” restaurants on the budget. (Though we found it was also more affordable when compared to Austin prices!)
Redmond Heritage Farm Store – Quick stop for a warm cup of soup and grilled cheese
Takashi – Voted one of the best restaurants in the city, a popular place for sushi downtown. Get the toro truffle gunkan maki.
SLC Eatery – Cute restaurant on a quiet street, creative dishes focused on local ingredients. The intermountain mushroom dish and handmade pasta were really good.
Provisions – Also a cute restaurant serving ingredient-driven plates. The cod was amazing.
Rawtopia – Healthiest restaurant during our visit! Plenty of flavorful, gluten-free, and dairy-free dishes with quality ingredients. This Dandelion Salad with added salmon was a favorite.
Roots Cafe – Go early for brunch. Who knew after taking this picture that the star of the table was this amazing side pancake
Gourmandise – Delish pastries and dessert, plus a cafe. Three locations including one in the airport. Get the kouign amann! Also liked the cranberry oatmeal cookie
We grabbed breakfast at the hotel and were typically on the mountain during lunch, so here are some other options on my list that we didn’t visit.
- Beaumont Bakery & Cafe
- Vessel Kitchen
- GR Kitchen
- Nomad East
- Copper Onion
- Sagato Bakery & Cafe
There are about 24 breweries in the Salt Lake City area, and you can visit many of them through the Salt Lake Brewery Mobile Pass. It might not be a good option if you’re focused on skiing, so here are some of the breweries I considered:
- Proper Brewing Company – We stopped by after dinner one night, and it’s a low-key option.
- Kiitos Brewing
- Wasatch Brewery
- Hopkins Brewing Company
Alta Ski Trip Budget
Here’s the breakdown per person cost for a four-night trip with three days of skiing:
- Roundtrip flight from Austin to Salt Lake City: $612
- Lift Tickets: $390
- Ski Rental: $150
- Hotel: $188
- Car Rental: $157
The total is close to $1,500, and when compared to our Telluride trip, our Alta trip was $250 less per person based on the above costs.
Alta, Utah vs Telluride, Colorado
This is a very specific comparison based on the two ski areas I’ve been to recently! (Here is my post on Telluride skiing.) They have pros and cons in different areas.
First, based on the above, Alta was more cost-effective than Telluride. Telluride had more expensive lift tickets and ski rentals.
If you want a ski-in/out experience in a walkable city, pick Telluride. The time from hotel/rental to skiing is about the same in Telluride and Alta. I understand Park City, Utah is similar to this, but more expensive compared to Telluride’s small-town charm.
If you want more advanced and challenging skiing, Alta will give you that. Telluride has more run options for beginners (more green runs).
Dining and nightlife-wise, Telluride is walkable and has enough restaurants to try during a long weekend. Salt Lake City is a big city and with that comes better quality restaurants. We also commented multiple times how quiet Salt Lake City was everywhere we went. Visitors are drawn to the outdoor activities rather than its city attractions.
Honestly, I like skiing enough to go on a ski trip and it’s still growing on me. It is also scary and tiring, and I’d choose the beach over skiing most days. But snowy mountains provide a different kind of wonder and it brings me back, enough to endure the cold! I hope you have as much fun in Alta as I did!