The focus at Alta is skiing, so you won’t find a sledding hill or tube track here. There is a Nordic skiing track between the two base areas, paralleling the transfer tow, and Nordic gear is available for rent.
If you’d like something a little more adventurous, there are some neat opportunities. Alta provides snowcat skiing in Grizzly Gulch past the skier’s right resort boundary. You meet in the Albion Grill (at the Albion Base) for check-in and orientation, then head out to explore 375 ac where fresh powder often lasts longer after storms than it does in bounds. They accept groups up to 11 skiers or snowboarders. That’s right – unlike inside the resort proper, snowboarders are welcome aboard the snowcat. You get five runs for $325. Powder skis are recommended, and the experience is for advanced and expert skiers who have good off-trail skills.
For the ultimate in high-end adventure (literally!), check out Powderbird. They offer helicopter skiing from an operating base at Snowbird. They make a point of emphasizing that their service isn’t just for expert skiers; they just want you to have some soft snow experience and the ability to ski all day. It’s not exactly budget friendly, with prices starting at $1,260, but you’ll get 7 flights and an absolutely unforgettable experience!
That doesn’t mean there aren’t more ways to have fun on your skis, though! There’s a free “Tour with a Ranger” program. On weekends and holidays from 1:30 – 2:30pm, you can join a naturalist from the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation. You’ll ski on groomed terrain on the Albion side of the area while covering topics ranging from local history, wildlife, and winter ecology.
Utah Mountain Adventures (UMA) offers private guiding and instruction in the backcountry, and offers packages for an array of skill levels. Prices range from $199 to $500 (and more for some multi-day trips). If you’ve never been in the backcountry and are itching to try, here’s your chance! UMA also conducts avalanche education, which would be well worth your time if you think you might make backcountry skiing a regular thing.
Speaking of the backcountry, The Ski Utah Interconnect Tour is a unique opportunity for advanced and expert skiers. There’s different versions of it depending on where you start; if you’re staying in Alta, you’ll sign up for the one departing Snowbird and get the chance to ski Snowbird, Alta, Brighton and Solitude. If you start from Deer Valley, you can ski that resort and Park City in addition to the other four – for a total of six resorts in one day! Talk about “earning your turns”!
Of course, if you shredded a bit too hard and need a break from skiing, there’s Salt Lake City and everything it has to offer, including professional basketball and Temple Square. If you make the trip to Park City, you can check out some of the venues from the 2002 Winter Olympics and the games’ museum.
For pampering and repair, there are spas at the Rustler Lodge, Goldminer’s Daughter, and the Snowpine (when it reopens). You can get in room service from Cottonwood Canyon Massage. Some of the lodges’ spas even offer oxygen supplements in case the altitude is bothering you!
There are five ski rental shops at Alta. While all the major ski manufacturers are represented, it is not housed under one roof but across all four, since each shop tends to specialize. If you have a preferred brand, you may want to call ahead to see which shop carries it. Shops are located at both base areas and mid-mountain as well as the Alta Lodge, the Alta Peruvian Lodge, Rustler Lodge, and Goldminer’s Daughter. You can often switch out your rental skis during the day, so you can try out different gear or adapt to changing conditions (for example, if it starts dumping during the day, you can get fatter skis for all that pow!). Rates are competitive compared to Snowbird and Park City, and you can usually get a discount for packages longer than three days.
Alta’s ski school is one of the best in North America, with some of the most experienced instructors anywhere. You won’t find any first year instructors here! You actually don’t need reservations for lessons at Alta, so you can make last minute decisions based on the weather (for example, the Children’s Program tends to be busier on powder days, as powderhound parents drop off kids who aren’t quite ready for the deep stuff!). The prices are surprisingly reasonable, and much cheaper than Snowbird.
Children’s lessons are available for all ability levels, and the more advanced classes take them all over the mountain, including the hike-to terrain. In Level 8 classes (out of a total of 9 levels), instructors even teach kids how to jump off rocks! When your kid grows up to be a professional extreme skier, don’t forget to thank Alta’s Alf Engen Ski School. The full day program also includes lunch at one of the on-mountain dining establishments.
Private lessons for adults aren’t necessarily cheap, but are a good value. If the instructors have time, the lessons – which are normally scheduled for two hours – sometimes can be extended to two and a half to three hours long for a reasonable fee. If you find an instructor you especially like, then it might be worth making a reservation for next time to make sure he or she is available. You can even get private telemark lessons, if you think your knees are up to it! Tipping your instructor isn’t required, but is certainly appreciated. For group lessons, $5 - $10 tips are common, and $10 - $20 is reasonable for a full-day children’s program.
Alta also offers an Adult Mountain Workshop for advanced / expert skiers. This consists of small groups led by experienced instructors, even though it’s more of a way to explore the mountain’s off-piste terrain than a lesson. The session, which runs from 1:30-4:00pm, starts with a ski-off in order to sort skiers into groups by ability level. It’s a fun way to learn where the powder stashes are anytime, but it’s an especially valuable experience when the visibility is low.
Child care is available through the state-licensed, full-service Alta Children’s Center at the Albion Base for children aged six weeks to nine years old. They open at 8:30am and closes at 4:30pm, 7 days per week (including holidays) during the ski season. They offer a Pre-Ski program where children 2 years and up get 45 minutes of one-on-one time, and the center also works closely with the ski school, so you could arrange to have your child have a half-day lesson in addition to daycare.
In-room babysitting, including evenings, is available from Guardian Angel Babysitting. They also provide grocery delivery service for a fee – that could be especially handy at a place like Alta, where there isn’t a grocery store!
Alta has one of the best ski patrols in the US, and in fact, they’ve invented a lot of the techniques for patrolling in avalanche-prone terrain. If you need one of them and don’t see one, ski (or send someone) down to a liftie, and they’ll be able to contact them and get you help.
There is an urgent care clinic in the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge. During the ski season, they’re open with a doctor on hand 7 days a week from 9:30 am to 5:00pm. They specialize in ski injuries and altitude sickness, but are also able to treat other acute and chronic illnesses. For anything more serious, there are hospitals in Salt Lake City.
There are ATMs in Goldminer’s Daughter and the Albion base, but credit cards are widely accepted throughout the ski area and the village (though American Express isn’t quite as prevalent).
All the lodges have WiFi. Watson’s at mid-mountain on the Wildcat side has free wifi, but Alf’s on the Albion side does not. Cell service is inconsistent on the mountain, but good at the base.