Alta, Utah

Photo: Alta Ski Area

It’s already January, and you haven’t been skiing yet. The season didn’t start until early December in most places. By that point, you were already consumed by the holidays. The week after Christmas, when many people were on vacation, wasn’t the time go either. So now, two weeks into the new year, your skies remain freshly waxed. It’s finally time to go to the mountains.

Utah’s Alta Ski Area is one of the oldest ski resorts in the country. It opened in 1939 with a single-seat chairlift made from an old mining tram. An individual ride cost 25 cents at the time. The resort has certainly modernized in the last 80 years. There are now 116 runs across 2,200 acres. The lifts have been remodeled many times over. Plus there’s now a partnership with neighboring Snowbird for joint day and season passes. But, at its heart, Alta is still a little mountain.

The Wasatch Range, which runs along the border of Utah and Idaho, is famous for its deep-powder skiing. Alta sits southeast of Salt Lake City in the mountain range. A single road leads to the small town, which was originally built around silver-mining operations. A fire, and then an avalanche, led to its decline in the late-19th century. Then the ski resort opened. Its high altitude, sunny days, and huge annual snowfall lured skiers to Utah. Traditional ski lodges were built for families. Trails—evenly mixed between easy green circles, intermediate blue squares, and expert black diamonds—were carved into the mountainside. While snowboarding was forbidden. To this day, Alta remains one of only three ski resorts (nearby Deer Valley and Vermont’s Mad River Glen are the other two) in the country dedicated to skiing.

Photo: Alta’s Rustler Lodge

So you found your ski resort. Next, you need a hotel. There are five lodges at the base of the mountain. They all have views of the slopes. Most have ski in/ski out facilities. But only one has the extra amenities for which you’re looking. Alta’s Rustler Lodge was built in 1948 with a rustic vibe and a friendly staff. Renovations haven’t changed these things. Most guests—up to 75 percent—return year after year. The staff remembers names and preferences. While the ambiance remains elegantly old-fashioned with breakfast and dinner still included in the price.

As for the amenities, the rooms now have heavenly beds and flat-screen televisions mounted on the walls. There’s a eucalyptus steam room in the spa, indoor and outdoor jacuzzis, and even an outdoor heated pool. You’ve already booked a Ski Boot Soother, which includes a warm mud treatment and a foot massage, for tomorrow. Snacks and tea are set out by the fireplaces in the Eagle’s Nest après-ski. Plus the dinner menu includes local favorites like Utah trout.

Now you just need to select your first run. We suggest riding the new Supreme lift, a detachable quad that just debuted this season. From there, you can warm up on the Rock ‘n Roll and Big Dipper trails before switching to the black diamonds. The ski season has begun.

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