Alta is about skiing, pure and simple. (In fact, love it or hate it, they're one of the only resorts in the U.S. that's still skiers-only.) They don't bother much with frills—sure, you can find a decent bite on the mountain, but they shy away from the theme park-esque attractions embraced by many resorts. If you ask for a blueberry mojito at the Alta Peruvian Bar, the full-bearded bartender will shake his head and send you down-canyon to the Bird. Because, really, this is about a beautiful mountain that challenges you, thrills you, and makes the loveliest canvas for laying tracks.
Rich in history and beloved by Salt Lake locals, this resort doesn't mess around. And it's a must-do if you're coming through the area ready to sample some of the best the Wasatch has to offer.
Where to Cruise Around
Alta is a rocky resort full of striking terrain, densely wooded nooks and crannies, and dramatic ridges rising above vertical snowfields. Most folks roll into the first parking lot and catch the Collins lift to assess the day's shred options.
If you're a mellower beginner, you can absolutely stay on the cruise-y groomers and return to the bottom of Collins or branch out to the resort's easterly reaches around Sunnyside and Supreme. And if you're looking for a challenge, hold on to your hats. Alta is home to some of the best skiers you'll ever see, and it's because this terrain packs in a high density of challenges, features, and steeps. Traverse off the top of Collins to explore West Rustler, High Rustler, and the East Greeley areas. Or head up Supreme and try your hand at the technical terrain of the Catherine's area.
Where to Turn In
Fortunately, one of the great things about skiing any of the Salt Lake area resorts is that you have tons of lodging options—perhaps so many options that it gets a bit dizzying. We'll help break it down for you.
You could snag a room in Little Cottonwood Canyon proper, at one of Alta or Snowbird's hotels or condos. Or, for maximum versatility, stay in Salt Lake—which poises you within striking distance of any resort you choose. You could pick an affordably priced hotel room or Airbnb in the Cottonwood Heights or Sandy suburbs, which happen to be perfectly positioned near the base of the two major Cottonwood Canyons (and still within a very easy drive of Park City if you care to venture that way). Inexpensive ski buses run all day between these neighborhoods and the ski resorts, so if you want to minimize mountain driving, you can.
You could also throw down for a proper downtown Salt Lake hotel room, which may cost a penny or two more, but it places you in the center of the city's food scene and nightlife. The great news is, it's tough to go wrong, because whether you stay near the canyon or near the city center, it's a pretty quick drive to the slopes either way. And the staff at the downtown hotels are downright handy at helping you hire a ski shuttle or catch the right bus or train to get to your resort of choice with minimal fuss.
Where to Chow Down
There's nothing like a long day of exercise in crisp mountain air to induce a whopping appetite. To which we say, cheers. While you'll likely want to lunch mid-day at the resort, staying in Salt Lake Valley gives you the chance to really peruse all the eats the city has to offer.
If you stay near the mouth of the Cottonwoods, you'll be able to take advantage of a fun ski-bum culture that's carved a nook into this otherwise mellow suburban area. Grab a savory breakfast at the Cottonwood Café, ski your heart out, and then chow down on a giant nacho platter accompanied by local beers at the Porcupine Grill afterward. If you want to up your game and savor some nicer fare, dip into Trio Café or head up the road a bit to Layla's or Copper Kitchen in nearby Holladay. By night, local shredders and renegades gather at the Hog Wallow, a beloved bar that sits just a couple blocks from the foot of the mountains and features live music multiple evenings per week.
And if you stay downtown, the culinary world is your oyster. Since you'll be skiing by day, you can really stock up on calories for breakfast at the comfort-food-laden Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade or southern-inspired Pig & A Jelly Jar. And for dinner and drinks, you can't mess up—but do make sure you check out Beer Bar for all the pints your heart could desire, paired with local (meat and vegetarian) sausages. You can then amble over to Taqueria 27 right next door, where you can sample an entire menu full of gourmet tacos. Go ahead: you earned them. And a side of queso fondue.