|Close out the Season at Alta|
|Photo: Alta Ski Area|
The canyons' four resorts --
The four resorts all have areas for beginners, those seeking to improve with some instruction and experts in search of chutes and moguls. All also heavily promote their family-friendly atmosphere and services. In a broad sense, though, the Big Cottonwood resorts appeal more to families with young children. The Little Cottonwood resorts tend to draw more hard-core skiers and snowboarders, for their world-famous steep bowls. The two resorts also sell a joint-lift pass, the AltaBird, which together makes the area one of North America's largest and most challenging ski areas.
All About AltaFollowing decades of mining and timber harvesting, skiing began in the Cottonwoods in the late 1930s after Joe Quinney, a Salt Lake City attorney, was angered that the Union Pacific Railroad chose to develop Sun Valley in Idaho instead of Utah areas. A group of investors, led by Quinney, bought land, built the Alta Lodge and erected a chairlift using salvaged timber and mining equipment. The company is now controlled by the descendents of Quinney and James Laughlin, and several others with smaller stakes. Alta's 2,200 acres are divided into two drainage areas: Collins Gulch and Albion Basin. Its beginner areas are served by three chairlifts near the Albion Lodge and ski school. Adventurous intermediates and daredevils can find extreme skiing off the 11,068-foot Mount Baldy, Devil's Castle and Catherine's Area. On powder days, Alta also offers snow cat skiing in Grizzly Gulch, beyond the resort boundaries. Alta inspires incredible devotion among skiers (it's always been a ski-only resort; snowboarding is not permitted). After traversing deep into Alta's expert Catherine's Area, I met Tom Persons, 48, a real estate investor from San Francisco who spends about 50 days each year at California's Squaw Valley. Yet Alta remains his all-time favorite destination, he said, using the word "love" to describe his feelings for the resort no less than four times in a minute. While Persons came to the nearby resort town of
The Lure of SnowbirdA mile down the hill from Alta is Snowbird and its 2,500 acres of terrain in three areas: Peruvian Gulch, Gad Valley and Mineral Basin. Snowbird is famed for its 125-passenger aerial tram, which whisks snowboarders, skiers and sightseers up 2,900 vertical feet to the mountaintop in less than eight minutes. Beneath the tram's 11,000-foot summit is North America's first ski tunnel, a 600-foot-long "magic carpet" ride for skiers and boarders from the new Peruvian Quad lift to the 500 acres of Mineral Basin's open-bowl terrain. The tunnel and high-speed lift have alleviated crowding in Gad Valley by increasing the use of Mineral Basin, says Snowbird spokeswoman Laura Schaffer.
|Snowbird's Stunning Peaks|
|Photo: John Collins/Snowbird|
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