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Alta area questions [February, advanced/expert]

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

After years of being on my "bucket list", I finally have a trip planned to the Alta/Snowbird area in early to mid February.  I'll be skiing with several other strong skiers who are at ease skiing about any slope at the local hills here in the Canadian Rockies, with the exception of taking air off large cliffs.  We typically ski Louise, Sunshine, Reve, Kicking Horse, and Castle.  The preferred skiing of our group is off-piste.  We will ski in Utah for about 7 days.   I would appreciate any suggestions related to the following questions....

 

Accommodations?  Should we stay near Alta/Snowbird or in another valley or in Salt Lake?  Our preference is to stay slope side, but the options of staying at other venues would be considered if it makes sense.  What accommodations do you recommend in the Alta area?

 

Our plan is to explore Alta and Snowbird for most of the trip.  However, is it easy to easy to get to Park City/Canyons area from Alta?  Or would you suggest staying and skiing in the Park City area? 

 

What runs at Alta or Snowbird are a "must do"?

 

Any restaurant recommendations? Any gems?

 

Skis?  I have MX88, Bones, and Automatics 117, and have a pair of Supernatural 108s which will arrive soon.  Assuming that I can get two pairs on the flight, which would you recommend?  Others in the group have similar general class of skis.

 

Should we bring our transceivers? Are there areas within the resort that require transceivers, shovels and probes, such as the Dive at Sunshine?

 

We probably will not venture into the backcountry (most of the group are avid BC skiers) because it requires another level of gear and preparation, should we re-think that decision?

 

Anything else?

 

Since I finally got on skis this week, I'm getting stoked about this trip!

 

Thanks

 

Mod Note: moved to Resorts, Conditions & Travel

post #2 of 34

Glad you are so excited.  Have you looked at the EpicSki Unofficial Guides for Alta and Snowbird?

 

I added relevant tags (look under Topics Discussed in right hand column) to make it easier to find useful threads.  Do a little reading and come back with questions that are more specific to your trip planning.  Every situation is a bit different but there is a lot of general info available.

 

Although the guys on this trip are not at your group's ability level, there is good info in this recent thread:

http://www.epicski.com/t/129931/slc-march-5-9-first-time-in-utah-need-recommendations-have-epic-pass-for-canyons-pcmr

post #3 of 34

If your group wants to go out and party, hit some bars, nice restaurants, etc. I'd highly recommend staying in Park City.  I did that last year and it was really no big deal to drive around and up LCC and/or BCC in the morning.  I'd rather drive further for skiing and not have to drive at all if I'm going to be drinking.  PC has a really nice bus system that runs late.

post #4 of 34

I think all of those questions could be answered with "It depends"

 

For lodging. It depends on how much you want to spend and what is important to you. If I were coming here and had the funds, I would probably stay up on the hill somewhere. It would be nice to wake up and already be in the mountains. It is possible (though unlikely) if you stayed up there that the road would be closed and you might get ALCC to yourself on a powder day. If you want to save a little money, or have more dining options staying in the Salt Lake Valley is a great option and a short drive. If you want to go to PC from Alta/Snowbird, it will take about an hour or about 30 minutes from Salt Lake Valley. Not too big of a deal.

 

For restaurants, there are a lot of good ones in the Salt Lake Valley, but Porcupine Grill is always nice after a day of skiing.

 

I would look at the forecast before deciding what skis to bring, but I would lean towards the a pair of fatties and the MX88's.

 

Nowhere at Alta requires a transceiver and I think only a very small section of Snowbird (Pipeline and surrounding areas) requires a beacon. That said, lots of people wear them.

 

At Alta, I would say High Rustler and Gunsight are two of the must do's that are open pretty much everyday.

 

Check out the unofficial guides:

http://www.epicski.com/a/snowbird-unofficial-ski-guide-by-snowbird-devotee

 

http://www.epicski.com/a/alta-an-unofficial-guide

post #5 of 34
Thread Starter 

Hey thanks for the quick response.  I should have done a search before posting but I got ahead of myself.    I'll look at the links you sent later tonight.  Most likely staying on-hill and hoping for that huge dump.

post #6 of 34
Stay up at Alta, 2 pair of skis, bring BCgear.
post #7 of 34

I personally like to stay on the hill and have done so at both Alta and Snowbird.  There are a few houses you can rent at Alta and condos at Snowbird.  

 

One thing I recommend on your first Alta day is to take their advanced tour/clinic thing they give in the afternoon.  I think it is $60. and they take small groups of strong skiers out for a good 2.5 hours and tour you around some of the cooler spots looking for good snow and the instructor may even instruct a bit along the way.  My son and I did it last year and it was well worth the $.

post #8 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
 

I personally like to stay on the hill and have done so at both Alta and Snowbird.  There are a few houses you can rent at Alta and condos at Snowbird.  

 

One thing I recommend on your first Alta day is to take their advanced tour/clinic thing they give in the afternoon.  I think it is $60. and they take small groups of strong skiers out for a good 2.5 hours and tour you around some of the cooler spots looking for good snow and the instructor may even instruct a bit along the way.  My son and I did it last year and it was well worth the $.


Second this - when I did it we went to places I wouldn't have found otherwise (back around the far side of the high traverse) and it was almost a lesson.

post #9 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post

  

 

One thing I recommend on your first Alta day is to take their advanced tour/clinic thing they give in the afternoon.  I think it is $60. and they take small groups of strong skiers out for a good 2.5 hours and tour you around some of the cooler spots looking for good snow and the instructor may even instruct a bit along the way.  My son and I did it last year and it was well worth the $.


Would have not done this otherwise.  Great suggestion - local hill knowledge is always good.   

post #10 of 34

If you are looking for the off-piste, then you want to stay at either Snowbird/Alta or in the valley at Sandy/Midvale.  Not in SLC proper or PC. From MIdvale it's about a 25 minute commute to the hill in good weather and could easily be longer in the line-up going back down at the end of the day.

 

It'll be more expensive staying in the LCC, probably at least double if not more.  The night life is quiet with limited restaurant choices, but you could drive to town, but you probably won't want to.  By staying in the LCC you avoid the driving/parking etc and just clip in your skis, likely at the lodge and you are off.  If it snows big, the road could have a delayed opening and you'll be skiing powder while the commuters are waiting in a huge line at the bottom of the canyon waiting to get up.  I would say it's about 50-60 minutes to Park City from Alta/Snowbird.  I've stayed up there a bunch of times over the years, always at the Snowbird Cliff Lodge.  It's nice.  It is all serious skier,s mostly very serious skiers.  My guess at Alta we could up that a notch and call them "devoted" skiers!  (devotional as in G O D)  Nothing like having coffee and breakfast in that "rarefied" atmosphere looking up at the mtn that awaits you.  It's good for the soul to stay up there. 

 

Saying that, the group that I usually ski with stays at the Midvale La Quinta, although I've stayed at other places.  I think last year I paid, $70/nt divided by two with breakfast.  If you are trying to save a few bucks there is nothing whatsoever wrong with staying in the valley, and its' nice to have restaurant choices. The drive is not usually a problem, but it can be.  There is plenty of time in a skiing day to do the drive. Still home by 6 even with skiing till 4 and leaving the resort at a leisurely pace.  You can leave the hotel at 8 and be ready to ski at 9. (Alta opens at 9:15).

 

I would ski two days each at Snowbird and Alta and not worry about spending the extra money on the dual mtn pass. 

 

Alta and Snowbird are right next to each other, separated by a ridge, but they ski different.  Alta will have a little more snow if you get it, but they also get a little more sun in their bowls, you'll probably notice that. 

 

I don't care much for the euro word off-piste, but Snowbird is the definition of it!  It is a strong skiers playground and delight with good conditions, which they usually are, and in mid-Feb even if it doesn't snow for a week, it'll still be just right, even in the bumps. 

 

Snowbird has three huge bowls, all starting from the top of the tram.  Mineral Basin and Little Cloud Bowl are huge, I'm not sure if there are comparables in NA, if there are someone let me know.   Mineral Basin has some steeper sections, you could easily take 10 runs down there working your way from one boundary to another.  But you won't and you shouldn't, because there is just too much to ski at the Bird!  The same goes for Little Cloud, it's not as big, but it's big, it's my favorite place on planet Earth.  MB points south, but if it's warm and sunny, in mid-Feb that is not as important as later on, it could be rough early the next day.  The other bowl is the cirque, which isn't as much of a bowl as a very steep ridge.  Much of it is daredevil territory, so most people ski down the ridge a bit to the middle cirque.  (continued)


Edited by SnowbirdDevotee - 11/19/14 at 2:19am
post #11 of 34

Yep- the group tour/lesson is a must. Finding the best snow at Alta takes local knowledge and it really pays off in crowd avoidance. Screw the nightlife, you're there to ski. You can get drunk anyplace, and the ratio of men to woman in a ski town is like, ten to one (but you know this...) Rustler can get expensive. I've stayed at the Peruvian, but I recommend the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird or Iron Blossom, etc. for best value & nice rooms. Alta is just up the road 2 miles and there's a bus, or get a combo pass and ski both...  You are gonna have a great time.

 

Ps. Just bring the Supernaturals. 108 is about minimum for LCC and they should be good on every condition you'll encounter. And like Devottee sez, don't overlook Snowbird at all. Ski both. Dive in.


Edited by Mr. Crab - 11/18/14 at 7:22pm
post #12 of 34

What is so good about Snowbird is there is an incredible amt of nooks and crannies to explore.   They have dozens of experts only gates, maybe 40??? all over the mtn.  Even though most of the time you can't see what you are getting into, the large majority of them should be no problem for you, just dive in and keep diving!  But it's a good idea to look carefully at the mtn while you are riding up the lift, a few of them lead to very steep, very tight sections. 

 

Also, just keep making the leap of faith and follow the traverse tracks that go off from the main runs, that'll get you off into the off-piste. And maybe someone in your group will get pissed off! Try to explore as much of the mt as you can. 

 

Alta is a little different.  Personally, I don't like Alta as much, but you will have a good day skiing there.  I never miss it. 

 

I would mix in a day at Solitude, good esp if you have a 1/2 day in your schedule.  I would also do a day in PC and ski at Park City.  And a day at Snowbasin if you stay in the valley, it's about a 50-60 minute drive from Midvale, it's worth it.  The conditions aren't as good as LCC but the mtn and lodges are worth the trip for sure. 

 

I was just talking to my buddy today and I have to get back to Calgary, but there is nothing like the Bird, i'll be there the 3rd week in Feb.

post #13 of 34
I feel the same way about SB as SD. A truly special place it is. I would point out it's 40 mins. from PC if you leave early, I do it a lot.
post #14 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by canadianskier View Post
 

Skis?  I have MX88, Bones, and Automatics 117, and have a pair of Supernatural 108s which will arrive soon.  Assuming that I can get two pairs on the flight, which would you recommend?  Others in the group have similar general class of skis.

 

Should we bring our transceivers? Are there areas within the resort that require transceivers, shovels and probes, such as the Dive at Sunshine?

 

We probably will not venture into the backcountry (most of the group are avid BC skiers) because it requires another level of gear and preparation, should we re-think that decision?

Schlepping skis around is one of the hardest thing about ski trips, I don't know why anyone brings 2.  My skis work just fine in any condition.

Transceivers - To me transceivers are bogus.  Yes there was an avalanche death at Bird a few years back.  What is that, 1 in a couple hundred thousand skier visits or more? I wouldn't worry about it.  One trip in the backcountry is exponentially more dangerous than skiing in bounds.  more junk to carry and worry about.  Maybe if the forecast is at its' best. 

Backcountry.  There really isn't much backcountry at Alta/Snowbird.  Alta has Catherine's which requires a short hike and that you should do, in reality it gets skied out quick but it's a little thrill to have been there, though you can traverse way far out into no-mans land, but that wouldn't be in the plan.  Snowbird has White Pine backcountry which is rarely open and i think requires gear, but again, not in the plan for a first trip, there is plenty to explore in bounds which you won't do in 2 days.  I think there is backcountry at Solitude/Brighton, but you won't have your bearings to fool with that. 

post #15 of 34

If you have touring gear, there's a ton of BC in LCC.   If you get a huge dump, I'd want to be on the Automatics. 

I also love the Cliff, but staying at a Lodge in Alta is a unique experience that's not available at many other resorts.

Staying in the valley is cheap and that's about the only redeeming quality, especially if you get an inversion.

post #16 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post
 

Schlepping skis around is one of the hardest thing about ski trips, I don't know why anyone brings 2.  My skis work just fine in any condition.

Transceivers - To me transceivers are bogus.  Yes there was an avalanche death at Bird a few years back.  What is that, 1 in a couple hundred thousand skier visits or more? I wouldn't worry about it.  One trip in the backcountry is exponentially more dangerous than skiing in bounds.  more junk to carry and worry about.  Maybe if the forecast is at its' best. 

Backcountry.  There really isn't much backcountry at Alta/Snowbird.  Alta has Catherine's which requires a short hike and that you should do, in reality it gets skied out quick but it's a little thrill to have been there, though you can traverse way far out into no-mans land, but that wouldn't be in the plan.  Snowbird has White Pine backcountry which is rarely open and i think requires gear, but again, not in the plan for a first trip, there is plenty to explore in bounds which you won't do in 2 days.  I think there is backcountry at Solitude/Brighton, but you won't have your bearings to fool with that. 

 

Bringing more than one pair of skis isn't much more trouble than bringing a single pair.  Also, "there really isn't much backcountry at Alta/Snowbird" is a sentence I'm having trouble comprehending.  Huh?  There's a TON right there in that canyon.  Of course the OP shouldn't venture out un-informed in an area where he/she hasn't been studying the snowpack, but we're just talking about what terrain there is.

post #17 of 34

There's plenty to do at Altabird for a week--no reason to make the trek to Park/Canyons, which are more intermediate oriented areas anyway. Stay at Alta or Snowbird if you can afford to. I haven't been there in many years but we always enjoyed staying at the Peruvian and the family-style dinners. Don't know if that's still how they do things. If you take 2 pairs of skis take the MX88's  and the Automatics, if one take the Supernaturals. (After a number of trips hauling a 49 3/4# double ski bag with my skis, my sons skis, and as much other gear as would fit through airports, I feel like SD does about taking two pairs of skis. Geneva airport getting to the Cham shuttle on a Saturday is an experience.) 

post #18 of 34

If not already mentioned - the Goldminer's Daughter has something like 'dorms' for around $160 a night, from what I gather this includes dinner. I usually stay in Midvale though, and jump on the ski shuttle on Wasatch to LCC. After skiing all day the legs are toast and it's nice to let someone else drive. Get to the bus stop early though, after a big storm they are packed.

 

Anything off of the High Traverse at Alta is fun, the HT looks intimidating, and keeps folks out of East Greely though. The Ballroom is fun after 8-10 inches.

 

Anything in Mineral Basin at the bird is fun, until it is tracked out. I'm still learning my way around the front side.

 

Take the 108's, they'll work fine.

 

I love Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude, but haven't been for a while.

post #19 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View PostI feel like SD does about taking two pairs of skis. Geneva airport getting to the Cham shuttle on a Saturday is an experience.) 

When I skied Europe carrying the gear on and off trains then having to walk with them through a village to my hotel, I felt the pack mule business was harder on my body(esp shoulders) than the skiing was.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JayT View Post
Also, "there really isn't much backcountry at Alta/Snowbird" is a sentence I'm having trouble comprehending.  Huh?  There's a TON right there in that canyon.  Of course the OP shouldn't venture out un-informed in an area where he/she hasn't been studying the snowpack, but we're just talking about what terrain there is.

That's because it was a dumb statement!  I meant resort access backcountry.  I know people ski boot up all over that canyon, but there is so much to ski w/o fooling with that.  If I lived out there I would be doing it, but for a short ski trip to me it isn't worth the time, effort and danger.

 

Park City - if you are skiing SLC 7 days I think a day at PC won't be considered wasted to check it out. At least you can say that you've been there.  They are good mtns anywhere, except when comparing them to the other side of the hill (LCC).

post #20 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee View Post


Park City - if you are skiing SLC 7 days I think a day at PC won't be considered wasted to check it out. At least you can say that you've been there.  They are good mtns anywhere, except when comparing them to the other side of the hill (LCC).

There are storms where you can find 80%+ or so of the snow that fell at LCC, accessible by lifts and a short hike, around PC on expert terrain and untracked for days...if you know where to look. Hard to do that in LCC if using lifts.

Then there are storms that are thin and or slush in PC but epic in LCC. It's a case by case thing.
post #21 of 34
Thread Starter 

I'll probably bring two skis - two will fit in one bag and weighs sub 50lbs.  Not a big deal.  Having racer kids over the last 15 year allows for a different perspective - i.e. after bringing 7 pairs to some multiday races, two seems easy.  I do enjoy ripping with the more carving oriented MX if it is dry, but like bigger skis for crud and powder.  Will decide on the 108 vs 117 depending on how the as yet un-tried does.  The MX is just OK in pow, but the others are better.

 

I agree that its probably not worthwhile to bring BC gear - extra skis and skins  and boots and clothes and cost  - for a short ski trip?.  Also agree that it would be a bit unwise to go into a BC area without good knowledge of snowpack, avi conditions, etc.  Could hire a guide, but that is not what this trio is about.  Was just a thought, but now ruled out.

 

Great info about terrain and specific runs to check out.  Thanks!

 

We're not that concerned about night life, other than good food after skiing. 

 

Staying on hill is sounding better despite the extra expense - I would be heart broken to miss a dump or part of a dump due to closed roads:mad  Good info on some alternatives for sleeping.  Thanks!

 

Also appreciated hearing option about travel to PC area from Alta area - makes sense and would break-up the skiing a bit.

post #22 of 34

I will warn you...  I went there for the first time last February... and my cousin and I decided not to bring our BC gear.  And in hindsight we were kicking ourselves and said we'd come back next time with our kits.

post #23 of 34

I've done this trip many times.  Stay at the Peruvian or Alta Lodge if you can afford it, or at least 3-4 nights if that's too pricey.   Ski 3 days at Alta, 2 at Snowbird, 1 at Powder Mountain, and 1 at Deer Valley or Canyons.  Skip Park City the mountain but go there for dinner/drinks after your day at Deer Vallley/Canyons.  

 

At Alta you can lap Collins all day and never get bored (High Traverse, Westward Ho etc...)  At Snowbird you will never tire of Mineral Basin or Little Cloud.

 

One pair of skis in the mid-90s range has always served me well.

 

You can't go wrong.

post #24 of 34

I would say Solitude is worth a day for sure... especially if it snows.

post #25 of 34

There are lots of stuff at the bird that is not detailed on the resort trail map. Mineral & Little Cloud are the obvious area for most.

There are bunch of stuff off Baldy that are nice & un-crowded. Tram laps down the front of the Peruvian Gulch are some of my favorites. So are the chutes off the less obvious side of the cirque traverse.  

 

Skied Alta lots back in the 90’s. Area is a bit more mellow than the bird. Still some great skiing.

 

The two books below do a decent job of detailing & rating the trails & lines at both areas.

 

The Powder Hound's Guide to Snowbird

The Powder Hound's Guide to Skiing Alta

 

If you are on the other side, do Deer Valley for a day. The Daly chutes are decent, the Mayflower & Lady Morgan chairs both skis pretty well. Food ain’t bad either. 

 

Have fun.

post #26 of 34
Thread Starter 

Just ordered the books - Thanks

 

Also had some time to read the "unofficial Guides"  - Great resource that I didn't know existed on Epic.  I noticed that there doesn't seem to be a guide for our areas in Alberta.

post #27 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by canadianskier View Post

Just ordered the books - Thanks

Also had some time to read the "unofficial Guides"  - Great resource that I didn't know existed on Epic.  I noticed that there doesn't seem to be a guide for our areas in Alberta.

There is but one way to fix that.
post #28 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post


There is but one way to fix that.


I thought that, no time now, perhaps over the holidays

post #29 of 34
If you want to book at Alta Peruvian, check out hotels.com. I found the rates a little less expensive than booking directly.
post #30 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by canadianskier View Post
 

I'll probably bring two skis - two will fit in one bag and weighs sub 50lbs.  Not a big deal.  Having racer kids over the last 15 year allows for a different perspective - i.e. after bringing 7 pairs to some multiday races, two seems easy.  I do enjoy ripping with the more carving oriented MX if it is dry, but like bigger skis for crud and powder.  Will decide on the 108 vs 117 depending on how the as yet un-tried does.  The MX is just OK in pow, but the others are better.

 

I agree that its probably not worthwhile to bring BC gear - extra skis and skins  and boots and clothes and cost  - for a short ski trip?.  Also agree that it would be a bit unwise to go into a BC area without good knowledge of snowpack, avi conditions, etc.  Could hire a guide, but that is not what this trio is about.  Was just a thought, but now ruled out.

 

Great info about terrain and specific runs to check out.  Thanks!

 

We're not that concerned about night life, other than good food after skiing. 

 

Staying on hill is sounding better despite the extra expense - I would be heart broken to miss a dump or part of a dump due to closed roads:mad  Good info on some alternatives for sleeping.  Thanks!

 

Also appreciated hearing option about travel to PC area from Alta area - makes sense and would break-up the skiing a bit.

More about all the lodges at Alta.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/125833/alta-lodges

 

One advantage of staying in Alta as opposed to a condo or at Snowbird is that meals are pretty much included.  Not many options up in LCC for eating out.

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