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Alta/Snowbird terrain advice

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
We are at Alta/Snowbird for 6 days in late January. One prior visit...skied boilerplate all week at Alta, Snowbird unskiable ice, and left during the mother of blizzards, 5 feet in 3 days after we left. But I digress...

So, this is essentially our first time skiing (I hope!) these hills.

We are a group of 13, mostly expert skiers capable of skiing real steeps (eg Alta chutes, Tower 3 at Jackson) in good snow, unhappy with "die if you fall" terrain, and really into broad powder faces (think Hobacks at Jackson) and trees.

Given good snow and cool temps, how would you split your time? What are the "don't miss" areas on both hills, and which hikes to inbounds terrain have the greatest payoff?

Is High Rustler overhyped? Is Great Scott any more difficult than Tower 3?

And can you make it snow EVERY day for us?

Where would you go for a drink after skiing before hitting the hot tub? We are staying in a house at Alta, so SLC isn't the answer I need...

Oh, and just to stir the pot, which mountain is the "best"?

I'll be looking for your thoughts! Thanks
post #2 of 33
Originally Posted by philipshaw

Oh, and just to stir the pot, which mountain is the "best"?
post #3 of 33
Last time I checked, Peruvian Lodge had the best bar. But Alta Lodge and Goldminer's are good too.

Without giving away too many secrets, at Alta, ski the stuff that gets tracked out first, first. First few chairs get High Rustler, and I've watched them come down from the lift line many times... Ballroom is often closed during storms due to it's being below Baldy Chutes, it gets tracked out fast, so hit it early. The further you go out, the steeper it gets and the longer the line- this is the Shoulder. The run back to the lift is a long one, with Germania lift gone, but corduroy all the way so you can mach it. Speaking of Germania being out, Warm Up off of Wildcat lift, a required bomb when Germ was going, is still great on a pow day.

The backside hike from the top of Collins has been re-routed this year and it's longer but less steep. Take that and hike right at the fork on the spine of Rustler Ridge and take it all the way up and out to Eddie's High Notch. This a little chute that you have to jump into. You can go straight down from there or ride up the other side like a halfpipe and traverse across half the backside untill you get to Gunsight (Gunsight is a big chute and powder magnet that is best accessesd by turning left at the fork- frontside- from the original hike up Rustler Ridge) Anyway, anything off this traverse is great- the Pyramid Rocks are below it and there is always great snow beside and below them. Halfway down you'll hit the lower traverse, and below that a traverse that takes you back through a ravine and to Sugerloaf lift. If you're real lucky, you'll be at the top of Sugerloaf when they drop the rope to Devil's Castle.

That's just a short tour- there's so much more- everything off of the High Traverse (frontside) is great, especially Stonecrusher, another big chute and snow magnet- depending on the wind direction. Then there's Greely and North Rustler. The thing about Alta is that very little is marked at the expert level and there are funny little gates and entrances all over. Much of this high terrain I skied with ski school or a friend as a guide the first time. With a group this big it might be a good idea. There used to be a book sold at the Peruvian Lodge ski shop called "A Powder Hounds Guide to Alta" with everything named and mapped out- entrances, degree of dificulty, pitch, etc. which is a great book.

I hardly ever ski any of the real steep stuff on hard snow anymore- I've retired to powder- but unless you get lost and go off a cliff it's not dangerous as long as everyone can self-arrest. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Snowbird rocks too. Have a blast.
post #4 of 33
For Snowbird the steep skiing is everywhere just point your skis downhill. What we do is every run try to find the hard way. Down one pitch, on the freeway, then off to the right, off to the left, onto a short pitch or into the unknown(known for us). At Snowbird there is steep skiing everywhere and then there are the !caution! gates, so look for them on the way up and plan your way down around them.

Mineral basin - all depends on the sun the day before, if it was blue, wait until it loosens up. Work your way around the bowl, right under the lift is steep like you might want.

Little Cloud - must spend time there. It is nice and steep to the right off regulator, real nice and flat steep usually. We always hit the backsides of the litle mounds in Little Cloud bowl and they often hold snow a few days after a storm.

The Cirque speaks for itself! Drop in anywhere you dare. Don't forget to try skiing 1000ft of non-stop moguls/powder off the tram called Primrose Path, dive into Macaroni at the end.

In the Peruvian area, from the tram go right right right and ski the East side of the bowl and work your way across and ski down the downside of some awesome humps. Then down the blackjack area, often holds good snow well.

Coming down from Little Cloud go right at the top of Gad II, and keep going right right right and work your way down the pitches and "good" snow with secret patches and you'll come out at the top of the ?? big intermediate bowl. That is nice, good ending too.

Try heading down the ride of The Cirque, don't drop down, until almost at the end, drop left in Wilbur bowl, bery steep and clean.

Of course you can't forget all kinds of fun in Gad II, check out the gates on the way up, it might seem straightforward but it's not, multitudes of places to check out. Peruvian is good for last runs down the faces. Check out each one. We go until they say NO.

There is just soo soo much more, follow the tracks!!! and have a blast. Snowbird is my favorite place on planet earth! (Snowbasin is nice, but is a very much tamed down bird, it's #2 and Alta is #3 for me)

Snowbird is the best for what you want, it is a steep skiers paradise. Alta is fine, but has very much runout and not necessary for the day traversing. After you ski each for 3 days you will see that although the acreage is listed as comparable, skiing wise, it isn't even close. I started an Snowbird vs Alta thread last year and the votes were overwhelmingly for Alta, but the kind of skier you are, ski three days at each and "see for yourself".

If you have a car, I would make it to Snowbasin and the Big Cottonwood for the day, for a change of scenery.
post #5 of 33
Originally Posted by philipshaw

Is High Rustler overhyped?
Not if you can manage to get to it before the hordes. High Rustler is spectacular if you happen to get it when it's untracked after a good dump.

Originally Posted by philipshaw

Is Great Scott any more difficult than Tower 3?
Just my opinion, but I believe Great Scott is several levels LESS difficult than Tower 3.

Also, some spots you ought to try that haven't been mentioned yet (all at Snowbird):

Gad Chutes (gates to the left off the Cirque Traverse).

Lone Tree (wayyyyy down to the end of the Cirque Traverse and then left).

Baldy Shoulder if it's open. Lots and lots of steep and fun shots down into Peruvian Gulch.

Blackjack Shoulder (you'll figure it out if you look hard enough).

Bookends (far skier's right traverse in Mineral Basin).

The rollers/rock bands/gullies between Chip's and Anderson's(sp?).

Have fun. It should be great.
post #6 of 33
This should bring some grins
Snowbird vs alta for experts.
sorry, can't help myself, I get a little wacky on this subject<g>
post #7 of 33
Originally Posted by SnowbirdDevotee
...Snowbird is the best for what you want, it is a steep skiers paradise. Alta is fine, but has very much runout and not necessary for the day traversing. After you ski each for 3 days you will see that although the acreage is listed as comparable, skiing wise, it isn't even close. I started an Snowbird vs Alta thread last year and the votes were overwhelmingly for Alta, but the kind of skier you are, ski three days at each and "see for yourself"...
It's just that it was so much fun yanking your chain. Not many people build an online personality so focused on one place, and to me, it quite frankly shows a little....well, whatever.

Nevertheless, Snowbird does indeed possess some of the best skiing on the planet. It has some great sustained steeps and those open areas so desired by the OP. It also has a large variety of other expert oriented terrain as well; steep chutes, cliffs, steep trees, gullies, etc.

Snowbird does also has some drawbacks. With an antiquated lift system on some of the best terrain, bottlenecks do form rapidly. Mineral Basin has a huge overcapacity, and that helps, but 75% of the terrain is in a S/SE orientation which renders it usesless after a morning of sunshine. Eating/Day Lodges are also under capacity and have all the charm of a prison cafeteria. Powder gets tracked up within minutes of opening. Expect one truely epic run down and get in line for the rest of the day. Crowd ampage factor is high, so it's not a very laid back place, especially after a good dump.

That said, I've had many good times at Snowbird, and I centaintly enjoy going there.

Alta is, in a lot of ways the polar opposite of Snowbird. It has a much more laid back feel (but also suffers from ampage during powder days). Alta is retro where Snowbird tried to be modern. Snowbird skis tall, Alta skis more wide (maybe SnowbirdDevotee is geography challenged, but they ARE the same size). You will find huge tracts of open acreage, some closed off until the patrol drops the rope. Then its a mad traverse to the goods. Hint: often the further you traverse and climb, the better the reward. With a completely open boundary policy, Alta is a BC skiers heaven, as much more terrain is OB (word of caution: Know Before You Go). Some of the best skiing I've ever had has been simple 1/2 - 1 hour hikes from the lifts.

But alas, Alta too has shortcomings. As mentioned with Snowbird, Alta also gets skied out way too fast. Too many good, motivated skiers in LCC. Don't expect to out smart others, you will find that locals have already been there and tracked it to death. The new Collins lift helps, but the lift capacity is also too small at Alta, where you can get some pretty horrific lines on busy days. Day Lodges there are also somewhat simplistic and not really noteworthy.

As for using the combined pass, I'd actually save some $$ and go with the single area passes. Both are big enough to ski an entire day, and you will end up feeling like you were just moving too much from area to area if you get the combined ticket.

Finally, if you get the chance, go to one of the other Utah resort too. There are too many good mountain in Utah to limit your experience to just one canyon.

Most of all, have fun,

post #8 of 33
Nobody's mentioned the spiny chutes at Alta yet (until now). They are up there on the steep-o-meter....

post #9 of 33
Thread Starter 

What time for first tracks?

So, since my last Alta/Snowbird trip was 1995, and my next won't be for at least a year or two, I'm pretty stoked to get first tracks somewhere memorable (the Cirque or Alf's or one of your suggestions...suggest away!)

What time do lines form on a fresh powder morning at Alta/Snowbird on a weekday in late January?
post #10 of 33
8:45. lift opens 9:15.
post #11 of 33
Thread Starter 


I thought someone would say 7:30.

Others agree?
post #12 of 33
Na. Still dark, pretty much. Altaholics aren't that bad.
post #13 of 33
You won't get first chair on Collins on a powder day @ 8:45. Maybe Wildcat.
post #14 of 33
Thread Starter 

What about first tram?

And do you think 815-830 is good for first lift (or 5) up Collins?
post #15 of 33
Maybe, it all depends on how big of day and how long since the last powder day?
post #16 of 33

Second Tier?

I'm headed up to Alta the first week in March with my 13 yo son. We both have some deep powder experience and are strong skiers. That said, if we are lucky enough to get dumped on while we're up there, I doubt we will be headed for the steepest or most technical terrain for first tracks. What we'll want to do is hit up the stuff that the hardcore fanatics dismiss as "second tier terrain." It needs to be plenty steep to carry good speed and make lots of sliky turns.

Any suggestion for where we should head if it dumps?
post #17 of 33
Originally Posted by MisterK
...Any suggestion for where we should head if it dumps?
Deer Valley or Powder Mt.
post #18 of 33
Originally Posted by Powdr
Deer Valley or Powder Mt.
He He Perhaps, but the die is cast and we're doing 4 days and staying at the Peruvian. I've always wanted to do Alta, so that's what we're gonna do.

We'll probably hit the steeps and just traverse.:
post #19 of 33

Head back to the Peruvian via Westward Ho. You will alway get freshies on the lower part because everyone else has to start traversing back to lift. On a powder day you may want to hit up Wildcat first, most of the competion will be on Collins.
post #20 of 33
why not supreme and sugarloaf?

collins is a mess on a powder day.
post #21 of 33
Thanks for the Westward Ho tip, Shredhead. At any rate, unless there is a ton of fresh the first morning I won't really care. After the first day of skiing I should have done enough recon to know where I want to head if there is fresh.

For me, that's half the fun of going to a new mountain anyway.
post #22 of 33
You can also do an early bird private $85/person.
post #23 of 33
Originally Posted by Lonnie
You can also do an early bird private $85/person.
Hmmmmm. Early bird private... I looked at the ski school page of the Alta site and didn't see any info about this. Does it mean that for $85.00 each we can go right to the front of the lift lines and essentially have a powder guide - not to mention picking up some pointers at the same time?

More info please. :
post #24 of 33
OK, I just didn't look closely the first time. The early bird private lesson gets you up the mountain 45 minutes before the lifts officially open...

If there's snow in the forcast I'm all over that. I'm an ass, but my son's charming personallity should have the instructor spouting out local knowledge like crazy. I bet the ski school personel just hate early bird duty.
post #25 of 33
Originally Posted by MisterK
I bet the ski school personel just hate early bird duty.
Oh, I don't think so. Anything to get off the bunny hill on a powder day- and early too.

P.S. If you want freshies down High Rustler first chair counts- but there's lots of other stuff- high Rustler's great in that it pulls a lot of people off that other stuff. Best is some local knowledge as to what opens when and what gets overlooked, what holds blown in snow, etc. Ski school can show you all that stuff. That said, first tracks on "high boy" is something else.
post #26 of 33
I called the Alta Ski School this morning to get more info about early bird lessons. This appears to be a good deal. The lessons start at 8:15, not at 8:30 like the web site says. They take place on the Collins lift, and the cost is $85.00 per person. Unless it is a busy holiday week or weekend they can almost always be booked two or three days out. If you book a two or three hour lesson, the rates get a little easier after the first hour - $73 per hour with $23 per hour for additional people

I'm just guessing here, but that first hour probably translates into three almost clean runs on a powder day to include warming up on blue terrain that probably gets ripped to *!it as soon as the masses hit the lifts. By booking a second hour, you get to skip lift lines durring the feeding frenzy. I also suppose that if you are skiing well, the instructor will steer you towards fun things they enjoy skiing while things are fresh.

So, for around a hundred and seventy five bucks, my son and I could hook up with this deal. Cat skiing to get to the fresh is $250 per person for five runs. I will certainly watch the weather before departing. If it looks like a good chance for a powder day I'll book the early bird private right away!

Oh, if anyone has done this I would love to hear from them about the experience. It's possible my expectations do not jibe with reality....
post #27 of 33
The early bird is a great idea. But I think, unless you're going on presidents weekend or spring break, you'll be pleasently surprised by the crowd. I skied last Monday with a foot of fresh and the only lift line all day was 9;00 at Collins. There is a big storm coming Sunday and I'll bet that next Monday will be the same..
post #28 of 33
A nice, relatively easy, and awesome line at Alta in Devil's Castle requires a long traverse out to underneath the huge rock wall closer to Castle Apron. Ski the undulations down the valley; you are sure to find some nice stashes.
post #29 of 33
I will be at Alta this Sunday (22nd) through next Saturday (28th). Long term weather shows clear (no snow) through next Wednesday after two foot dump ending today. What type of snow conditions might I see on the mountain next week?

post #30 of 33
Originally Posted by Gostan
Long term weather shows clear (no snow) through next Wednesday after two foot dump ending today.
According to NWS:

TODAY: Snow Showers
TONIGHT: Snow Showers
FRIDAY: Widespread Snow
Friday Night: Widespread Snow
SATURDAY: Widespread Snow
Saturday Night: Widespread Snow
SUNDAY: Partly Cloudy

So it looks like a few more inches of freshies to play in!
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