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You'll find 5 km (3 mi) of groomed track for skating and classic skiing, plus a good selection of rental equipment and even an espresso bar at the Alta Nordic Shop. Wildcat Ticket Office Bldg. Hwy. 210, Alta, UT, 84092. 801/799-2293.
When it comes to skiing, Alta Ski Area is widely acclaimed for both what it has and what it doesn't have. What it has is perhaps the best snow anywhere in the world—up to 500 inches a year, and terrain to match it. What it doesn't have is glitz and pomp. Neither does it have snowboarders. Alta is one of the few resorts left in the country that doesn't allow snowboarding. Sprawling across two large basins, Albion and Wildcat, Alta has a good mixture of expert, intermediate, and beginner terrain. Much of the best skiing (for advanced or expert skiers) requires either finding obscure traverses or doing some hiking: it takes some time to get to know this mountain so if you can find a local to show you around you'll be ahead of the game. Albion Basin's lower slopes have a terrific expanse of novice and lower-intermediate terrain. Rolling meadows, wide trails, and light dry snow create one of the best places in the country for less-skilled skiers to learn to ski powder. Two-hour lessons start at $45. Half-day group lessons for adults and children are available. Box 8007, UT, 84092. 801/359-1078; 801/572-3939 snow report. www.alta.com. Lift tickets $65; Alta Snowbird One Pass $90. 2,020-ft vertical drop; 2,200 skiable acres; 25% novice, 40% intermediate, 35% advanced; 2 high speed quads, 2 triple chairs, 3 double chairs.
Like its up-canyon neighbor, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort has plenty of powder-filled chutes, bowls, and meadow areas with an even longer vertical drop. Snowbird's signature 125-passenger tram takes you from the base all the way to the top in one fell swoop for a leg-burning top-to-bottom run of more than 3,000 vertical feet. The terrain here is weighted more toward experts—35% of Snowbird is rated black-diamond—and if there is a drawback to this resort it's a lack of beginner terrain. The open bowls, such as Little Cloud and Regulator Johnson, are challenging; the Upper Cirque and the Gad Chutes are hair-raising. On deep-powder days—not uncommon at the Bird—these chutes are exhilarating for skiers who like that sense of a cushioned free fall with every turn. With a nod to intermediate skiers, Snowbird opened North America's first skier tunnel in 2006. Skiers and boarders now ride a 600-foot magic carpet through the Peruvian Tunnel, reducing the trek to Mineral Basin. If you're looking for intermediate cruising runs, there's the long, meandering Chip's Run. After a day of powder turns, visitors can lounge on the 3,000-square-foot deck of Creekside Lodge at the base of Gad Valley. Full-day workshops for skiers and boarders of all levels start at $150. Hwy. 210, Box 929000, Snowbird, UT, 84092. 801/933-2222; 800/232-9542 lodging reservations; 801/933-2110 special events; 801/933-2100 snow report. www.snowbird.com. Lift tickets $72 tram and chairs, $62 chairlift only; Alta Snowbird One Pass $85. 3,240-ft vertical drop; 2,500 skiable acres; 27% novice, 38% intermediate, 35% advanced; 125-passenger tram, 4 quad lifts, 6 double chairs, and a skier tunnel with surface lift.
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