Downhill Skiing in Little Cottonwood Canyon

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Downhill Skiing

Alta Nordic Shop. You'll find just 2 miles 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. Hwy. 210, Alta, UT, 84092. 801/799–2293. www.alta.com.

Alta Ski Area. 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 $60. Half-day group lessons for adults and children are available. 801/359–1078; 801/572–3939 snow report. www.alta.com. Lift tickets $65; Alta Snowbird One Pass $105. 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.

Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. For many skiers, this is as close to heaven as you can get. Soar aboard Snowbird's signature 125-passenger tram straight from the base to the resort's highest point, 11,000 feet above sea level, and then descend into a playground of powder-filled chutes, bowls, and meadows—a leg-burning top-to-bottom run of more than 3,000 vertical feet if you choose. 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, you can lounge on the 3,000-square-foot deck of Creekside Lodge at the base of Gad Valley. Beginner's lessons start at $100 and include lift ticket, lesson, and rentals. 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 $92 tram and chairs, Alta Snowbird One Pass $105. 3,240-ft vertical drop; 2,500 skiable acres; 27% novice, 38% intermediate, 35% advanced; 125-passenger tram, 4 quad lifts, 6 double chairs, 1 gondola, and a skier tunnel with surface lift.

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