One of our favorite places to ski is Alta, Utah. Not only do we love the terrain, which can be as steep, deep and challenging as you want to make it, but we love the vibe. Alta’s old. Alta’s authentic. It’s for real.
In early December, we had an opportunity to ski and stay up at Alta in one of the five historic lodges that ring the base area. It was an amazing experience. No TV, no wi-fi. Just family, skiing and making new friends.
The Town Of Alta
Because history is so important to Alta, here’s a little background on this tiny town. Founded in the 1860s by silver prospectors, Alta’s population rapidly grew to around 8000 people before the price of silver crashed. By 1880, there were only 300 residents.
Today, the town of Alta has a population of just under 400 residents. During the winter, thousands of skiers visit Alta. Many come for the day, driving up from the Salt Lake City area. Others come to ski for several days, a week, or more, and stay in Alta.
Where Families Make Their Own History
One of the first things I learned about the five Alta lodges is that returning guests make up a large portion of their winter clientele. In many cases, the same families have returned year after year. Many of these guests are now grandparents meeting their children and grandchildren for a skiing holiday. For many years, guests had to book a week at a time, from Saturday-to-Saturday, and the same families booked the same week each year. This meant that not only were families getting together, but so were friends made on previous visits to Alta.
One Night or Forty?
With the dawn of the new economy in 2008, the lodges saw their weekly bookings drop and all of them now accept visitors for shorter stays, if space permits. We stayed the weekend the Alta Peruvian Lodge, which accepts reservations for less than three nights during the low season. During high season, there is a three night minimum for weekend stays.
While we were there, we met a guest who was staying for 40 nights! He is someone who visits year after year, and why not? During his 40 night stay, all creature comforts are provided — a bed, three square and delicious meals a day, an outdoor pool, hot tub and sauna and a constantly changing group of fellow skiers with whom to become acquainted and swap stories. There are even complimentary laundry facilities. We also met George, a friendly dad from the New York area who comes out to ski and stay at the Peruvian at least two times a year. Sometimes he comes with friends, other times (like this visit), he flies solo. But who needs to bring friends? We were all friends within minutes.
Breaking Bread and Sharing Stories
Breakfast and dinner are included with the room at all of the lodges and served at shared tables, which makes it very easy to meet fellow guests. We ate with different guests at each meal and enjoyed all of them. Everyone staying at the lodges shares a passion for skiing and for Alta. Plus, almost every guest has just come in from skiing, skied the day before or is going skiing the next day. There are experiences to share and runs to compare.
In addition to the dining room, the Alta Peruvian has other common areas where guests can meet and mingle. The game room, with ping-pong and foosball, was our family favorite as we challenged each other in (mostly) friendly matches. One evening after dinner, we played Sorry! in the common room, while other guests chatted and read books. There are no TVs in the rooms, and while the lodge does provide several computers, very few people used them. Each evening the lodge also shows a movie for guests in the downstairs movie room.
Hot Water Therapy
After skiing each day, our boys headed straight for the outdoor pool and hot tubs, with us right behind them. The first night, our youngest son jumped into the pool, which seemed incredibly bold to me. Let’s face it, very few outdoor pools are hot enough to be comfortable in the deep midwinter. This one was. We swam and laughed and splashed, until finally our hair started to freeze and we migrated to the hot tubs and joined the other guests.
Sitting outside at altitude at night is magical. If you are outside at Alta, everywhere you look you see a mountain. The pools and hot tubs at the Peruvian face the ski mountain, where we watched snow cats grooming the early season snow. Suddenly, we noticed an incredibly bright light along a mountain ridge to the east. We were puzzled by the appearance of such a big light, wondering who in the world would be driving a snowcat so far out-of-bounds.
Our new friend George just laughed. “It’s the moon,” he told us. As the full moon rose quickly over the peak, the black night disappeared and the tiny town of Alta was bathed in a blue light bright enough to walk by. We stayed in the hot tubs. But our laughter rolled out over the snow, and became a part of history.
Tomorrow: The Five Alta Lodges – History, Charms, And What’s “Best” for Families
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