The first time we visited Alta as a family, our sons were 12 and 9. It was the first winter that they didn’t ski race, so we were enjoying the sweet freedom of free skiing.
Being more familiar with red rock Moab than white powder Wasatch, our Colorado boys were skeptical of skiing in Utah, for about five minutes. Then, they quickly converted and fell in love with the high stoke, low stress vibe of Alta.
Our sons loved how we could park at the Wildcat base and be on the Collins lift within just a few minutes. They loved picking their own lines in Ballroom, jumping off Razorback, ripping up Supreme Bowl and skiing the trees off of Wildcat.
Although Alta is plenty big, at 2,200 skiable acres, the boys felt like they owned the place, not realizing that they hadn’t even scratched the surface.
Truly, there was only one thing they didn’t love about Alta, and it was the commute each morning from Salt Lake City.
So Near, Yet So Far
If you’ve never skied Utah, you might be surprised to find seven world-class resorts within 45 minutes of the airport. The commute from Salt Lake up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta and Snowbird is easy except when it’s snowing. Because when it’s dumping in the Wasatch, the road to Alta is often closed.
Which means the people who are already up there, who spent the night, are scoring pow, while the rest of us are waiting in traffic.
After our first experience waiting for UDOT to open the road, we vowed to sleep at Alta.
Stay the Night
The town of Alta really isn’t much. There are some homes, a post office, a library, a few hundred year-round residents and five ski lodges.
On our most recent visit to Alta in December, we stayed at the largest of the lodges, the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge, with 90 rooms.
If you’ve been to Alta, chances are you’ve seen the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge, a mid-century building, adjacent to the Wildcat base parking lot. Chances are you’ve been inside the Lodge’s public spaces, which have served as the ski area’s base lodge since 1961.
And while those public spaces are serviceable, the Lodge itself is lovely and surprisingly elegant.
Casual Elegance, Comfort and History
For 40 years, the Goldminer’s Daughter was run by Jim and Elfriede Shane.
The lodge changed ownership in 2001, when Jim passed away and two long time employees, Jenn Life and Ross Olson, acquired it.
We met Jenn, a former NCAA Division 1 basketball player, talented artist and mother of two young children, when we visited. Jenn made her way to Alta in the early 1990s, when she was fresh out of college. Although contemplating med school, she took a job in housekeeping at the lodge and she never left.
Ross’s story is similar, although he came even earlier, arriving to work at the Goldminer’s Daughter in 1975.
Since acquiring the lodge, Jenn and Ross have been upgrading, with an eye toward preserving the lodge’s appealing history, while adding expected modern conveniences, like WiFi and TVs.
We were in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite, which could not have been more comfortable. The other, traditional rooms are equally spacious and nice. The halls are like galleries, with photos celebrating Alta’s early days and important milestones.
On our first night, we arrived just in time for dinner. Road weary, hungry and tired after a week of school and work, we made our way upstairs to a lovely room full of elegant tables, a crackling fire and walls of windows, cheerfully reflecting light from a chandelier.
While relaxing over a beer as we waited for dinner, my husband looked around, and said “This is not at all what I expected.” Having never been in this part of the building before, we were completely surprised at the style and level of service found in the actual lodge.
Meals at the Goldminer’s Daughter, as at all of the Alta Lodges, are included. Dinner is four courses, beginning with soup, then salad, onto hearty entrees and ending with dessert. In the morning, there’s a breakfast buffet and cooked-to-order eggs and omelets, as well as the occasional chef’s special, while afternoon finds guests enjoying drinks and substantial snacks during tea time.
I’m a sucker for ski history and family tradition, which is one of the many, many reasons I love visiting Alta. Last year, the resort celebrated it’s 75th anniversary, making it one of the oldest in the U.S. Generations of families have visited the resort and generations of even more families have returned each year to ski and stay at their favorite lodge.
This legacy is what gives all of the lodges, Goldminer’s Daughter included, such great appeal. Strangers quickly become friends and friends quickly become family. Soon the lodges are just like home, with better service and food.
And before you know it, winter turns to summer and summer turns to winter, and it’s time to come back to your ski home away from home, the Goldminer’s Daughter.
When You Go…
Here is my family’s list of what we like best about the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge.
Location. It doesn’t get any more central than the Goldminer’s Daughter. Basically the town hub, the Goldminer’s Daughter provides not only a resort base lodge, but also a one-room school-house for Alta’s kids, the medical clinic, and the bank (with an ATM). The Collins lift is mere steps from the door, making your ski commute about 1 minute long.
Room for Everyone. Our room was perfect for a family of four and the lodge can easily accommodate larger groups in adjoining rooms. The rooms are plenty spacious, with hooks for your ski clothes and ski lockers in the basement.
Our teens appreciated the WiFi and TVs.
Hot Tub and Rec Room. Instead of vegging in our rooms, we took full advantage of the hot tub and Rec room. These are great places to relax, share some fun and meet other guests, all in a very relaxed setting, where even little kids can roam free. Ping pong, anyone?
The Food. Not only did I like the old school dining room décor, but we all loved the food and tried a lot of it. At the top of my guys’ list was the beef stroganoff, accented with gorgonzola cheese. There were also delicious fish, chicken, pork, and vegetarian options.
There is also the Goldminer’s Saloon on the second floor. Open to the public, it’s a great spot for lunch (with delicious pizza) and après. Since Jenn has two young kids who roam the lodge at will, the bar is family friendly, and if you’re lucky you can score a spot near the train table to keep your little ones busy.
And while I could go on and on, let’s just leave it this way.
Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge? Get there and get there soon. Your family is waiting.
More on Alta:
- Alta: Wild, Welcoming and Wonderful (Unless You’re a Snowboarder), November 17, 2010.
- The Pineapple Express Diary, Part Three: Skiing Alta, December 29, 2010.
- Ski Trip Report: Alta Moguls, Ski School and More, December 20, 2011.
- Alta 24/7: Ski, Eat, Laugh, Repeat, February 6, 2012.
- The Five Alta Lodges: History, Charm and Family Fun, February 7, 2012.
- Alta, Utah: The Ski Gang’s All Here, December 4, 2012.
- Making Memories at Alta Lodge, December 5, 2012.
- From Snowboard to Skis for One Day at Alta, January 2, 2013.
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