2002 Number 28 Resort In North America: Alta, Utah

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If you want to ski the lightest, deepest lift-serviced snow in America, perhaps in the world, Alta is the place. Readers frequently refer to Alta as "classic," praising its authentic, retro feel. "It's skiing the way it used to be-and the way it should be," lauds one reader. "No frills, just downright incredible skiing," another cheers. The crawling lifts and amenity-free environment leave some sybarites fuming. "It's the 21st century-hadn't you heard?" a reader wails. But most visitors are aware of Alta's shortcomings and yet declare, as one admirer does, "It ain't broke, so don't change a thing." What is changing is the border between Alta and Snowbird. This is disappearing-for skiers, at least. A dual lift ticket will be sold this year. (Alta's snowboarding ban, however, remains steadfast.) Part of Alta's unwavering appeal is its terrain-rated No. 3-which includes some of skiing's most fabled fall lines, including High Rustler, Eddie's High and Gunsight. Getting into these perches involves a spine-bending traverse and enough climbing to warrant a Sherpa, but for that very reason it takes longer for this mountain to get skied out. Another advantage to Alta's layout is that you're too whipped at day's end to notice the absence of a nightlife. Alta raises its day-ticket prices to $38 this season, but it's still the best value (ranked No. 1) in skiing. Staying in Salt Lake can save money, but when avalanche danger closes Little Cottonwood Canyon, you'll wish you were in a lodge at Alta's base.

WHAT'S NEW Alta and neighboring Snowbird will have a shared, ski-only day ticket ($68) and season pass ($1,200).

A GOOD DEAL It only costs $29 to ski from opening to 1 p.m., the best window of opportunity for first tracks.

MEDALS GOLD Snow, Terrain, Challenge, Value, Weather, Access, Scenery.

HIGH/LOW RANK Snow (1), Value (1), Terrain (3); Après-Ski (67), Off-Hill Activities (68), Family Programs (69).

DON'T MISS Daily ticket prices will plunge by $20.02 for anyone staying three nights, except for black-out periods during Christmas and the Olympics. (Alta for $20 bucks a day is practically stealing.)

READER REMARKS (+) "A must for anyone serious about skiing." "I'm going to get a place between Alta and Snowbird and skip heaven altogether."
(-) "Lifts are slow." "It's dead in the evening, but so are your legs."