Alta

Four feet of powder in three days! Not much more to say.
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Four feet of powder in three days! Not much more to say.
#28 Alta

Alta inspires a near-religious reverence in its throngs of fans: They throw around words like “mecca,” “heaven” and “nirvana” to describe a classic, minimalist, hardcore hill that brings in pilgrims from all over the world who are in search of one simple salvation: powder. Goose-down powder. Lots of it. Drifted onto 2,200 acres of fan-shaped bowls, steep glades, and low-angle fields.

If snow is your obsession, Alta—No. 1 in the category—needs to be at the top of your life list. Readers rave about the “no-frills atmosphere” and “true ski culture,” which translates into cheap lift tickets, funky lodges and a stubborn but celebrated ban on snowboarding (“no knuckledraggers!!”). The terrain ranks high in Challenge (No. 5) and Variety (No. 8)—and low for grooming (No. 31)—adding up to a playground that expert skiers thrive on.

But it’s not a perfect paradise: A lot of great runs are only accessible by hikes or long traverses, some of which are rocky (“Alta eats skis”). With such a go-get-’em skier population, the legendary white stuff often gets ribboned by noon. And extras like nightlife, lodging and dining—because to the Alta diehard, these are extras—tend to be “mediocre” and “claustrophobic.” But let us not forget the most important measure of all: Alta ranked No. 1 for Overall Satisfaction, so the goods must be pretty darn good. In fact, one reader spoke for his fellow disciples when he noted Alta’s biggest weakness: “It’s too far from my house!” —E.S.

What’s New: Improved snowmaking on Sugarloaf for better early-season skiing; continued work on the “miserable” ropetow that connects the base areas.

Mandatory Run: Take High Traverse from Collins out to Eagle’s Nest for a tree shot that plunges to the base.

Don’t Miss: Sit-down lunch at the Collins Grill.