Thoroughly Modern Alta

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Fall Line 1204

It's like giving a nose job to

George Washington on Mount Rushmore. Alta, Utah, always a calming constant in skiing's tumultuous sea of change, has removed its vintage Collins (double) and Germania (triple) lifts and replaced them with-the horror-its first high-speed quad, making the resort one of the last to join the age of the detachable. Alta's loyalists may fret that providing easier and quicker access to the legendary runs that spill off the area's central spine will increase congestion. But "mountain capacity and people per hour will basically be unaffected," reassures Onno Wieringa, Alta president and general manager.

The new base-to-summit quad will continue to bear the Collins name and will conveniently load near the parking lot level-skiers previously had to climb to reach the lift. There's a midway loading station where the lift takes a 30-degree turn and continues to the top along the existing Germania lift line. In keeping with Alta's purist culture, the new lift will reward the top-to-bottom skier by providing more empty chairs at the bottom than at the midway station.

Despite its frozen-in-time reputation, Alta has been quietly upgrading its facilities over the past few seasons. The new quad is but the first step, with Phase Two calling for, among other changes, a new baselodge. And though still cheaper than most resorts, Alta's $47 daily lift ticket is no longer old-school.

Anytime a ripple of renovation alters the resort's hallowed landscape, Alta veterans wonder how hard the winds of change will blow. Fear not, at least for now. "Alta is a skier's mountain," asserts Wieringa. "Snowboarding is not allowed. This continues to be a business decision."

DECEMBER 2004