1200 People Are Stuck at Alta and Snowbird Due to Heavy Snow and Avalanche Cycle
Upwards of 20 inches of snow fell at both resorts between 6 am and 4 pm today, adding to a season total of 744” at Alta and 685" at Snowbird.
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Editor’s note: UDOT opened the road, SR210, at 6:50 pm. Traffic is moving down the two-lane road slowly and the road will reclose in both directions at 10 pm.
As of 6 pm on Friday, March 24, roughly 1,160 people are sheltering in place in base area facilities at Alta resort due to a natural avalanche cycle that has blocked Utah service road 210, according to the Alta Town Marshal, Mike Morey. Interlodge was put into effect around 2 pm, restricting any outdoor travel at Alta, Snowbird, and surrounding areas.
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An interlodge event occurs when snow levels and avalanche danger are so high, anyone in the area is confined to resort buildings while safety work is done. Road access is shut down and no one is allowed to stay in their cars. Travel outside of any building is illegal and extremely dangerous. Read our 2021 report from inside Little Cottonwood Canyon’s longest interlodge ever. You can also go behind the scenes with Alta Ski Area as they tell the definitive story of interlodge.
“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced snow rates that heavy all at once,” says Thorn Merrill, who was one of hundreds sheltering in place at the Goldminer’s Daughter, along with his friend Brian Weenig. “You’re getting an inch of snow in your lap just riding the lift. It was pretty awesome skiing.”
After 10 or 11 runs, they got the Interlodge order and headed inside where the scene was mayhem at first, says Merrill. But after a few games of chess and a round of pool, the GMD rolled out the chips and salsa for their guests and everyone made the best of it.
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Avalanche mitigation by the Utah Department of Transportation is ongoing as they attempt to clear the highway of avalanche debris and snow. The estimated reopening will be Friday evening.
“Everyone loves and loathes an interlodge,” says Brandon Ott, Alta’s marketing director. “It’s an element of the unknown. It’s the promise of the potential of really deep ski turns and that’s why we all love to ski and why we do this.”
When an interlodge goes into effect immediately by order of the marshal, ski patrol moves in large groups to sweep the key areas of the mountain until they are confident they’ve done their best to move everyone off the mountain and inside buildings at the base around.
“When you get 5 inches an hour things, go big and things get sideways real quick,” says Ott. “Everyone’s safety is the key priority.”
Upwards of 21 inches of snow fell at both resorts between 6 am and 4 pm today, adding to a season total of 744″ at Alta and 685″ at Snowbird. Alta is four inches shy of the all-time record and still has five weeks of the season to go.
“I’ve skied Alta for 20 years and today I skied, hands down, the stormiest run I’ve ever skied at Alta,” says Ott. “I’m pretty sure it was free refills before you even got down to the bottom of the chair. I’ve never seen it refill so rapidly. It’s going to be a lot of digging out and lot of people will go to bed tired and beat up tonight.”
From their car on the drive home, skiers Merrill and Weenig say the wait was worth it.
“I think there’s a lot of folks who don’t love skiing when snow is pelting you in the face, but if you were willing to brave the storm, it was some pretty amazing resort skiing,” says Merrill.