Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah Jan. 3, 2002--What has 4,700 acres of skiable terrain, 500 inches of seasonal snowfall and 25 total lifts? The answer: the new Alta/Snowbird interconnect. It's enough to make Vail look like a bunny hill.
This winter, Alta and Snowbird resorts in Utah offer skiers connected terrain with a new combined season pass and day ticket. The season pass goes for $1,200, while the day ticket costs $68--the most expensive day ticket in the U.S.
"Our local skiers have been asking for this for several years," says David Fields, assistant public relations director for Snowbird. "As soon as we got clearance for a second lift in Mineral Basin, Bob Bonar (Snowbird president) and Onno Wieringa (Alta GM) started talking about the possibilities of a connection."
And connect they did, finishing the construction of two high-speed quads that unload atop shared Sugarloaf Pass last summer. The only complaint among locals so far is the price of tickets. "It's just too much to pay," complains one Alta local. "I'd love to take advantage of the terrain, but I can't justify paying $68 per day for both mountains when an Alta day lift ticket is only $38."
However, you get what you pay for. This is an experience unique in American skiing. While the resorts continue to maintain separate ownership and operation, they share a common ridgeline that stretches some two miles from the top of Sugarloaf Pass to Baldy Shoulder and down to the bypass road. This two-mile ridgeline offers plenty of intermediate terrain as well as countless powder-filled, hair-raising lines only touched by skiers with the dual pass.
"One of the great things about the Alta/Snowbird pass is that skiers will be able to enjoy two distinctively different resorts," says Alta's Wieringa.
Alta and Snowbird are two distinct resorts to say the least. Snowbird is among the up-and-coming, new-school skier resorts with its tram, detachable quads and new freeride team boasting names like Nobis, Peifer and Ulmer. Alta is the polar opposite, consisting mostly of fixed double and triple chairs (3 detachable chairs notwithstanding) and a laid-back, down-to-earth, purist attitude--Alta is one of only three U.S. resorts to still prohibit snowboarding. No matter what the differences, both resorts and their diehards have welcomed the merge.
"People like it," explains Lee Cohen, a local photographer and 20-plus year Alta and Snowbird skier. "I know a lot of Snowbird locals who were almost anti-Alta before and they are having a ball with the connection now. They don't have anything negative to say about Alta now that they're skiing both sides of the ridge."
The main gate connects the resorts at Sugarloaf Pass atop the Baldy Express high-speed quad on the Snowbird side and atop the Sugarloaf Detachable Quad on the Alta side. The two areas can be accessed easily by beginner and intermediate terrain from Alta's Albion Basin and intermediate terrain from Snowbird's Mineral Basin. Expert skiers can access gates along the High Baldy Traverse on the Snowbird side and along the Baldy Shoulder and atop the Wildcat chair on the Alta side.
"It's a great thing," adds Cohen. "With the new, connected mountain, we locals say, 'Move over Whistler and Vail. Here comes Alta/Snowbird.'"
The Alta Snowbird pass is available for skiers only.
The Alta Snowbird pass includes:
4,700 acres of skiable terrain
1,175 acres of beginner terrain
1,755 acres of intermediate terrain
1,770 acres of advanced/expert terrain
500 inches of seasonal snowfall
4 detachable quad lifts
1 detachable triple lift
2 triple lifts
11 double lifts
7 surface tows
9 base area lodges
2 full-service, infant/toddler childcare facilities
2 professional ski schools