Wednesday, December 30, 2009

“Peace and powder snow” -- Bill Levitt

William H. (Bill) Levitt

Feb. 18, 1917 – Dec. 29, 2009

William Haskell (Bill) Levitt, long-time mayor of Alta, Utah, and owner of the Alta Lodge, died on Dec. 29, 2009.

Mr. Levitt was a graduate of the University of North Carolina, holding B. A. and M. A. Degrees in Sociology and Human Geography. Over a long and varied career, before moving to Alta in 1956, Mr. Levitt served as Director of Housing Surveys for the State Planning Board of North Carolina; was a principal Agricultural Economist in the U. S. Department of Agriculture; served as International Education Director for the UAW/CIO; was a sergeant in the U. S. Army in World War II; was a film maker, producer/director for Film Documents; and studied at the Art Students’ League in New York City.

During his 34 years as mayor of Alta, Mr. Levitt, at various times, was President of the Utah League of Cities & Towns; Chairman of the Governor’s Council on Community Affairs; Chairman of the Wasatch Front Regional Council; President of the Salt Lake Council of Governments; member of the Governor’s Wilderness Committee; Municipal Representative on the State Air Quality Board; Chair of the Public Safety Committee of the Salt Lake Council of Governments. He served as President of the Utah Ski Association and was a retired member of the Intermountain Ski Instructors Association. He was also instrumental in the creation of Friends of Alta.

Mayor Levitt was honored as the Outstanding Elected Official by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, and received a similar honor from the Utah Society of Public Administrators. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Order of the Arrow, Utah Boy Scouts of America and was elected to the Utah Tourism Hall of Fame. In 2004, in recognition for his work in protecting the natural environment of the community of Alta and the surrounding canyon, he was named a Giraffe by the Giraffe Heroes Project. The Giraffe Project is an international nonprofit organization that honors those who “stick their neck out for the common good.”

Mr. Levitt was born on Feb. 18, 1917, in Brooklyn, N. Y., a son of Samuel Levitt and May Kane Levitt. He is survived by his wife, Mimi Muray Levitt, to whom he was married on Dec. 17, 1982; a sister-in-law, Katherine Levitt, Savannah, GA; three sons, John, San Francisco, CA; Bino, (Marty Jones), Haiku, HI; Toby (Heather), Salt Lake City; a daughter, Cassia (Marcus) Dippo, Salt Lake City; a daughter-in-law, Victoria Levitt, Potsdam, NY; seven grandchildren, Ethan Levitt (Meggan), Atlanta, GA; Elissa Levitt, Houston, TX; Sam and Wilson Dippo, Salt Lake City; Sara, Matthew, and Hanna Levitt, Salt Lake City; a great-granddaughter, Maggie Levitt, Atlanta, GA. He was predeceased by a son, James; a sister, Helen; and a brother, Robert.

A marriage to Elizabeth Ayscue ended in divorce. A marriage to Janice Loeb ended in divorce.

Bill Levitt was a humanitarian and cared about people as well as about Alta’s history and its future. He was unusually talented, energetic and charismatic, but more than that, he used his powers for the greater good. He was a liberal in the truest sense of the word. His priority was never his own enrichment; it was always community, nature, open spaces and people. Bill fought for what was important to him; his principles, Alta, its community, its people and its future. He was always looking to the future.

Bill never seemed to care what people thought of him, but he cared deeply about people themselves—whether they were “important” in the conventional sense or not. Bill had a great life and he was still in possession of his powers at the end—funny, intelligent, and full of idealism and spirit.

A private service will be held at the convenience of the family. A memorial service is also being planned for sometime later in the spring. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to Friends of Alta, P. O. Box 8126, Alta, UT 84092.

Comments can also be viewed and/or submitted on the Bill Levitt Memorial Blog at

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blue Skies

Ski conditions the weekend of December 19/20 were pretty hard to beat--good snow coverage with a 48-inch base, sunny skies and a pleasant temperature; it was nice to see the sun! As the shortest day of the year passes and the day light slowly gets longer, ski season is just beginning.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monster storm leaves smiles in its wake...

The snow didn't seem to stop coming over the weekend and powder fans were all smiles with the change of weather. For a status on open chairlifts and groomed runs, visit Alta's web page with current information. To keep up to date on weather forecasts for the area, bookmark the National Weather Service web page for Alta. You can also sign up for "powder alerts" on the Alta web site.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Storm Cycle

Winter is making an appearance at Alta with a series of storms forecasted for this week. Five-nine inches of snow are forecasted during the day with up to another 12 inches overnight. Eager skiers are planning early season vacations to take advantage of this long-awaited snow storm.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Blue Sky Day at Alta

A beautiful sunny day at Alta! The weather forecast for the weekend shows snow is headed our way. As winter starts to shape up, get some early season turns in before the holiday season.
Alta Lodge serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday evening storm

A beautiful blue sky greeted skiers this morning following an overnight storm that dropped 10 inches of new snow at Alta. Skiers are enjoying the fresh powder snow at Snowbird as Alta is preparing to open the mountain. Alta Ski Area will provide an update later this afternoon with information about the opening day of Alta Ski Area.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Alta Lodge opening day

The Lodge opens for the winter season tomorrow--November 20. Skiers will be transported from the Lodge to Snowbird (one mile away) until Alta Ski Area opens. Snow is forecasted for the weekend.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Alta Snowstorm is building up the base.

This week got off to a good start with an Alta snowstorm that built up the base at Alta Ski Area. Yesteday they reported a base depth of 26 inches. It's windy on the ridge tops and the temperature is 16 degrees. The snow is getting skiers geared up for the season.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Snow is coming to Alta this week.

Just so you know, snow is forecasted for Alta begining this evening. (The Powder Alerts from Alta Ski Area have not started yet.) If you are not signed up for alerts, here is the link to sign up:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baldy is beautiful....

Photo of Mt. Baldy was taken the week of October 12. Although it was a little warm the following weekend, snow is in the forecast for this evening and later this week. The trees are quickly dropping their leaves in the upper canyon and the brilliant colors at the base of the canyon are starting to fade. Winter is on the way. Skiing is just around the corner with a tentative opening date of November 20 at Alta.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Last Sunday Brunch

It's the last weekend to enjoy Sunday Brunch at the Lodge. The menu and food are amazing. $21.85 for adults, children ages 7-12, $12.50, 6 and under, $6.50.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two weekends left

If you are headed to the mountains to take in the fall colors, keep in mind there are only two weekends left to have Sunday Brunch at Alta Lodge. A great time of year to come to the Lodge.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Menu for Wine Pairings Weekend

Chef Paul Raddon does it again and has put together what will be a memorable meal for the evening's event.

Fall Wine Pairings Menu
October 17, 2009

6-7 pm

Imported cheeses & crackers
Chicken Sate
with a peanut sauce

Dinner 7 pm

Demi Entrée
Panko Crusted Filet of Halibut
with a pineapple reduction, mango vanilla bean sauce
& toasted macadamia nuts
Jasmine rice

Greek Feta Salad

Demi Entrée
Roast Prime Rib of Bison
with a brandy peppercorn sauce & potatoes chantilly

Demi Entrée
Pan Seared Venison
with a blackberry sage sauce & roasted yams

Whiskey Chocolate Torte

Monday, August 31, 2009

October Wine Pairings

Don't miss this one--Michael Lucarelli will be performing Brazilian Jazz at the reception. Chef Raddon has put together a menu fitting the fall season.
October 17 & 18, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Weekends are for...

...taking time to get away and get up to the mountains. As summer starts to wind down, the temperatures are a little cooler -- great for hikes in the mountains around Alta. The tranquility is a wonderful way to recharge the "batteries". Retreat to the mountains before the snow flies--you'll be glad you did.

Monday, August 3, 2009

August is here!

From the rainy days of June to the warm sunny days of July, August is in full bloom.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wildflower Festival Weekend

If you are curious about the 1,200 different species of wildflowers in the Wasatch Mountains, be sure to take advantage of the Wildflower Festival July 17-19. Visit for schedule information.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009


It is a ruby throated hummingbird at the feeder on the deck of the Alta Lodge. Flowers are starting to show up too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sunday Brunch & Saturday Lunch

Summer Season is off to a start with Sunday Brunch and Saturday Lunch. Keep room for second helpings if you are coming for Sunday Brunch. Lunch is served on Saturday from 11 am - 2 pm. Snow melt continues on the south facing slopes and flowers are starting to slowly surface.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer's Around the Corner

All the snow this winter, (especially the stuff that fell this spring) is melting away as the pot guts (ground squirrels) forage for food and try their best to sneak inside the lodge. The critters are known to be fond of the flowers that Daphne and staff fastidiously plant and care for. New strategies are underway to thwart the pot guts from devouring blooms.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Solstice Storm Cycle: 96" and Counting!

On March 21, Alta's spring solstice arrived draped in bright robes of blue skies and warm temps. But what a difference a day makes.

Twenty-four hours later, winter was back in business with 9.5" of new snow, kicking off the most potent and prolific storm cycle of the year.

Eight days later, we've received 96" (8 feet!) of snow delivered by three storms in rapid succession. It's still dumping from storm number three, with two more significant storms lined up for the week ahead, one Tuesday-Wednesday and one Thursday-Friday.

What more is there to say? Here are the stats:

Date ......... 24 Hour New Snow..... Season Cumulative Snowfall

3/30/09 .....................22.5"+.......................... 541.5"

3/29/09 .....................6.5" ............................. 519.0"

3/26/09 .....................11.0" ........................... 512.5"

3/25/09 .....................19.5" ............................501.5"

3/24/09 ..................... 9.0" ............................482.0"

3/23/09 .....................18.0" .......................... 473.0"

3/22/09 .....................9.5" ............................ 455.0"

Just shoveled last night, the snow on the Alta Lodge deck is already over the railings!

So fly, run, walk, or hop in the car--just get to Alta!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Trip Report: Alta's Epic East Castle

The oft forgotten sibling of its more famous (and photogenic) sister Devil's Castle, East Castle is arguably Alta's prime powder run. On Friday, I skied East Castle for the first time and experienced Alta pow on a whole other scale.

East Castle is a behemoth. A vast snowfield with as much vertical as High Rustler and more vertical than Devil's Castle that holds fresh turns for days after a storm instead of mere minutes. The price: a lot of waiting and a lot of climbing. Most years Ski Patrol doesn't open East Castle until the snow pack stabilizes in March due to the slope's massive avalanche potential. And when it opens, an hour-long odyssey of a sidestep stands between the pilgrim and his powder.

On the ride up Supreme we were already getting giddy looking out across our destination's expansive East-facing slope. It looked to hold the best snow in Alta on account of its exposure and difficulty of access. The ropes had dropped a couple days ago but numerous untracked lines still beckoned.

Ian and I (Alan), Alta Lodge employees and dedicated snow-seekers, arrived at the foot of East Castle circa 1:00PM. A dozen sidesteppers were scattered across the traverse cut into the slope side, some inching forward, some stopped and panting. Just in front of us, a couple of people stood just below the path sticking climbing skins to the bases of their touring-equipped skis. Like Ian and I, they came prepared to skin up instead of sidestep, a climbing technique less demanding of the energy we'd prefer to expend skiing down.

Ian plowed ahead in his red cut-off T-shirt, arms chiseled from the season's baggage runs; I followed slowly and steadily, my yellow Capilene base layer darkening in the usual places. Every few moments a tempting new line emerged as the ground fell away to our right. But we kept climbing.

Ian rips East Castle, March 13, 2009
Forty minutes later we reached the summit, earning that top-of-the-world feeling with a 360 degree view of Mt. Timpanogos to the South and Mt. Superior to the Northwest.

We debated two lines of descent. The first dropped directly below us, over a 10' cliff band and down a gladed ridge with some untracked snow remaining. The second hooked a little skier's left, down a chute boasting wind-drift pillows and only one set of tracks. At the end of the chute we would be forced to cut right, barely avoiding a 60' vertical tumble through jagged rocks and scraggly pines.

I hit the line first, ripping a couple turns in the feather-light frosting snow before launching a wind drift, snow exploding in my face a second later when I splashed down. A couple more turns, a wind drift boost and another splash down; rinse well with powder snow and repeat.

Ian skied next. Details? Check out the video above.

Well, I learned my lesson. For Alta pow kept on the down low, head to the epic East Castle.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Stoli and Shakespeare: Remembering Chef Frank Menendez (1920-2009)

“He always made everyone feel like they were the most important person in his life.” –Chuck Lynn Biddulph

On the morning of January 23, 2009, fond memories of Frank Menendez began to pile up in Keith’s inbox like flakes in an Alta snowstorm. And like a good Wasatch storm cycle, the e-mails recounting elaborate dinner parties and naked tangos didn’t stop accumulating for days and days.

Keith—the unofficial contact for the “USA contingent” of Frank’s Alta Lodge diaspora—was tasked with sharing the somber news he received from across the pond that morning. He typed,
Hi Everyone: He’s gone but will always be in our memories. And now he’d want us to remember those good times, smile and laugh over a drink and a good meal… and get on with a good life.
And a role model for living the good life Frank was. “From all the e-mails I have received over this last week,” remarks Lucy, his friend and caretaker over his last years living in England, “I can see that these memories always contain the elements that meant most to Frank: food, music and fellowship.”

A native Brit, Frank defended his country during World War Two while stationed in Burma. After the war, Frank pursued passions and a career quite distinct from his military past.
Though Frank earned his living by cooking, his training and great loves were also music and theatre. He studied music in Dublin and had been to more Shakespearean productions around the world than anyone I know. He was always going to write an opera or a symphony. But somehow living always got in the way. –Lucy
Frank’s love for theatre proved contagious during his time as Alta Lodge head chef in the late-1960s through mid-1970s, spawning productions with employee-studded casts, including Shakespeare’s Othello and Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal. Directed by none other than Frank himself, the performances entertained and amused guests and fellow emps alike. Every Christmas Eve, Frank’s well-rehearsed choir of canyon employees would travel from lodge to lodge singing Christmas carols.

Before finding home at the Alta Lodge, Frank worked in North American ski towns including Aspen and Whistler. Always an entertainer no matter his locale, Frank loved to throw great dinner parties complete with fine food and plentiful libations.
For every four to six guests was a bowl of sour cream and one of caviar to go with the baked potato, and a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka frozen in a block of ice! Before the evening was over most of the vodka was gone, as was a great deal of wine.... Ben Williams
People gravitated to Frank, especially the younger crowd, to whom he taught a thing or two.
Frank’s friends became his family. He liked to gather young people around him. He was their guru, the older man who could teach them to cook, to savour the good things of life, to mix a drink and toast the sunrise after a fine party. –Lucy
Knowing how to dance was a key addition to Frank’s food-focused fiestas.
“I remember Frank and Winkie doing a naked tango through the kitchen door and into the dining room where Bill Levitt [Alta Lodge owner] was sitting. Frank never missed a beat. A dramatic turn and he was back through the doors into the kitchen.” –Anne Voye Reynolds
Frank built as well as facilitated enduring friendships, as evidenced by the many memories shared electronically amongst Alta Lodge emps now living in Afghanistan, Dubai, the UK, and beyond.
Maybe Frank's greatest legacy is the relationships he allowed us to create—both with him and with each other. –David DeLong ’75-’76
Somewhere beyond our world now, Frank‘s impact continues to be felt by those he loved.
Wherever he is, I have no doubt that his ingredients are fresh, his knives are sharp and his apron is lovingly soiled. My life is all the better for having known him. –Laurie Bernhard ’70-‘76
One thing is certain: Frank is remembered fondly.
RIP Frrrrrankipoo!!! –Jill Winterstein ’76-‘77
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Friday, February 6, 2009

50 Years of Levitt-y

In 1959, Bill Levitt agreed to buy the Alta Lodge. Fifty years later, on February 4, 2009, guests, employees, and Levitt family members gather in the lodge's deck room to celebrate. Glasses of champagne wait patiently in hand as Bill honors the occasion with a few of his famous Alta stories.

Bill tells first of the Alta Lodge's origins, built in 1939 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as Alta's first ski lodge. Barely completed, the lodge was taken over by the US Army during World War Two to train soldiers on skis for the mountains of Europe.

In 1954, Bill Levitt came to Alta and stayed at the 14-room Alta Lodge for the first time.

"I had been to ski hotels out East," says Bill, a native New Yorker, "but this place was different."

What Bill remembers most about Alta Lodge is the community.

"Everyone knew each other," says Bill. "We were talking, square dancing, and playing poker games. Fifty cents was a big bet."

In 1959, when Alta Lodge owner and Bill's friend Jay Lauchlan suggested that Bill buy the lodge, Jay drove anything but a hard bargain.

"Well, what do you want for the place?" asked Bill.

Jay threw out a price, and Bill quickly agreed, "That's fine."

A few days later, Bill remembers, "Jay called and said the amount he quoted was wrong."

"It's less," said Jay.

A couple of weeks later Jay called back, sounding very nervous.

"It's still less!" admitted an ashamed Jay.

To this day, money takes a backseat to friendship and tradition at Alta Lodge.

Looking over the smiling crowd, filled champagne flutes awaiting the toast, Bill speaks of his sacred obligation to keep the tradition going:

"This is a part of skiing that has changed. Now it's building condominiums and real estate. Except for one place: Alta."

The Levitt family is still involved in the day-to-day operations of the lodge, from Mimi, Bill's wife, to Cassie, Bill's youngest daughter, who stands to his left as he's speaking.

Bill sees many more years of Levitt ownership and tradition in the future:

"I have a great granddaughter now, who I assume will eventually work here. We don't have to pay family, so it's cheap labor."

Bill's joke is greeted with laughter. The group of smiling faces seems comforted. Perhaps they believe, that even as the world changes, Alta Lodge will keep the tradition alive.

Cassie Levitt raises her glass high in a toast. A hundred glasses join in.

"To the Alta Lodge."

Clinking. Sipping. Smiling.

Years ago, shortly before Jay Lauchlan's death, Bill had told Jay, "Now I see why you sold me the lodge. You were selling me the tradition."

"Well," Bill asked, "How'd I do?

"You did great," said Jay.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lodge Chef: Born to fish, forced to work

Head Chef Paul Raddon is serious about fish. And not just cooking it.

"On a good day, I’ll bring in 30 fish,” boasts Raddon, Alta Lodge chef since 1968.

And he’s not talking about the dozens of freshly bought fish he regularly loads into the lodge's walk-in refrigerator. Raddon prefers hooking his own.

Raddon—who prefers his nickname Cheffie—is an accomplished fly fisherman.

After decades of casting flies and learning the intricacies of the sport, Cheffie explains his motivation simply:

"I fish because the voices in my head tell me to."

Fishing the Provo River near Alta year-round, his most common cold-blooded adversaries are Cutthroat Trout and Brown Trout, which he catches by the dozens on good days.

But even on a bad day, a resolute Raddon refuses to be shut out. He’s spent too many days sharpening his skills on rivers from Yellowstone National Park to Hawaii—sniffing out new recipes all the while—to head home defeated.

“On a really bad day,” Cheffie concedes, “I’ll catch just one.”

But whether 30 fish hop into his boat or only one, each fish will live to swim another day. Cheffie practices pure catch and release; not a single fish he catches will hit his frying pan.

Other fish, however—those destined for the taste buds of Alta Lodge guests—won’t be so lucky. At least they'll go out in a flourish of the finest flavors.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Video: The Alta Post-Powder Day

Fresh tracks can always be found in Alta. Sometimes you just have to work harder to get them.

On Friday morning, Alta skiers awoke to find their favorite slopes--from High Rustler to Catherine's Area--cool and cozy under a blanket of snow 12" deep.

Several hours and thousands of powder turns later, the fresh tracks of the morning were only a memory. Powder thirst still not quenched, that's when many skiers strapped on their beacons, grabbed their shovels and probes, and headed to the Alta backcountry.

In this video shot today, local chef Jeff Moore takes the powder turns he earned on the trek up:

Powder Run in the Alta Backcountry 1/10/09 from WPP on Vimeo.

Check out more Alta skiing videos on the sidebar to the right.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pow Day Gets Rave Reviews

"We didn't think you'd make it!" Ryan said when he saw me, still covered in snow.

"I was super lucky," I admitted.

I only realized just how lucky I was when I arrived home at the Alta Lodge at 6:45pm. Earlier that day the forecast was only calling for a few inches, so I descended the canyon at 1:00pm for a doctor's appointment in the Salt Lake valley. But the snow gods smiled, and while I was in the valley it snowed almost a foot! As a result, the Utah Department of Transportation decided to close the road to Alta at 7:00pm. I did make it back--with a mere 15 minutes to spare--but I missed some great skiing today.

"So much fun!" is all that Jason, a local bartender, could say of the ski day.

With 21" of beautiful powder in the last 24 hours, I believe him.

Other rave reviews of the ski day heard around the lodge include:
  • "Four runs on Wildcat, first tracks, no problem." -Ryan, Front Desk
  • "So sick today!" -Steve, Cook
  • "We did 13 High Boy runs in a row; we started at noon and caught last chair." -Paul, Baker
  • "I skied really fast. It was hero pow." -Brian, Dining Room
  • "Sick, sick." -Ben, Dining Room
Up to a foot more snow is forecasted for tonight, so the skiing tomorrow promises to be even better.

THIS is an Alta winter. Stay tuned for more pow updates.

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