Monday, December 30, 2013

Alta Snow

It's been said (and trademarked) that Utah has the "Greatest Snow on Earth". When it comes to snow quality, the prevailing sentiment at Alta is that you would be hard pressed to find better powder skiing.
Attempting to understand the reasoning behind these beliefs, authors W. James Steenburgh and Trevor I. Alcott from the Department of Meteorology at the University of Utah set out to examine the meteorological findings that would support these beliefs. In their paper published in the September 2008 issue of American Meteorological Society, the authors cite their review of 22 years of snowfall with water content, air temperatures and elevation and the conclusions they came to.

Then there are Alta snowflakes. Alta Ski Area and a team of researchers have partnered to capture images of individual snowflakes.  The process involves the use of a custom made, high powered camera referred to as a Multi Action Snow Camera or MASC.  Picture This, a story about the process appeared in the Winter 13/14 issue of the Utah Adventure Journal.

The information is convincing that experiencing skiing on Utah snow is not to be missed, especially at Alta!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What is the Interconnect?

Can you imagine skiing four to six ski areas in one day? You can do that in Utah with the Interconnect Ski Tour. Now in the 30th season of guiding skiers, the tour is more popular than ever. You don't need to be a backcountry or expert skier to do it but you need to able to ski off trail with confidence and a willingness to do some side stepping and carrying your skis on your shoulder for short sections of hiking.

Alta Lodge guests start the tour from Snowbird and can tour to Alta, Brighton and Solitude and then back to Alta.  The additional ski areas for an extended tour are Park City and Deer Valley.  The return to Alta for the extended tour requires a one-hour shuttle ride for an additional fee. If you have a "bucket list", it is worth adding the Interconnect Tour to the list. You can find additional information, including  a FAQ on line as well make your reservation for the tour.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Women's Skis: Deciding What to Buy

Before there were women's bikes, women's backpacks and women's skis, women just bought the same bikes, backpacks, and skis as the guys.  Now not only is there gender specific gear, there is a wide assortment to choose from.

When it comes to skis, if you can demo skis, many ski shops will apply the rental fee towards the purchase price of skis. Another way to go about the decision making process is to read some of the ski tester reviews on the new equipment. Having one pair of skis for all conditions is ideal if you are skiing on snow that presents all types of conditions.  However, a lot of skiers are primarily on slopes with snow that is extremely hard and in some areas, it is actually icy.  For those types of conditions, the best ski would be one specific to those conditions. In the west and northwest, the snow conditions can be quite varied and those that ski a lot often times have more than one pair of skis.

If you are a destination skier, you might consider just bringing your ski boots with you and renting demo skis for your trip.  You'll have the latest equipment and eliminate the hassle and extra baggage fee of bringing your own skis.

The Alta Women's Ski Camps provide participants with demo skis and the option to switch out to different ski types while they are in the camp.  Not only does this give the skier the latest ski they also can evaluate others and designate a preference.

Having choices is great and if you come to Alta on April 12, there will be a free demo day that is open to everyone. (Lift tickets are not included.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Deluxe to Dormitory

slope facing cornber room with two beds at Alta Lodge
Alta Lodge large corner room
Alta Lodge has an assortment of rooms that include slope-facing corner rooms, rooms with a balcony and wood burning fireplace, rooms with views up canyon and down canyon and smaller, cozy rooms in the original wing of the lodge. There are also two one-of-a-kind rooms--the Swiss room and the Tyrol room. A hot breakfast, four-course dinner and afternoon tea are included.

each dorm at Alta Lodge is gender specific
Alta Lodge dorm rooms
The lodge also has dorm rooms, with the meal plan included, afternoon tea and access to the hot pools and saunas.  While dormitory accommodations may not appeal to some, for budget minded skiers who want to stay at Alta, they are great bargain.  Dorms also work well for a group of friends who want to be in the same room but don't want to share a bed.The dorm rooms are gender specific with each bed space having storage space and a safe. A shared bathroom is across the hallway. Keep in mind, no car is needed when staying at Alta Lodge and access to the lifts is out the back door.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Now Serving Fresh Powder

The toe-tapping, weather watching and anticipation is over--powder skiing is here! With blue sky and sunshine for nearly a week, skiers were getting their legs in shape by skiing laps on the buffed runs. 
Yesterday's storm total brought 15 inches of snow to the Alta and cold temperatures will keep the snow fluffy for a few days until the next storm comes in. 

Speaking of cold weather, afternoon tea at the Lodge takes off the chill at the day's end, followed by a nice dip in the hot pools to relax tired muscles before dinner time or a visit to the Sitzmark. The Sitzmark--a local favorite for après ski--has been getting "spruced up" for our guests and there will be some pleasant changes by the end of the week. Be sure to stop in the next time you are skiing Alta.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Alta is Open!

Photo: Alta Ski Area
The long awaited opening day of Alta's 2013-2014 ski season has finally arrived! It was a beautiful, sunny day for the opening and it continued throughout the weekend.  We're anxious for snow but can't complain about the beautifully groomed slopes here at Alta.

This week the sun will continue to shine and skiing on Thanksgiving day should be a fun reason to skip cooking a turkey and have dinner instead at Alta Lodge.  Hope to see you on the slopes or in the dining room!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Countdown

November 22 is Alta's opening day this season and skiers are counting the days.  In the meantime, let's get ready for ski season with a check list.

1. Skis: check the base of your skis since more likely than not, when you finished the season last year, you just stashed the skis.  Do they need to be cleaned from gunk if you were spring skiing a lot?  How about filling in any scrapes? And, a nice base wax is always good to start the season with.  If you don't tune your skis, get them into the shop soon because when it snows, everyone will take skis into the shop, kind of like trying to get your snow tires on put when the first snow storm hits: there's a long wait.

2. Bindings: it's a good idea to get them checked out at the start of every season.

3. Boots: check out your buckles and make sure all the adjustments are working okay.  It's no fun to have a boot buckle come off or break when you're on the hill. If you have boot heaters, make sure they are working and the batteries are charged.

4. Clothing: collect all your ski clothing in one place so when it is time to go skiing, you're not scurrying around the house trying to figure out where you put your stuff six months ago.  Check all your zippers, see what's in the pockets--maybe you'll find some cash or treats you forgot about.

5. Goggles: clean or replace those  lenses!

6. Other accessories: how does that hydration bladder smell? do you need to replace those gloves with all the duct tape? need any new ski socks?

You get the picture--so get started and we'll see you soon at Alta (and don't forget your ski poles!)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Enthusiam Overflowing

Caroline Gleich at Alta
It's been pretty fun over the past week to see so many photos and videos of people skiing Alta before opening day.  One super star Alta female athlete posted on Twitter she has already skied 10 days! Mind you, that is all hiking too.

We're amazed at some of the powder shots that have been showing up.  One came out yesterday that was shot very early morning near Catherine's Pass.  Hard to believe it's the first week of November and skiers are getting such good powder!

Photo: Joe Whale

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Happening--SNOW!

The month of October brought in several storms and then some warmer weather.  Just a little snow seems to be all it takes for some to head to the canyon for a few turns as is evidenced in this video.

This week the weather has shifted in our favor and another storm brought in over a foot of snow in places on the mountain.  With the storm came a lot of wind and a slab avalanche in High Collins on Tuesday.  Early bird skiers need to use extreme caution when venturing out in the new snow.  Another cold front is moving in on Sunday and we are glad to see there is more snow in coming in the weeks ahead.

Some additional updates:
Alta/Snowbird boarding pass.  Sign up on line before you leave home and bring your printed boarding pass to the ticket window the day you arrive for a half price Alta/Snowbird lift ticket.  See details here.
If you plan ahead, you can buy your lift tickets in advance on Liftopia.
Thanksgiving Package:stay any four nights over Thanksgiving for $900 per person, double occupancy, and two kids ages 12 & under can stay in your room and eat for free!
Alta's First Sleep Around is December 5-8, 2013. For $898, double or single occupancy, you get to stay in a different lodge each night, all your meals, lift tickets, ski equipment, mountain tour, mountain photo and airport transfers.
If you did not receive our annual newsletter, you can view it our on our website.

We're getting geared up for guests who will be arriving for Alta's opening day on November 22.  If we miss you then, we hope to see you later in the season!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Winter Teaser

Alta Lodge deck September 28
If there's one thing you can count on, it's early season snow and last week did not disappoint.  Although most of the snow we received last week has melted, spirits were none the less "up" upon seeing the fluffy white flakes.  We expect to receive another storm this week and it could even snow in the Salt Lake valley!

Some enthusiastic local skiers had fun with the new snow and were on skis for "first tracks", documenting it on video. Got to hand it to them for getting out there.

Meanwhile, we remain open for overnight lodging and Sunday Brunch for a few more weeks.  From October 18-20, our annual three-day/ two-night Fall Yoga Retreat returns with Kim Dastrup and Thomas McKonkie. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Snowing This Week

We've primed the pump for the ski season with talk about ski gear, 100 words for Snow and now we'll prime it even more with an Alta snow storm.  There's plenty of buzz when this happens and with web cams, Twitter and Facebook, you can get nearly by-the-minute reports when it starts snowing. If you want more details, check out weather professional Jody Saeland's post about this storm.  If the change in seasons over the weekend didn't have you thinking about getting ready for ski season, the first snow storm should.  Check our social media sites tomorrow for pics of what the storm brought overnight and remember Alta opens in less than 60 days!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

100 Words for Snow

Yes, We Do Have a Hundred Words for Snow
The popular belief that there are a hundred words for snow in the Inuit language has led to some
Photo: Nick Rice
  controversy, and has even been called urban legend by some doubters.  Alta, however, is the world mecca of powder skiing, and our language really does have a hundred words for snow.  The rules of our game allow nouns, verbs and adjectives, for conditions, features, terrain, etcetera, of the white stuff… and so here are our hundred words for snow, in the Alta language.  To add your own word to the list, please make a comment below, by November 1, 2013.  We’ll update the list weekly on our Facebook page, and we’ll have an Alta Lodge ball cap for every friend who contributes a word that makes the list!

  1. Bed Surface
  2. Blizzard
  3. Blower
  4. Boilerplate
  5. Bony
  6. Bottomless
  7. Buffed
  8. Bulletproof
  9. Bumped Out
  10. Butter
  11. Carvy
  12. Cement
  13. Chalky
  14. Champagne
  15. Chunder
  16. Cold Smoke
  17. Concrete
  18. Corduroy
  19. Corn
  20. Cornice
  21. Creamy
  22. Crud
  23. Crust
  24. Crystals
  25. Dank
  26. Death Cookies
  27. Debris
  28. Deep
  29. Dendrites
  30. Depth Hoar
  31. Drifts
  32. Dumping
  33. Dusting
  34. Dust on Crust
  35. Facets
  36. Firm
  37. Flakes
  38. Fluff
  39. Flurry
  40. Freshies
  41. Gnar
  42. Grabby
  43. Granules
  44. Graupel
  45. Groomer
  46. Hard Pack
  47. Heavy
  48. Hero
  49. Ice
  50. The Kind
  51. Lake Effect
  52. Mank
  53. Mashed Potatoes
  54. Metamorphic
  55. Moguls
  56. Needles
  57. Névé
  58. Nuking
  59. Orographic
  60. Pellet
  61. Pillows
  62. Pounding
  63. Pow
  64. Powder
  65. Puffy
  66. Puking
  67. Rain Crust
  68. Recrystallized
  69. Rime
  70. Ripples
  71. Roly Poly
  72. Rollerballs
  73. Sastrugi
  74. Scratchy
  75. Showery
  76. Skied Out
  77. Skiff
  78. Slab
  79. Sleet
  80. Slick
  81. Slide
  82. Slippery
  83. Slope
  84. Sludge
  85. Sluff
  86. Slush
  87. Snow (hello)
  88. Soft Pack
  89. Spindrift
  90. Stellar
  91. Styrofoam
  92. Sugar
  93. Sun Cups
  94. Surfy
  95. Surface Hoar
  96. TG Crystals
  97. Trace
  98. Wind Buff
  99. Wind Crust
    100.Wind Slab

Photo: Billy Haas

Photo: Billy Haas
Photo: Nick Rice
Photo: Nick Rice

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chef Sam's Soba and Tofu Noddles

Alta Lodge Chef Sam Wolfe
Alta Lodge Chef Sam Wolfe is always coming up with new items for our menus.  Using his creative flair for food that is influenced by his vast travel experiences, he delights us with surprises.  He has recently added soba noodles to our summer Sunday Brunch menu.  Over the summer, Sam and his wife spent a month traveling in Japan.  He shares his impressions below along with his soba and tofu noodle recipe.

This summer my wife Margot and I were lucky enough to visit Japan. I thought non-stop about food, and rarely about my job. It was pretty much the perfect working vacation. I have a food highlight reel that continuously loops through my memory. A favorite reruns prominently features noodles. Udon, somen, ramen, and my current food crush, soba.  Unlike its three cousins, it is made from buckwheat and contains no wheat at all. The noodles have a dense, earthy and rich flavor. They are nicely amplified by a sweet soy and mirin rice wine dipping sauce. In the summer, as an antidote to the intense heat and humidity, soba is served cold. The presentations, sauce and flavor are unique to the different locales. At the Zao hot spring resort, along with the soba, we enjoyed mugs of a delicious and unique tea. I later learned it was the noodles' cooking liquid. My favorite soba was served in the small temple town of Yamadera, two hours by train from Tokyo.  There are 1,015 stairs and they ascend through fog, ancient cedar forest, and cliff-perched pagodas. In the 16th century it was a frequent stop for Basho, the traveling haiku master. No doubt he feasted on the local specialty, cold soba served in woven bamboo baskets with pickled forest vegetables and ponzu sauce. We have been serving a similarly inspired soba noodle and tofu salad at our Sunday summer brunch buffet.

Soba and Tofu Noodle Salad
Alta Lodge Soba and Tofu Noodle Salad

Serves 8

12 oz dry soba noodles
2T sesame seeds.
3T chiffonade fresh mint
1 block firm tofu
1 cup thin sliced green onions
1 cup pickled English cucumbers

Vinaigrette ingredients:
1 cup mirin rice wine
3 T soy sauce
2 T lemon juice
pinch red pepper flakes
2 T sesame oil

Cook the soba noodles in boiling water, stirring continuously until al dente; about two minutes. Drain the noodles, rinse in cold water and plunge in ice water. If you are using the noodles immediately, you can drain them.
Cut tofu into small cubes, sautee to semi crisp with a splash of soy sauce, tossed with 2 T sesame seeds, and cooled in the fridge.
To pickle the cucumbers, pickle them by thin slicing, sprinkling with 3-to-1 sugar to kosher salt, and letting sit for an hour or so, then coarse chop them.

Sesame-ponzu vinaigrette:
Reduce the mirin under high heat until it thickens and bubbles vigorously. Reduce heat to low, whisk in soy, lemon juice. Remove from heat, add red pepper flakes, and chill. When cold, using a hand blender add the sesame oil and emulsify. Layer the soba, tofu, green onion, mint, and cucumber into a bowl. Finish the layer with two ounces of the vinaigrette, repeat.  Garnish the top with the remaining ingredients, and the sesame seeds.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Looking for New Ski Gear?

September usually marks the time of year when people start thinking about the upcoming ski season.  Ski publications have their gear issue ready to print or it's already available on news stands.  There are several publications with gear reviews, some with 2013-2014 ski testing done by the pros during last ski season.  If you're a skier who doesn't want to test skis on a variety of conditions (most of  us fall into that category) then the gear reviews are worth looking at.

April Alta Demo Day
Once you have identified your skier profile, you can see what skis might suite you best. If you're a female skier who rips on the off-piste, there will be several recommended skis for you.  Do you prefer to ski groomed slopes?  There are plenty of carving skis with descriptions for each. If you have only one pair skis rather than a quiver, it might be worth trying two or three skis before settling on one. 
If that's not an option for you, price may drive the decision or else it's what skis your local ski shop has in their inventory.

One of the most important purchases a skier can make is a good fitting boot.  If your boots don't feel good or if you're not getting the support you need, it doesn't matter what kind of skis you have.  If you are unable to to "feel" the skis on the snow due to a poor fitting boot, your skis will not perform to their capacity.

Ski clothing is always evolving as fabrics become more technical.  Staying warm without bulk and having garments that breathe and wick moisture are important benefits. If you have not updated your ski wardrobe in a long time, you may be missing out on a more comfortable day on the slopes.

And if your skiing season is one or two ski trips per year, consider packing your boots and renting skis.  You'll have more updated choices each season without the hassle of ski baggage on the plane.

Monday, August 12, 2013


If you are hiking or walking around Alta during the summer months, you will most likely see or hear hummingbirds.  The abundance of wildflowers draws them to Little Cottonwood Canyon because In order to gather enough nectar, hummingbirds must visit hundreds of flowers every day

Male broad-tailed hummingbird
The most common species to Utah is the Broad-tailed hummingbird.  Males produce a metallic, high-pitched trill with their wings that can heard from 75-100 yards away. We seem them frequently on the deck feeders at Alta Lodge. The male has a metallic, iridescent rosy-magenta colored gorget and flashy green-colored sides, back and crown. The less colorful females, show a few rose-colored feathers on a bronze speckled throat, whitish undersides and buffy to slightly cinnamon washed flanks below their green feathered back.

Hummingbirds are not at all social and are known for their aggression.  They divide themselves by territories and will protect that territory, which are about the size of a quarter acre.  Male hummingbirds are very aggressive. They set up their territory and will chase off any male that comes near. This helps the male hummingbirds eliminate the competition for the female hummingbirds in the area.  

These bird are also extremely intelligent. Their brain is larger in comparison to body size than any other bird. They have an amazing memory and know every flower in their territory and how long it will take each flower to refill. They also remember year to year, where each and every hummingbird feeder is, both at home and along a migration path. 

Additional species of hummingbirds in Utah are:
Black-chinnedCalliope, Rufous, Costa's, Anna's, Broad-billed, Magnificent, Blue-throated. Click on the links for photos and info.