The Holiday Season is such a classic time to visit Alta for an annual ski vacation. Families travel from coast to coast to congregate at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice, and to ring in the New Year together. For many, this is a time-honored tradition spanning generations. For others, it may be their first visit to Alta. With an extra helping of Alta Magic over the holidays, it is likely it won’t be their last.
New Year’s Eve is a time for us to come together to celebrate another journey around the sun. You might be reflecting on a year of accomplishments and celebrations, ready to leave 2019 in the rear-view mirror and looking forward to change in the year ahead, or somewhere in between. No matter what you are thinking about as 2019 comes to a close, Alta’s Torchlight Parade is an incredibly special way to spend it.
Alta Lodge always rings in the New Year in style. Just as it starts to get dark out, many choose to participate in (or observe) Alta’s annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade (more on that in a moment). If you time it just right, you can sit down with a Hot Toddy in front of the Sitzmark windows for prime viewing just as the light show begins. Once the excitement of the torchlight parade is over, guests are treated to a buffet dinner with all the fixings: Crab Cakes, Wild Mushroom Farro Risotto, and Raspberry Cheesecake included. The Sitzmark Club operates under normal hours to the general public until 10:30 PM. Afterward, Lodge guests are treated to a hosted private party. Everyone, or at least all who are still awake, gathers in the famed Sitzmark for a champagne toast and to tune in for Marcus’ annual New Year’s speech. While the details change year to year, the overall message is the same: reflecting on what has been learned in the past year and excitement for what the new will bring. Oh, and many wishes for more snow, of course!
So, what IS the Torchlight Parade anyway?
If you have never witnessed a torchlight parade, you’re in for something (Alta) magical. Imagine watching (or being one of) a multitude of skiers adorned with torches and flashlights making their way down from the Collins mid-station under the intermittent light of fireworks overhead.
- A festival of lights: While Alta no longer distributes real flares to the public to ski down the mountain with (we get it), this change has given visitors the chance to get more creative with lights. From flashing LEDs to multi-colored glow sticks, the array of lights is spectacular. In case you forgot your glow sticks at home, Alta Lodge will have foam LED glow sticks to distribute to our guests.
- A bonfire: Stay warm at the base of the lift prior to loading. Alta hosts a bonfire near the bottom of Collin’s chairlift before, and during, the torchlight parade. This is a great outdoor spot to observe the festivities from if you choose not to ride up yourself.
- A Fireworks display: As skiers begin to unload at the angle station and ski down, the night sky begins to light up with an impressive fireworks show. Think 4th of July with a snow-covered Alta backdrop.
- The only time during the year that you can ride an Alta chairlift after 4:30 PM: As Alta does not offer night-skiing, this is your one chance to ski Alta after dark! While there will still be a break in the lift service so crews can prepare the mountain for the parade, Collin’s will reopen to the public at 5:15 to start loading torchlight skiers. Another fun fact: torchlight is also the only time you are allowed to unload at the angle station. Team members from Alta Ski Lifts will be on-hand to help you get off the chair safely and efficiently.
- Fun for the whole family: If you are skiing in the parade or watching from the base area, the torchlight is a memorable experience for everyone. One of my favorite aspects of the event? It is probably one of the earliest New Year’s Eve celebrations ever (!). With the last chair up at 6:15, the whole affair is typically over by 7:00 PM. Kids still feel like they get to share in the holiday spirit, but don’t have to stay up past bedtime. It is also perfect for those adults who want to get a good night’s sleep and make it out for first chair on New Year’s Day.
If you want to participate:
- BUNDLE UP! December 31st has a history of being one of the coldest nights of the ski season, and temperatures can easily drop below zero. Be sure to check the weather and dress accordingly. This is a great time to take advantage of hand warmers and extra layers.
- Decorate yourself and your skis/poles with lights and glow sticks. Get creative!
- Don’t forget your headlamp. As Alta does not have any lights for night skiing, do what you can to make sure you can see your path down the mountain.
- Be sure to have a lift ticket – season passes and day tickets valid on Tuesday, Dec. 31 will do the trick. Or, purchase a torchlight specific ticket for $10.
- Take your time. There is truly no rush when taking part in this special event. Skiers zig-zag slowly down Corkscrew while taking in the fireworks on their way down the snow.
- Ride the Poma lift back to Alta Lodge. Alta Ski Area will keep the Alta Lodge tow running until 7:00 PM to allow our guests easy access back up to the Lodge.
If you want to watch:
- Get a prime spot. Choose your desired viewing location and get there early. Alta Lodge has quite a few prime spots: The Deck, Deck Room, Sitzmark Club, and Lobby are all great choices. Keep in mind, many families with small kids will be staying inside to watch together.
- Eat later. Plan your dinner accordingly. If you want to watch the whole event, you might have to push your typical dinner time back by about an hour. Load-up on snacks during après and plan to eat at 7:00 PM or later. Don’t forget – Alta Lodge offers a comprehensive buffet dinner on New Year’s Eve!
- Take A photo. Get one family or group photo, then put your camera down. Trust us, it is much more impressive to view the light show through your own eyes than through a camera lens. And, let’s be real, we know the pros will get much better photos of the fireworks anyway.
Here is the need-to-know info, from Alta Ski Area:
- One of Alta’s favorite traditions continues. Collins lift will start loading at approximately 5:15 and last chair will be 6:15 PM.
- Season pass holders or skiers with a 12/31 area day lift ticket are welcome to join the festivities. A $10 ticket will be available for purchase to all others.
- Tickets will be available at both the Wildcat and Albion ticket offices and at Skier Services between December 27th and December 31st. On December 31st tickets will also be available prior to the parade at the Wildcat Ticket Office until 5:30 PM.
- No beginner skiers allowed as the parade route follows intermediate terrain in low light conditions.
- Skiers are encouraged to bring their own flashlights or headlamps for the festive ski down in the dark.
- Participants will be allowed just one ride up Collins.
- Children need to be accompanied by an adult.
- Open containers of any type of beverage are not allowed on the lift.
Whether you get out on the snow or choose to stay cozy and watch from inside, Alta’s annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight parade is not to be missed. From the entire Alta Lodge family, Happy New Year everyone!