Another Historic Alta Winter – 2020/2021 Winter Season Recap

by Alta Lodge
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2020/2021 Alta Ski Season – Another Winter for the History Books

When the lifts stopped spinning on Sunday, April 18, we said farewell to our final guests of the winter and closed our doors to yet another historic and memorable season. After a few collective deep breaths and, yes, sighs of relief, we are grateful to look back on the unusual but successful 2020-21 winter season.

As we write this, we couldn’t be prouder of the collective efforts of our staff, our guests, and the Alta community at large in safely and respectfully negotiating the uniqueness of this past winter. We remained open and healthy for the entire winter season and are proud to say that the Lodge (in-house guests and our staff) have remained Covid-free since the start of the pandemic over a year ago. Now that is something to be proud of! It would not have been possible without the cooperation and understanding of our entire Alta Lodge family. Thank you all for doing your part.

November: Extended Closure Ends, Alta Opens!

Skiers in Front of Mt. Baldy

Lodge employees enjoying opening day! Big smiles behind their masks.

Excitement fuels the start of every winter. However, after the unexpected and abrupt end to the 2019-20 winter season, and the global changes related to the pandemic, our enthusiasm this year was paired with some uncertainty. We were excited to get back to doing what we love: skiing, re-connecting with one and other, and sharing in the magic of Alta. But with that came the anticipation of what the season would be like as we continued to navigate the unknowns related to Covid-19.

For many guests, planning a ski trip during Covid must have felt like embarking on a first-time vacation (pre- internet) to a new and foreign destination. Knowing you were up for an adventure, but not really sure what to expect. From the Lodge’s perspective, after being open for a successful summer season and the additional planning and preparation for winter, we were confident in our protocols and experience to welcome our guests back for a safe, comfortable, and memorable Alta ski vacation. However, in some regards, it felt like we were opening our doors to winter for the very first time.

With the well-being of all as our collective priority, and our new Health and Safety protocols in place, we welcomed back new and return winter employees and guests when we opened for the season with Alta Ski Area on Monday, November 23. November brought cold temperatures and snow to the Wasatch, and Alta’s Mountain Ops team worked their magic, adding to nature’s bounty and getting the groomed runs in tip-top shape for opening day. Excitement filled the Lodge as the extended closure came to an end and skiers experienced the first “best day ever” of the 2020-21 winter season.

Season snowfall total: 67 inches

December: Slow Start to Winter

Sunrise on Mt. Superior

Sunrise on Christmas Eve Morning

Winter proved to be shy in December in terms of snowfall. But additional terrain continued to open and mountain conditions remained surprisingly good as we all patiently waited for winter as we know it to set in.

Conditions were perfect for our early season Ski Adventures. And although the camps were a little different this year, we were thrilled to host two back-to-back Performance Ski Camps (co-ed for Advanced to Expert Skiers) and our Women’s Skills camp (for intermediate to advanced skiers). Both programs welcomed new and return guests, all excited to ski again and hone their skills at the onset of the season. We had excellent conditions to do just that.

A group of skiers at Alta Ski Area

December Performance Camp.

Unfortunately, Covid numbers were on the rise in many parts of the country during December and traditional holiday ski trips were postponed for many of our longtime guests. As December came to a close, we were still waiting for winter to truly set in. But our spirits were high as we continued to remain grateful to be skiing, and for the mountain to be in excellent shape despite the below-average snowfall.

Season snowfall total: 131 inches

January: “Peace and Powder Snow”

Snow-Capped Trees with Mountains in background

Heading out to the Backside as a January storm clears.

Alta’s annual New Year’s Eve torchlight parade and fireworks were postponed for the season, but we rang in the New Year at the Lodge with a modified celebration under the night sky, raising a glass with our guests in our annual tradition to toast “peace and powder snow.”

As we continued to wait for the high-pressure system to move of the Wasatch, we welcomed more new guests to the Lodge in January and hosted our signature Powder Tracks co-ed ski camp early in the month, followed by two more women’s specific programs.

Thankfully our New Year’s toast came to fruition and the weather pattern finally changed in mid-January. Guests were treated to some amazing Alta powder and we wrapped up January with over four feet of fresh snow by the end of the month.

Season snowfall total: 200 inches

February: Déjà vu? Another Historic Storm

It started to feel more and more like the Alta we all know and love as we turned towards mid-winter. The weather pattern offered more significant and consistent snowfall, and more and more guests began returning to the Lodge (or arriving for the first time!). February was quickly making up for the first half of the season.

Wooden in entryway indicating that interlodge is in effect

Another record-breaking Interlodge – February 2021

As we wrapped up our February Performance Camp and headed into the busy President’s Day weekend, Alta outdid herself again with another historic storm. Love, in the form of the “greatest snow on Earth” was in the air and Alta received over 8-feet of fresh snow in a week. Both February 14th and 16th saw over 20 inches of snow per day, and an additional 30 inches on February 17th led to a final storm total of over 100 inches! Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed and Alta was on Interlodge status for a new record of over 60 hours, surpassing last February’s historic storm. The experience and dedication of Alta Ski Patrol, UDOT, and countless others kept the town safe during both natural and controlled avalanches. When Interlodge finally lifted, after 60+ hours of control work and clearing, the world’s best country club opened and the hard work and patience of everyone involved paid off. Skiers were treated to an unbeatable ski day and lifelong memories of a truly unique Alta experience.

We had a vacationing journalist as a guest with her family who wrote a piece for Ski Magazine about the storm. A 60-hour interlodge is no small feat (especially with young children). But they rose to the occasion and made the best of the family time and experience. She shared that it was a “wild time to choose to come on a vacation, but we’ve had a lovely stay at the lodge. 😉 Magical place indeed… (the skiing) was totally worth the wait!”

The snow kept falling and it took a while to ‘dig out’ from the storm. But the excitement remained high as we wrapped up this historic February, not only notable for the new longest Interlodge (and during a pandemic, no less), but also the second snowiest February in the past 40 years!

Season snowfall total: 363 inches

March: A Milestone Month

Nick and Becky sporting the newest addition to our employee uniforms.

After outdoing herself in February, Mother Nature took a break in March. We continued to get some great snow and powder days, but we were also treated to some warm, and sunny days as we transitioned towards Spring.

We hosted two more Ski Adventure Camps in early March – our Spring Women’s Ski Camp and our co-ed Breakthrough Camp, both of which experienced some great snow and skiing to enjoy and practice new skills.

Women Skiers

Women’s Skills Camp

It wasn’t far from our minds as we approached mid-March and the one-year mark of the sudden closing. It was wonderful to see return guests back at the Lodge whose vacations had been canceled overnight due to the abrupt and early season closure. The Lodge continued to fill up with families during spring break and as the Covid-19 vaccines continued to roll out and become available to the larger populations we saw more and more guests, determined not to miss a season, return to the Lodge.

Season snowfall total: 432 inches

April: Always a Good Time!

Snowy Landscape From Wildcat Lift

Another storm on closing weekend!

March flew by and so did April. The weather continued to vary, delivering plenty of stellar bluebird days along with winter-like powder skiing, and everything in between. Guests started to enjoy lunch and après ski outside on the deck, soaking up the view, fresh mountain air, and as much vitamin D as possible.

We wrapped the season up with one last Alta Performance Ski Camp, along with friends from the North Country School, the ‘Party Beach’ Ski Camp, and a gathering of past employees – all of who were thrilled to be back after missing last season.

We continued to get in as many turns as possible and soak up the 2020-21 season through closing day and Alta’s extended weekend. The Alta vibe and magic was still alive and well with skiers decked out in their best spring skiing attire to call the historic season to an end safely, and with style.

Season snowfall total: 473 inches

In Summary

Just as we started the season, we wrap it up with much gratitude to our wonderful and dedicated staff, and of course, all of our guests – longtime returning guests and all the new ones we met and welcomed into the ‘Alta Lodge Family.’

We were honored to receive so many positive comments and wonderful Tripadvisor reviews throughout the season. Knowing that our efforts to provide a welcoming, safe and comfortable experience were appreciated by our guests fueled us through the winter. The outpour of support from our guests, whether you were able to join us for a stay this past season or sent your well wishes from afar, was heartfelt. It was an unforgettable season – filled with a lot of uncertainty, but also a lot of memorable and incredible experiences.

We look forward to the pandemic being a part of our past, things returning to ‘normal,’ and seeing you next winter!

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