Plain and sim­ple

Fuss-free skiing at Alta in Utah

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - DEIRDRE MACKEN

Up a knife’s-edge canyon in Utah, where Mor­mons keep their records in a cave, where avalanche trails snake above the road and the tracks of off-piste skiers tes­tify to a crazy sort of brav­ery, lies Alta and its lodges.

Alta’s five lodges are pretty much all there is at the end of Lit­tle Cot­ton­wood Canyon and that’s the way lo­cals like it. Lifts might get faster, skis might get fat­ter and day trip­pers might fill the carparks but Alta re­tains the style of a 1940s ski re­sort. Alta ap­pears like a dog-eared post­card to any­one ar­riv­ing from Utah’s more pop­u­lar ski re­sorts of Park City, Deer Val­ley and Canyons, where de­vel­op­ers have built five-star re­sorts and turned min­ing towns into shop­ping strips.

The change of pace is ap­par­ent as soon as you check into the most up­mar­ket of the lodges, The Rustler, and find your­self strug­gling with the com­bi­na­tion to the ski locker. The man who stops to take me through the process turns out to be the man­ager of the lodge and for­mer mayor of the area, Tom Pol­lard, and he’s of­ten in the locker rooms in busy times to help out guests.

Lodg­ing here re­quires a new un­der­stand­ing of that term guest. Here, you’re more house guest than ho­tel guest; there’s lots of ca­ma­raderie but not much com­merce and peo­ple only dress up to go out into the snow. The next man to help me with my com­bi­na­tion lock is in bath robe and slip­pers. The feels-like-home vibe is partly be­cause all the lodges pro­vide half board so you’re hav­ing break­fast and din­ner with the same peo­ple and it’s partly the lay­out that al­lows kids to play Jenga games in lounge­rooms; blokes gather in the bar still dressed in spa robes and young skiers roll up to the wine-tast­ing hour dust­ing snow off their hel­mets and gloves.

It’s no sur­prise to talk to guests and dis­cover they’ve been com­ing for years, or they have col­lege re­unions here ev­ery decade or they feel so much a part of the place that they of­fer to help out the staff. It’s also no sur­prise to learn that The Rustler has been in the same fam­ily own­er­ship since 1950 and, in­deed, the other four lodges have a his­tory of lo­cal own­er­ship. The fact Alta (pop­u­la­tion 389) only has lodges for a ski area that of­fers 116 runs across 10sq km of dry, deep snow, is a re­sult of plan­ning re­stric­tions and lo­cal pref­er­ences. But se­lect­ing which lodge is as per­sonal as choos­ing a per­fume.

The old­est, Alta Lodge, was opened in 1939 and still has the hig­gledy-pig­gledy feel of a place that’s grown from 12 gue­strooms to 57 with en­thu­si­asm. Al­though its en­trance looks like a bus stop (well, it is a bus stop), once you’ve walked down the old tim­ber stairs, the lodge opens up as a ca­sual and bustling re­treat.

Fur­ther down the road is The Peru­vian, built in 1948 from re­dun­dant hospi­tal bar­racks and while it has been up­dated in the years since, it still has the feel of a col­lege dorm. In­deed, all the lodges of­fer dor­mi­tory ac­com­mo­da­tion, most have only share bath­rooms and two of the lodges (Alta and The Peru­vian) don’t of­fer tele­vi­sions in gue­strooms. But the crash-pad style of ac­com­mo­da­tion just en­cour­ages guests to spend time in the con­vivial lounge­rooms, out­door pools and spas and bars. The Peru­vian’s bar has a road­side diner decor of her­itage ski equip­ment, wall-mounted game and a sign used by a lo­cal hitch­hiker that reads: “Need a Ride to Alta. I won’t kill you.”

Snow­pine Lodge is the most in­ti­mate of the prop­er­ties at Alta with just 22 gue­strooms and, af­ter a 2012 ren­o­va­tion, has a hot tub with a view, a dry­ing room and cui­sine that’s a cut above its com­peti­tors. At the base of the ski lift area is Gold­miner’s Daugh­ter Lodge, which opened in 1962 on the site of a miner’s sa­loon and now of­fers 90 gue­strooms, in­clud­ing dor­mi­to­ries. Its glass-clad din­ing and lounge ar­eas of­fer great views of skiers on

The Rustler, top; Gold­miner’s Daugh­ter Lodge, above left; fam­ily skiing at Alta, above right

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.