Alta is one of the last three resorts in the world to be skiers only (the others being Deer Valley, Utah and Mad River Glen, Vermont).
While this is bad news for the snowboarding half of you, for seasonal workers who ski Alta is truly an incredible resort. This region of the world receives close to the monstrous Japanese levels of snow, except that here you also get steeps, hucks and chutes in-bound to enjoy the powder.
Photo: Sugarloaf Peak at Alta
Alta is connected to Snowbird Ski Resort via the Sugarloaf chair or a free bus, meaning the easily accessibly terrain available on your days off work effectively doubles.
Alta is found in the Wasatch Mountains, Utah, at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Alta is situated right next to Snowbird ski resort, which lies just over the Baldy Ridge. As the crow flies, Brighton ski resort and Solitude ski resort are just a mile over the ridge, though there is no road to connect them.
Alta is a 40 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City. To drive to Alta, you go east on I-80, then south on I-215 after which you take the 6200 South exit (which turns into Wasatch Boulevard) and then follow the signs to Alta.
To get to work, many staff living in Salt Lake City car pool and ride-share if they don’t have their own cars.
Seasonal workers at Alta get a free Utah Transit Authority (UTA) ski bus pass as part of the employment package. This bus provides a service to and from Salta Lake City and the resorts of Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude.
The UTA bus starts running in early December and ends in early April each year. A one way fare is $4.50 if you don’t have a complimentary ticket. This handy bus also allows you to get to Solitude and Brighton during the season for variety on a day off. See www.visitsaltlake.com/skicity/getting-around/ski-bus
Photo: Alta Ski Area in the Wasatch Mountains
Being skiers only, Alta is almost unique in clutching to the past. This creates a very different atmosphere to other resorts which allow snowboarders. There is, for example, no terrain part at Alta.
The crowd is also generally a bit older, although Alta’s terrain is so awesome that it brings in a lot of younger, hardcore skiers too.
The nightlife is extremely tame. There are just a few restaurants to choose from at night, mostly in the lodges, while the après-ski is non-existent save for a quiet drink in one of the lodge bars. People at Alta are here to ski, not party.
Similarly, the shopping options are very limited with just a handful of retail places and a small grocery outlet. The biggest shopping and nightlife in the region is at Park City.
However, many seasonal workers at Alta live in Salt Lake City, meaning you have access to all the amenities of a capital city during the season.
There are two base areas – the Albion area which is where the beginner area and kid’s ski school is, and the Wildcat area which is the main part of town. These are linked by a rope tow that seems to take forever.
With the combination of deep, deep powder and challenging terrain, it is not a stretch to say that Alta is among the best places to ski in the world. The dry powder can get ridiculously bottomless in certain parts and you can expect faceshots throughout most parts of the season.
There are chutes and rocky lines in addition to cliffs and off-piste skiing at Alta is particularly awesome after a dump. The top of the resort has open alpine areas and a few trees, while lower down there are open trees to make your own lines.
There is more than enough terrain here to explore over the season, and you can add the entire Snowbird ski area to your options on days off.
Photo: Alta on a sunny day
The beginner area is at Albion. Many skiers here like the fact that there are no snowboarders coming up fast behind them too and is therefore a good place to learn.
There is no dedicated intermediate area, with the blue runs interspersed among the expert runs. But there are plenty of nice groomers and bumps areas, which can be especially fun on a powder day.
Alta is great news for those learning to ski powder with some gentle areas for learning powder technique.
There is no differentiation between the single and double blacks at Alta, which means you need to use your judgement a bit. If it’s steep, narrow and rocky, it’s probably a double!
There are some very nice in-bound steeps, particularly in Catherine’s area at the Supreme lift, as well as the Greeley area.
There is a bit of in-bound hiking too, for those who want to chase freshies. East Castle from the Supreme lift has some sweet rewards for those who want to hike, while the Baldy chutes near the Ballroom area can be accessed from both Alta and Snowbird.
No park at Alta, it’s not the vibe. Snowbird has a small park, but the biggest in the region by far is at Park City.
Snow at Alta is what it’s all about. There is a legitimate argument that the snow in this region is about the best in the world due to the incredible lake effect from the Great Salt Lake. Also, because much of the resort faces north, the snow quality is well retained on the runs.
The denial of snowboarders is a bummer. But there is an argument that the lack of snowboarders means the snow is not 'swept' off the runs, although that is a debate best had on a chairlift.
Snowfall in the past 10 years has been from 320 inches (8 meters) all the way up to 700 inches (17 meters). The sheer amount of snow means you can find freshies even days after a dump if you know the right spots or are willing to hike. And the snow on-piste is usually excellent.
The biggest crowds on the weekend mean a 20 minute wait at the base lifts. Throughout the week, when you get your ride breaks, Alta is usually pretty empty.
Photo: Top of the Supreme Chairlift at Alta
The season opens mid-November and closes mid-April each season.
Alta runs the lift company, four restaurants, three ski shops and two demo centers. You can apply for jobs for these positions as they become available at www.alta.com/employment
Jobs open up in September and the jobs start to fill up then, so best to apply in September if you can. Alta is a pretty small operation on the whole and there are not tons of jobs compared to bigger resorts.
See Jobs Available at Ski Resort for a description of ski resort jobs. Minimum wage in Utah is $7.25 an hour and most customer-facing roles will earn around this.
No tour companies operate in Alta.
There are a number of other private businesses which run the lodges and dining in Alta. You can apply for jobs with these companies directly. Lodges include:
Retail shops include:
Alta does not partner with any job programs and does not accept international applicants.
Instructor Candidates must have prior professional ski teaching experience and PSIA Level 1, 2 or 3 Certification is preferred. If you are not certified, PSIA Cert 1 must be completed in mid-December. You are required to commit from December 1 to mid-April.
Of course, you could always find a job in Salt Lake City for the season and then just ride on your days off, given the proximity of the city to the incredible Utah resorts. Resources for jobs in Salt Lake City include:
Alta has staff accommodation for a number of employees and have various accommodations available, most of which include three meals/day. First year employees typically share a dorm-style room located at the main base area.
Employee housing starts at $600 a month and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. While the accommodation is relatively basic, the rate including food is a very good rate compared to living in Salt Lake City over the season.
If you decide to look in Salt Lake City, the best thing to do is find a group and get a shared apartment in Fort Union Boulevard or close to the ski-bus routes. If you do not have your own car, look for housing close to the Utah Transit Authority (UTA bus service) stops to make it easier to get to and from work. The best area to rent for the season is anywhere in Cottonwood Heights.
The bonds are quite large usually for seasonal workers, probably due to damage in the past, but most people end up getting these back. Apartment complexes can be found for six months, otherwise some people opt for a private house renting the basement or something similar.
Resources to use include
Rent is not too bad in Salt Lake City outside the city center. If you are living close to Big Cottonwood Canyon, you might expect to pay around $400 per room per month in a share house.
Photo: Alta Cecret
Apartments in complexes are often unfurnished. Wal-Mart is a good option for furniture which is cheap, and Ikea is in Draper. There is a very tiny grocery store at Alta. Snowbird has a bigger grocery store, but if you are living in staff housing you will only need the store for small things.
There is no proper après-ski to speak of at Alta. Here, most guests are in bed at a very civilized hour, ready for the next day of skiing. Staff housing is quite social, but still relatively quiet.
At Alta, après is mostly limited to a few quiet drinks in the lodges before dinner.
Goldminer’s Daughter lodge has a cosy atmosphere for a drink or two, plus some food after work. The Alta Peruvian Lodge is another one you will likely check out during the season. It has drinks and bar food. Eagle’s Nest Lounge at the Alta Rustler Lodge is a place for a very quiet drink (spirits and wine are the ordre du jour) and chat to unwind.
Nearby Snowbird is similarly quiet for après-ski.
As a seasonal worker, you will find your workmates are always more keen on heading back into Salt Lake City for proper nights out.
Salt Lake City has a dour reputation as the Mormon capital. This is unjustified. There are a number of great spots to eat and downtown Salt Lake City has a few very fun bars for when you have the day off work the following day, including some great cocktail bars, piano clubs and jazz bars.