Monday, January 11, 2010

*Ski O'Clock

We went to Alta yesterday. For those of you who are flatlanders or not from here, or maybe you have no notion about the world of skiing, Alta is a ski area ( I hesitate to call it a "resort", and this post explains why) located at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, up the road from Snowbird, and is home to some of the finest skiing (and snow) in the United States. Luckily for us it's about 35 minutes from our driveway to their parking lot.

For the local, Alta is where you go and blend in, without worrying about looking poor, or uncouth. For example, my tribe brings our own food. At a place like Solitude (located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, down the road from Brighton) they have a "special" lunchroom, named "The Brown Bag", where you are invited to bring your culinary sundries and nosh in an informal area that has amenities such as a television and one microwave oven you share with 164 other people. It's reminiscent of the "Steerage" area on a luxury liner, and is permeated with the smell of Fruit Loops, dirty diapers, and Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. In other words, it's gross.

Alta, on the other hand, has no such delineation. Buy food, bring your own, they don't care. Now, you might wonder why I prefer to dine in an area designed for food purchased from said ski business as opposed to dining in an area reserved for those who have chosen, for whatever reason, to bring their own meals.

Well, for one, because it's a "restaurant", people don't feel free to change their child's diapers right there on the table next to you. Not only is it frowned upon, and ruins the ambiance, but it is in violation of health code. I'm able to dine with confidence, knowing that not only was my table bussed and wiped with sanitizer, it has also been kept, due to county health regulations, virtually ass free. I appreciate the little things like that.

For another thing, they do not make you feel disenfranchised because you, as a local, have chosen not to purchase a $9.00 bowl of bad chili. Because while you can pile as much shredded cheese, diced onions and sour cream on top as you want, you'll never make that .75¢ bowl of chili worth $9.00, no matter how much of your condiments overflow across your tray.

Also, you can camp. "Camping" for those of you unfamiliar with the restaurant trade, is a term used by wait staff when a table has been occupied by the same group for hours on end. This means that management has been unable to re-seat that particular piece of real estate and the server will only be getting a single tip for hours upon hours of occupation. And from experience I can tell you it's not going to be a big one. So, because the Alta Lodge is designed to be a cafeteria style eatery, one can hang out for eons and not feel the need to move on after 45 minutes or so by a hostess circling your table like a turkey vulture wanting you to move on.

(The best thing about skiing Alta on a Sunday is... no crowds. YAY!)
Alta also is a skier's mountain, so no snowboarders are allowed (sorry Stacey…) which I really like because I'm not that great of a skier so after about three hours I.Am.Done. and need to park my sore ass at a table and chill. Note that I said at, not on. Thus the table is still ass free. And I can ski with confidence, for me at least, secure in the knowledge that a teenager will not be hucking a big one over the top of my head, forcing me to duck at the incoming missile they become, laughing at me when I sprawl on the snow in an act of self preservation. This I like. No diving for cover.

Now, at some of the resorts in Park City, you are treated like royalty. At the Canyons, for example, a guest rides a gondola from the parking area to the ski village. Young, good looking Aussies and New Zealander's, working here during their summer, take your equipment out of your hands, place it into the ski/board slots on the exterior of the gondola, and you ride in relative comfort up the hill until you arrive at the village where yet more ruggedly handsome model-wanna-be's remove your gear and offer to get you a "Ski Valet" who will slog your shit expensive equipment to the lifts. They expect a tip, by the way. And I don't blame them because after a while your stuff gets heavy and one prefers to be fresh when one hits the slopes. At Alta, unless you've taken the ski bus or a shuttle from one of the rental lodges to the door, everyone parks and drags their own equipment to the facilities. They do not have a group of Sherpas to tote your crap from point A to point B. Being a pack mule is a great equalizer.

(Being a pack mule is one thing but packing small humans is another. Three words: Get.A.Sitter.)

So Alta, while being one of the best ski destinations around, is not a "resort", it's a mountain. And one we enjoy sojourning to regularly in the winter (and occasionally in the summer, where you can hike the same hill's you ski) because nobody knows if you're one of the unfortunate visitors, or a lucky, lucky local. And lucky we are; I see the envy in the eyes of tourists whenever they find out that we live here. We can drive up in less than an hour. And bring our own lunch.

*Ski O'Clock is what the locals of Park City call the time, in winter, between 4-6 pm when the resorts without night skiing start closing down and tourists clog the arterial roads clamoring to get back to their hotels. I won’t tell you what they call the ten days of the Sundance Film Festival. Trust me, it's not pleasant.


Anonymous said...

Still no riders allowed up there huh? Pshhh, whatever, I am still in love with Solitude. Actually I think the BEST resort I've ever been to has to be Breckenridge in CO. Breck is my hands down favorite.

Anonymous said...

BTW, the Brown Bag at Solitude??? I don't think I've ever even seen it. Who needs food when there is a bar??? Solitude has an awesome bar :) And being that it is mostly intermediate runs it keeps the n00bs away.

Lisa Deon said...

They put the Brown Bag in like 3 years ago. It's yucky. And crowded. And full of children!

Slave Driver shudders in horror at the memory...

Plus being that it is is mostly intermediate runs it keeps ME away too. I like my skiing long and slow, not steep and deep, TYVM.