My family was first invited to Alta Ski Area when we lived in Colorado. Though we tried to visit during Spring Break last year, we couldn’t coordinate our schedule so just opted to visit after our move. It would take several months of back-and-forth to determine a time because the kids had six weeks of ski lessons at Sundance through our recreation program.
We finally decided staying overnight on the weekend just wasn’t possible until late in the season so opted to drive to Alta on a Sunday night, sleep at Goldminer’s Daughter and hit the slopes on Monday (the kids had a day off). There was snow in the forecast but we weren’t too worried. Were we not, after all, skiing?
Our hour-long drive was seamless. We unloaded, checked in and ate a delicious gourmet dinner at Top of the Lodge Restaurant as the wind and snow howled the only visibility the distant light of the snowcats grooming the 36 inches of snow from the latest storm…and more was expected the next day. The kids were nervous; they’ve never skied conditions like this.
Tales were flying from real-life storm chasers of epic powder and the previous day’s “interlodge” where people were required by law to stay indoors as avalanche crews blasted the hanging faces of Little Cottonwood Canyon. I wasn’t sure if we’d get snowed in but one thing was for sure: those kiddos would never forget their first time attempting Alta’s legendary powder.
We spent an uncomfortable night in our room, groggily waking up to even more snow. We made our way to breakfast, still uncertain how the day would unfold. As we were indulging in delicious pancakes with cinnamon cream cheese, it was then that we learned Alta had declared “interlodge” and Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed–no one could come or go.
The day was still not lost. There was a chance the resort would reopen and we would have all that glorious powder to ourselves.
Until we learned it got even worse: UDOT declared “Maximum Interlodge,” so not only were we quarantined indoors but we could not go near any doors or windows due to extreme avalanche danger.
Guests in other lodges were led the basement and huddled together for several hours to wait it out. Fortunately, Goldminer’s Daughter’s recreation room didn’t have any windows so we had fun ping pong and pool tournament sand mother-daughter weight room showdowns. There’s nothing like forced bonding but we had a blast!
We had bought some lunch and were trying to select a movie “The Shining,” maybe? , having resigned ourselves to staying in our cramped quarters another night when, miracle of miracles, the canyon briefly opened for downhill traffic.
We quickly packed up and joined the legions of skiers trying to catch shuttles to make it back to the airport. Jamie left us to grab the car and after 30 minutes of waiting, I finally went to find him…and our car…stuck under a few feet of snow!
Jamie and an Alta staffer pushed us out while I drove and that was only the beginning of our adventures. The conditions and whiteout were among the scariest I’ve ever experienced (and that’s really saying something when you’re raised in Canada). Jamie did a great job driving and was tempted to turn back a few times but without a safe place, we were forced to resume our perilous drive. It was one craaaaazy experience.
UDOT posted this video of an avalanche near our lodge that same day.
We were later told that Alta regularly experiences “interlodge” but “maximum” is much more rare. What are the odds that during our family’s first visit together, that is exactly what happened?
Don’t answer that.