When Cassie Dippo’s household moved from town of New York to the slopes of Alta, Utah, in 1965, she was 9 years outdated. The snow was dry and white and famously mild and infrequently so deep it reached nicely previous her (and her father’s) waist.
There have been 4 chairlifts. Lift tickets have been $four.50. And lining the street up Little Cottonwood Canyon have been 5 easy, family-run, ski-in/ski-out lodges, all opened between 1939 and 1962. All of which, a lifetime later, have remained primarily the identical, in aesthetic and spirit and “modified American” meal plans.
“Honestly, not much has changed here since I was a kid,” mentioned Ms. Dippo, now 63, who stays an proprietor of the TV-free Alta Lodge, her household’s property.
Until now. Fresh off a $50 million overhaul, the Snowpine Lodge reopens this week as Alta’s first-ever true luxurious lodge. It seems to have the whole lot any luxurious ski lodge wherever has — and quite a lot of issues Alta, a world-class mountain with a $116 carry ticket and a whopping six chairlifts, deliberately, has by no means had.
Many of its 77 lodging (together with 19 dorm-style bunks) include balconies, as a result of not like different lodges in the world, the Snowpine will probably be open year-round. There is a heated pool and full spa; an indoor “grotto” and out of doors scorching tubs; and firepits, after all. And opposite to custom, each the Gulch Pub, which is able to serve customary après-ski fare (wings, burgers, $14 cocktails) and Swen’s fine-dining restaurant, with a $42 Wagyu zabuton steak with duck fats potatoes, will probably be open to the general public.
Night life at Alta — about 25 miles from Salt Lake City and not much else — has always meant books and board games (or, after a day hiking Devil’s Castle, bed), but the new Snowpine brings activities: arcade games like Skee-Ball and 2-Minute Drill, karaoke and big-screen movies. Also, an oxygen bar.
The final touch: A new chairlift and ski valet to welcome home guests at the end of the day. “We’re offering a Deer Valley-type of lodging at Alta,” explained Robin Cohen, Snowpine’s longtime reservations manager. That statement alone is sure to make die-hard skiers like Alta loyalists, who refer to themselves as “Altaholics,” cringe.
Ms. Cohen admits she has mixed feelings about her new digs. “I’m old-fashioned; people should just ski so hard they eat and crash. I get it: with the world in such chaos, things that don’t change are comforting. But it was time,” she said. “I mean, we have elevators! And bellmen! I’m never going to have to carry luggage up all those stairs again.”
What had been the oldest, quirkiest, squattest structure in Alta (22 awkward rooms, warm cookies, rope tow) is now its newest, swankiest and tallest: six stories towering 25 feet above the road, the maximum permitted by local zoning regulations. The only things taller are the mountain peaks.
“It’s massive. More massive than anyone anticipated,” said Tom Pollard, general manager of the Rustler, which previously laid claim to being Alta’s most luxurious lodge, with its heated pool and dining room with a wall of windows framing the mountain.(He used the word “massive,” or its synonyms, at least 10 times. Ms. Dippo used only one word to describe her first impression: “Whoa.”)
“It went from being a quaint little lodge to a massive Restoration Hardware,” said Mr. Pollard, who moved to Alta in 1981. “My wife says it looks just like every building in Vail.” As former mayor of Alta, he oversaw the Snowpine’s planning approval process. “I’ve been getting a lot of ‘How did you let this happen?’” he said.
“We’re still about fostering a communal vibe, that feeling of making friends that last a lifetime. What would really be drastic, would be if Vail Resorts came in and bought up Alta,” countered Ms. Cohen, nodding to the seemingly inexorable, industrywide trend of big corporations commandeering privately owned ski resorts, like Alta. “That’s what we’re all hoping to avoid.”
At a time when almost every mountain is building a mall-like village at its base, many say change like this was bound to happen, and that it is healthy for the long-term viability of the resort, which remains one of three in the U.S. to not allow snowboarders on its slopes. “The lodges have been resting on their laurels: their 60, 70, 80 percent return-rates,” said Connie Marshall, who ran Alta’s press office for a quarter-century before retiring last year. “This is a gauntlet thrown.”
She went on: “Millennials like my kids are looking for authenticity as much as older generations, but they also have expectations of, you know, getting a drink at a bar.”
Middle-aged skiers have expectations, too. “You’re talking to a 46-year-old guy who slept in a van last ski weekend,” said Brent Thill of Mill Valley, Calif. A fan of the old Snowpine, he and his family are excited about the new one. “I mean, no one wants Aspen at Alta,” he said, “but it’s smart to stay with the times. Hopefully they can preserve the charm without bringing the one-piece Bogners,” referring to the expensive ski suits popular at flashier mountains.
Every winter, Anne Williams, from Boston, stays at the Rustler with the same group of women. It costs about the same per night as the Snowpine. (Snowpine said its pricing is intentionally on par with the Rustler this season.) Still, she has no interest in cheating on her lodge. “Swank is my choice for a spa retreat, but when it comes to skiing, I’m a traditionalist. Maybe it was all those Warren Miller films, but I want wall-to-wall carpeting, too much brown, a circular fireplace,” she said. And great service, which the Rustler prides itself on.
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