Alta submitted some grand plans to the Forest Service last week – 12 projects including at least five new lifts. The 77-year old ski area wants to replace more than half of its chairs in the next five years and build a low-capacity tram up 11,068′ Mt. Baldy. If approved and implemented, these would be the biggest changes to Alta’s lift system since the two-stage Collins high speed quad debuted in 2004.
Five lifts would be replaced with three new ones. Sunnyside, one of only two detachable triple chairs remaining in North America, would be subbed with a higher-capacity Chondola with chairs and gondola or cabriolet cabins. It would utilize the existing lift line and tower tubes where possible and have a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour. Albion, a 1980 Yan double running adjacent to Sunnyside, would be removed without being replaced.
Higher on the Albion side of the mountain, Cecret and Supreme would be replaced by a single detachable quad with an angle station, much like Collins’ mid-station. Cecret and Supreme are both Yans built in 1981. The new detach would follow the first third of Cecret’s current lift line before joining the Supreme line so it could utilize some of the current towers. With these upgrades, the Albion side of Alta would go from five lifts to three. That’s before a new lift called Flora is added. Flora would be a short (985 foot) double chair replacing the East Baldy Traverse with a lift to get from the top of Sugarloaf to the top of Collins. The top-drive chair would move 1,200 skiers per hour out of Sugarbowl and have just four towers.
On the Wildcat side of the mountain, a high speed quad would replace the Wildcat lift and double hourly capacity to 2,400 skiers per hour. It would create a more attractive alternative to the popular Collins high speed quad. Alta also wants to build a “beer can” tram up Mt. Baldy similar to the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky and the Allen Peak Tram at Snowbasin. The tram would start at Germania Pass, just below the top of Collins and reach Mt. Baldy’s summit with no intermediate towers. The tram would allow Alta Ski Patrol to retire the Howitzer and Avalaunchers they currently use for control work on Baldy. But the tram would also be open to the public with a limited capacity of 150 skiers per hour. For comparison, Big Sky and Snowbasin’s 15-passenger jig-backs move 200 and 360 skiers per hour, respectively.
Noticeably absent from the proposal is a lift up Grizzly Gulch which would be Alta and Snowbird’s link to One Wasatch. The black line at the bottom left corner of the above map is the top of Solitude’s Summit Express. The white shaded areas of the map are Wasatch-Cache National Forest lands, the blue Alta Ski Lifts’ private parcels. Yes, Alta actually owns the land under some of Solitude’s new lift. You can see how, with careful placement, a Grizzly Gulch lift could be built entirely on private property. Leaving Grizzly out of this batch of projects doesn’t prevent it from being proposed down the road.
Alta Ski Area spokesperson Connie Marshall told the Salt Lake Tribune, “This latest set of proposals is based on 10 years of study and conversation. It reflects Alta being a mature ski area figuring out some of our fine-tuning. We’re not trying to be totally innovative in our field, but protecting our experience and our brand.” Of course, Save Our Canyons isn’t thrilled that a ski area which prides itself on being old school is going all-in on high speed lifts. “The hike to Baldy has been a rite of passage for a lot of folks,” said the group’s Executive Director, Carl Fischer. “Talking with a lot of our members and people who ski Alta regularly, if these projects go forward, it will really hurt the skiing experience that draws people to Alta. They’re falling into the trap of high-speed quads and things like that, which will really change the ski experience. With this, the powder will be gone in the matter of an hour.”