Active + Adventure

Budget Ski Trips 2009

by Kimberly Thompson

ALTA, UTAH
Annual snowfall: 500 inches
Vertical drop: 2,020 feet
Skiable acres: 2,200
One-day lift ticket: $64

Perfect for: Skiers who dream of schussing through waist-high powder (snowboarders remain verboten)

Why here: Alta, with its cranky lifts, copious powder, and legendary steeps, is a classic resort that every serious skier needs to experience. And since flights into Salt Lake City are extremely affordable, it's an easy one to check off your list. The rugged terrain of the Wasatch Range is softened considerably with 500 inches—that's 42 feet—of snow, which is as close as any resort gets to a powder guarantee. The action fades with the setting sun (dining and nightlife options are limited), but when dawn breaks to 15 more inches of fresh, you'll be grateful for the good night's sleep.

The highlight: Tree skiing accessed via the Supreme Lift, just after a storm. Alta doesn't do double-diamond designations, but if it did, these steep runs would certainly qualify. (Beware of cliffs, especially in the trees off Challenger.)

Sleep for cheap: Nearby Salt Lake City has tons of budget-friendly hotels, but cashing in on the savings can be risky: When a big snow hits, the road that winds through Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta is often closed. Alta's base area has five ski-in/ski-out lodges—each with its own devoted fan base—that operate on a European program (breakfast, lunch, and dinner included). The Peruvian's simple, wood-paneled guest rooms aren't much to look at, but like most of the other lodges, this property has an après-ski bar, a game room, a heated outdoor pool, and a hot tub (plus a movie room and ski rental shop). And it tends to have the best deals.

Four nights at the Peruvian, three lift tickets, and three meals per day (plus round-trip transportation to and from the airport) is $214 per person per night; 888-356-2582; www.altavacations.net

Next: The toughest mountain in the East >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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