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Alta: A(nother)L(ong)T(raverse)A(head)

Posted: February 6th, 2014 | Author:

Alta’s wide open spaces are just one of the reasons that many locals call it home. Instead of having an arsenal of lifts littering the beautiful face of the mountain, Alta provides the opportunity to explore inbounds terrain that feels wild. The world of Alta opens up to those who are willing to side step, boot pack and traverse.

Collins:
A lot of traversing and a little side stepping brings you to some of the steepest, longest, runs at Alta.

Baldy Shoulder - A combination of traversing and side stepping takes you to some of the most beautiful, open lines down Alta. Head straight after getting off the lift and enter the gates to the ballroom traverse. After entering through a second set of gates the traverse turns sharply around a corner. Take caution, as the route can be somewhat rocky. When you come to the side step path, I highly recommend you continue traveling up. From the top of the ridge, choose your line down Baldy Shoulder!

Alta Ski Area Brooke Gaynes

John Gaynes and Keith Shelton side step to Gunsight. Photo: Brooke Gaynes

Gunsight – Cross under the lift and hop on the High Traverse. Stay HIGH as you travel towards a side step path up the ridge. After a few moments of side stepping, you come to the top of Gunsight. Take a moment and enjoy the view.  Snap a few photos. The first few turns down the wide chute can be a little steep, but shade usually preserves the delicious quality of the snow.

High Rustler - One of the most iconic runs at Alta is Alf’s High Rustler (check out CNN’s report on the World’s 100 Best Ski Runs). Hop on the High Traverse and hold on tight as you travel around the ridge. Stay on the traverse for as long as possible until you get to the top of a long, steep and sustained run. Enjoy!

 

Sugarloaf:
Although Sugarloaf is home to a large part of the intermediate runs at Alta, a drop of the rope can be a complete game changer.

Devil’s Castle - Although many locals at Alta enjoy hanging out on the Collins lift, the moment the marquee at the bottom announces that Devil’s Castle is open, a mad rush proceeds to the Sugarloaf lift. From the top of the lift you will already see a line of eager side steppers beginning the trek to Devil’s Castle. Hop in line, take a deep breath and know that the ride down will be worth every excruciating step.  I do extra right legged lunges just for the side step up Devil’s Castle.

Alta Ski Area Brooke Gaynes

Elizabeth Pratt, Caroline Gleich, Brittany Gold, and John Gaynes at the Summit of Baldy.

 

Baldy Chutes – A handful of days a year Baldy Chutes are open! At the top of the Sugarloaf lift take the Collin’s Return traverse until you reach the gates to Snowbird. At this point you will undoubtedly see a gathering of people taking off their skis. Follow the boot pack tracks up to the top of Mount Baldy. Put your head down, and continue on up. On second thought, be sure to enjoy the views of Mount Timpanogos along the way.

 

Wildcat:
While any route down Wildcat proves to be wildly fun, a little traversing and side stepping takes you to some of the deepest pow stashes on the mountain.

Westward Ho - Bear right when getting off Wildcat and follow the cat track until a narrow traverse path appears. Traverse and side step until you find the boundaries of the resort. As you enjoy slashing down the steep and deep lines, be aware of your orientation to the lift. Many a time have we gotten so caught up in wonderfulness of the snow that we have traveled too far down the mountain before heading back towards the lift.

 

Supreme:
The beautiful, vast terrain surrounding the Supreme lift can make skiing at Alta feel otherworldly.  For an even more wild feel, side step to Catharine’s area, or wait for the handful of magical days when the rope drops for East castle.

Alta Ski Area Brooke Gaynes

East Castle. Photo: Brooke Gaynes

East Castle - When the snow pack stabilizes and the stars align, East Castle opens. I pack my ascension skins most of the spring waiting for these blessed days. From the Supreme lift follow the groomed cat track until you encounter the branching skin track. Yes, you can boot up this, but bringing skins makes life much sweeter. From the top, snap a few photos and enjoy the open, sustained ride down!

Catharine’s area - Most days of the season, Catharine’s area is a short side step to some of the most open and vast feeling areas of the resort. Head left off of Supreme, and skate/side step/boot pack until the trail levels out. Traverse along the boundaries of the resort until you can’t restrain yourself any longer. Enjoy finding creative and adventurous lines down the fresh, low angle snow.


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