Earning it Inbounds

Earning it is an art at Alta Ski Area. And while the “earning” part of this phrase takes many forms – traversing, side stepping, boot packing – the “it” means only one thing – fresh, untracked snow.

Alta Ski Area

The “it”: Blue on white. Photo: Joe Johnson

Perched at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon and annually coated in 500″ of the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” Alta offers 2,200 acres of some of the best skiable terrain in North America. From Baldy Shoulder off of the top of Wildcat Chair to East Castle off of Supreme Chair, signature stashes call out to skiers promising first tracks and guaranteeing snow in their face.

So, why isn’t all of Alta tracked all of the time? The answer can be found in an old Alta adage – “Ain’t no side step like an Alta side step.” Translation: You gotta earn it and it ain’t easy.

Alta Ski Area

Sidestep. Photo: Joe Johnson

Every resort has its own hikes. Yet no other resort requires its skiers “earn it” quite like Alta does. Baldy’s Main Chute and Little Chute, require a sturdy bootpack that tops out at 11,500 feet in elevation. Devil’s Castle asks skiers to to participate in the traverse side step combo move. At 30+ minutes, East Castle offers up what might be the longest side step in North America. The best of the Backside is only accessible via a side step-traverse-side step-traverse. Gunsight, Eddie’s High Nowhere, the list goes on . . .

Alta Ski Area

Top of the Baldy booter. Photo: Joe Johnson

While this may turn off some skiers, it’s the reason many, including myself, love skiing at Alta. If you don’t like what’s downhill from the tips of your skis . . . just go farther. Some will call it quits too early. Others will make their way into the backcountry. Meanwhile, I’ll be making my way to the inbounds goods. Believe me, the payoff at the end is well worth the pain in the present.

Adam Clark Alta Ski Area

Kalen Thorien and Caroline Gleich enjoy the view from the top of East Castle. Photo: Adam Clark

Baldy Alta Ski Area

The view from Baldy. Photo: Joe Johnson

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