Alta Ski Resort Lodges -Alta UT

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Alta is the second or third oldest downhill ski resort in the United States. It began when the last silver mine closed in the Great Depression and the bankrupt owner deeded land to the Forest Service in lieu of back taxes. It is not clear who first thought of the ski resort (after all, miners had been skiing for years), but the Forest Service hired famed skier Alf Engen in 1935 to study the area’s potential and he came back with a positive review.  A private company was formed for that purpose by local Salt Lake City investors and the first lift (the Collins chair) was installed in 1936, using repurposed mining equipment.

At the time, there was only a poor road up Little Cottonwood Canyon and scarcely any facilities to shelter or house skiers (the mining town of Alta had been reduced to a handful of buildings).  So the New Deal was called upon to providek improvements.  The Work Progress Administration (WPA) built a shelter in 1938-39 on the foundations of the old Stillwell store, which became the Snowpine Lodge, and the Alta Lodge in 1940-41, which was the first overnight lodging facility. The WPA also conducted skating classes at Alta and worked on the road up the canyon.

Both lodges have served the public up to the present day, albeit with  substantial alterations and additions. The old Snowpine Lodge was razed c. 2015 and replaced by a huge new lodge of the same name, opening in 2018 – a sign of the times. Yet the town of Alta has restricted new development much better than its neighbor, Snowbird;  the older, smaller feel of buildings at Alta compares favorably with the gigantism and brutal Modernism of the lodges at Snowbird, just down Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Source notes

Wikipedia entry on Alta Ski Area

Alta Historical Society

Discover Alta website

Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on December 7, 2016.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

highway 210
Alta, UT 84092

Coordinates: 40.588795, -111.638417

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