Alta is the heart and soul of the Wasatch Mountains, an icon, a ski area steeped in tradition and a place where dreams become reality. Of course, this is my own humble opinion, but I believe it fully to be true.
When I was a girl, growing up in Washington, my future ski dreams were only going to come to fruition in the Colorado Rockies and after graduation, that is where my little, ski virgin self headed. I couldn't have been more wrong about my future because after a few short months, a bad snow pack and no money, I headed to Utah which, twenty years later, has most definitely proved to be the place where I hang my skis.
I showed up in Robyn Christiansen's (Alta Children's Ski School Director) at 19 with my too long skis and my overly confident ski skills but must have smiled enough because she gave me a job. My first stint in the ski industry! In fact, The first time I skied powder, I mean, real Utah powder was with Robyn. The experience was like a flower blooming into the most beautiful and sweetest gift and it was all for me. It was December 1996 and the snow had been flying for days on end. Robyn took me aside one morning and told me to leave my skis and handed me a pair of 160 K2 Big Kahunas (my first encounter with a “fat” ski). My love and passion for the deep has never subsided nor my endless need for gear.
Over the years, I have skied many mountains in many places, worked a colorful display of ski bum worthy jobs, competed in big mountain for awhile and really, even at 39, have consistently lived the skier's life. No matter what changes; marriage, kids, responsibilities, faith, etc, skiing has always been along for the ride. It's a part of who I am and it's not going anywhere. Ever.
There is not one mountain in the state of Utah that I do not burst with joy over. I enjoy them all. I know their strengths and their weaknesses and I understand and respect what makes each of them, individually, exceptional. But no matter what mountains steals my attention for what may even stack up to several seasons, Alta continues to call me home, time and time again. There is just something about the place which has seeped into my soul and is too rooted to ever let go of. Simply put, most of my ski memories are up in the cloud over Alta. My skills were refined on Alta’s slopes, I have made life long friends and this is the place that my boys first learned to ski. I know that wherever their lives take them and whatever mountains call to them that they will, also, always be tied to Alta and the spiritual pull that will forever be inside them.
Over the years, I have given myself over to the terrain that I call home, not only in winter but in the off season as well. There is something up there amongst the rocks, pines, open glades and steeps that connects with my spirit. I find peace, solace, adventure, happiness and even sadness and fear at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. And in the quietest of moments, it is easy to recognize God’s hand in the beauty and miracles of nature’s precious alpine gifts.
The last few winters have been rough, the snow just didn’t show up and when it did, it was never enough to satisfy those of us who roll out of bed for it. It was depressing on so many levels, yet every time I took a base hit on my skis or had to step gingerly over rocks to ski a thin, icy line, I was still grateful that my skis were on my feet. There were many places in the west where that was not the case and Utahns were some of the lucky few who still had a skiable season. While ski areas remained closed or shut down early, Alta’s lifts continued turning and I had so much to be grateful for.
Maybe, because El Nino has finally come back and the snow is deep, am I writing this but I have been feeling a bit sentimental lately. After several extremely busy days, in LCC, I pulled in Monday morning to a quiet parking lot and zero lift lines. As I waited for patrol to open the High Notch gate, I was overcome with nostalgia for Alta and the way it was when I was barely 19 years old with my whole life ahead of me. I could have been that same girl, standing there, with the anticipation of untouched, endless powder, alone and giddy. There wasn’t lines of skiers waiting to track out the snow, just a few locals who knew that patience is always worth it. In that moment, nothing had changed. The mountain stood still and I was and am still that Alta loving girl. There was once a time when I was bound for Colorado but when the soul searches for what is right, you must listen and find your way home.