Dara writes:

Last week James and I returned from our annual ski trip to Alta, Utah, home to probably the best snow in the country. The conditions are always at least good at Alta, though this year they were just that, good, and not amazing, as their base registered only 60 inches, as opposed the usual 100+.

I enjoy Alta, though not as much as James. I like to ski, but not the extreme stuff. I prefer walks in the park. I like to ski down, chat, and go for hot chocolate in the lodge. James likes to push it on a double black. I can get down anything, but groomers are just fine.

Alta is crude and rustic. Elements that to me define a vacation are missing. For instance, you don't go out to eat. Breakfast and dinner are included in the hotel cost. The meals are fine. A prime rib special one night was quite delicious. But there is no gourmet. There is no town. My first year high in the Rockies two years ago, it snowed one foot every day, causing such treacherous avalanche conditions that we were not allowed to leave our hotel after 4pm or before 9am each day. This is called interlodge. But truly, being at Alta anytime is kind of a voluntary interlodge. You ski. You eat. You sleep. You wake and do it again.

James loves this boot camp. He loves the challenge. Me, I don't mind if a "challenge" on vacation is choosing an entree from a delicious list of possibilities.

I could also do without the Alta attitude which is, summed up: Vail is for suckers. To Alta folks, any mountain, however world-class, is for pussies if bars, shops, and eateries distract from skiing. One must pronounce "Alta" with a flat A, not an A like a British "Aunt." James overheard the following exchange between a mountain man and a visitor: "Is it Alta or Ahlta?" "It's Snowbird, Ma'am."

We usually stay at Goldminer's Daughter, essentially a barracks at the foot of the mountain. Each staff member is a skier, which means any guest request involving skiing--lift tickets, a humidifier in the room to sleep better so as to ski better--is ably fulfilled, while any request in the dining room--to be served, for instance--is better filled by professionals. Last year we explored the Alta Lodge, old stomping ground of the likes of Bill Buckley and Milton Friedman. We found it equally bare bones as Goldminer's, but more expensive and with more attitude. The attitude we did like, however, was that of two eighty-plus year old men we met in the Lodge's common room. One of these "Alta cockers," as we liked to call them, lived in an assisted living location in Danbury, Connecticut, but still skied in Alta. Amazing. This man fled Germany on Hitler's arrival, came to America, then enlisted so he could fight back against the Nazis. He skied in the Seventh Mountain Division during World War II. The Alta Lodge requires one to huff down 63 steps upon arriving, has no elevator, and requires one to use an arm-wrenching rope tow, on which I received repetitive stress trauma, to reach it from the slopes. Just visiting the place means one is fit.

This is my view. I think James will write his own perspective...