Alta is known for steep terrain full of playful features - but in order to access the best runs skiers must navigate their way through bumpy traverses, meticulous side-steps and long boot-packs. The lifts are a bit inconveniently located, but it’s part of what makes Alta, Alta. Not everyone can access the terrain and you've got to put a bit of work in to get the goods. A newly approved tram, now in a 45 day comment board period, would drop skiers right at the top of Mt. Baldy, altering this long-standing status-quo.
In December 2015 Alta submitted a development plan to the U.S. Forest Service aimed to improve and enhance a multitude of areas of the resort within the next five years - the entire 13-page document can be read here. The proposal was approved by the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in April 2016.
Last summer, Alta began their lift infrastructure changes with the removal of Cecret Lift followed by the replacement of Supreme Lift with a high-speed quad. Both projects have been completed without backlash from locals, mostly because nobody goes to Catherine’s Area.
The most pronounced and controversial project is a tram installation that would bring skiers from the top of Collins lift to Mt. Baldy, an 11,068-foot peak with terrain that has until now, only been reachable via a 20-minute hike. It’s a jewel of Alta that rewards skiers with a 360° view of Little Cottonwood Canyon coupled with a stellar ski down. According to the proposal, ‘This lift would transport ski patrollers to near the top of the mountain to allow conventional explosive avalanche control work. The lift could also be used for skier access below the tram or in the east and west Mt. Baldy areas when conditions allowed.’ The tram would be small in comparison to Snowbird’s, with a max capacity of 150 people per an hour (compared to 1,000 pph). The document also states that skier compaction from increased traffic would help mitigate avalanche danger, so the Baldy chutes could be open more often.
The same plan also calls for the replacement of the leisurely paced Wildcat Lift with a speedy detachable lift. The proposal does not state if the new lift would be a double, triple or quad - only that the capacity will be increased to 2,400 people per an hour, which is about 1,000 people more than can upload at present. The slow-moving kitty has been long-loved by locals, even prompting Powder Magazine to select Wildcat as an iconic lift for their video series. The new detachable lift proposal will reuse some of the existing towers, which means it will still access the exact same terrain - just at a much faster pace.
The addition of the new Flora Lift, named after a rather dry Lake Flora is another proposed project. It will be a double-chair that begins at the bottom of Sugarbowl and reaches the top of Collins. The idea, as with the new Wildcat Lift, is to alleviate the huge crowds from Collins. Instead of having to take an around-the-world lap if the East Baldy Traverse is closed, skiers would be able to use the Flora lift to head directly to the top.
The Baldy Tram is reminiscent of Kachina Peak Lift in Taos and Steep Gullies at Arapahoe Basin - both lift proposals were wildly unpopular with locals, yet still installed. While a tram to the top of Mt. Baldy sounds like something out of a Radical Radish article, it will most likely be completed within their five-year plan. The Baldy tram won’t be the end of Alta, but it does signify the end of an era that deeply values earning turns. Lifts will still spin, seasons will still change and the terrain will remain the same - but when you look up at Mt. Baldy you might just see a shimmer of a tram in the distance.