At last, Alta and Snowbird have married. It's like Madonna hooking up with Jerry Garcia. Or Bill Gates and Gandhi moving in together. In short, two completely different resorts now offer a common lift ticket, with easy access made possible by a new high-speed quad out of Snowbird's Mineral Basin. The result is the largest ski acreage in Utah (4,700) available on a one-day ticket and probably the most advanced terrain cluster in the country. If you plan to attend this wedding, bring cash, champagne, rice -- and definitely two planks, since Alta is still for skiers only.
What will they call themselves -- Snalta? Albird? Actually, Alta and Snowbird plan to stay the same independent, world-class resorts they've always been. Alta's where telemark fanatics, weathered lifers, and young jibbers convene to experience moguls, powder, and chutes free from skidding snowboards. Snowbird's the gathering post for purple-haired boarders, as well as a place to show off Prada parkas.
If you come for the Olympics, plan to crash on a friend's floor and spend time in Salt Lake traffic. Don't bother with a thousand-dollar ice-skating ticket; instead, explore the near-thousand acres of Little Cottonwood via the Cirque Traverse at the Bird and the High Traverse at Alta.
Play: Finish your ski day by watching a band at the Tram Club at Snowbird, then get dinner at the Steak Pit or at the southwestern-style Shallow Shaft in Alta. Snowbird's Cliff Lodge serves homemade granola that dread-headed Alta locals will love to munch for breakfast, and Alta can pour sophisticated Snowbirders a martini at the Sitzmark Club.
Stay: Rest up at the expansive, amenity-filled Cliff Lodge at Snowbird or the family-run, traditional Alta Lodge.
Save the date: The U.S. Freeskiing Nationals are held at Snowbird, Jan. 31-Feb. 3.
Alta, 801-359-1078; www.alta.com
Snowbird, 800-232-9542; www.snowbird.com