What else?Digestion of the lodge's excellent four-course dinners is a major activity. So is watching our kids dig their annual snow cave, and build their annual ski jump between the lodge and the rope-tow hill. If my son's school friend is staying nearby at the Rustler, both head off to their sledding slope. When dusk falls, Ping-Pong calls, and I've been told by the boys that there's some avid betting—the currency is M&M's—on the weeklong, round-robin tournament. The most enterprising of our 12-year-olds plays "intern" at the reception desk, helping out with check-ins and phone messages. Two of the girls, five and 13, rebond with the "best friends" they haven't seen for 12 months. So do we. While our designated hermit reads by the fire, our designated schmoozer catches up with families from our informal "same-time-next-year" society. Two of us play killer Scrabble over glasses of steaming cider at the Sitzmark Club. One likes lolling in the hot tub. Another takes yoga classes at the community center, while a sybarite who shall remain nameless gets a nightly massage. I always manage to finish three trashy paperbacks, although my major mental exertion is trying to remember my locker combination.
Alta feels more like a cocoon than a resort—the dacha from a Russian novel where the generations gather around the samovar. (The Alta Lodge actually has one, employed every afternoon at teatime.) This delicious illusion is reinforced by the reliably frequent "dumps"—as snowstorms are fondly called in 84092—that inspire one's faith in clean slates and briefly close the canyon road. The kids find this thrilling. I do, too. I've often wished, with them, that the snows would permanently seal the mountain pass out of Shangri-la.
SAVE ON YOUR SKI TRIP
It costs $40 a day to hit the slopes at Alta (a bargain compared with Vail's $60-plus price tag). But the cost of skiing in the West is finally falling. For coupons and deals check out: www.skitown.com and www.coloradokids.com. And if you're heading to Colorado, take advantage of this winter's price wars among the big resorts. The new Perfect 10 ticket, good for 10 days of skiing at five major mountains, can be had for $329 (order it at www.snow.com by January 31). Or pick up discounted lift tickets at King Soopers grocery stores in Denver when you arrive.