Alta is a 30-minute, $25 jitney ride from the Salt Lake City airport by the Alta Ski Shuttle (800/742-3406) or Canyon Transportation (800/255-1841).
WHERE TO STAY
All Alta hostelries are ski-in, ski-out. We're devoted to the venerable Alta Lodge (800/707-2582 or 801/322-4631, fax 801/742-3504; dormitory—two sets of bunk beds—$103 per person or double suite $324*, including breakfast and dinner) for its coziness, great food, and extreme kid-friendliness. Après-ski wear for the bunny set is pajamas. A crew of non-skiing grandparents is generally on lounge duty with the babes in arms. Other friends swear with equal passion by Alta's Rustler Lodge (888/532-2582 or 801/742-2200, fax 801/742-3832; dormitory—three or six beds—$110 a person, or double room $386*, including breakfast and dinner), a newer, more luxurious resort hotel with certain amenities absent from the Alta Lodge, such as an exercise room, heated outdoor swimming pool, and in-room TV's. I've heard tell that Dr. Denton's have been seen there, too.
Both principal Alta lodges serve lavish country breakfasts and surprisingly refined dinners. They have supervised dinner seatings for kids, followed by evening activities—crafts, videos, games. The other dinner option is the Shallow Shaft (801/742-2177), across the road from the Alta Lodge, which has panoramic views, a menu of exotic game, and an extensive wine list. For lunch try Watson's Shelter (801/799-2296) on the mountain or Joanie's (801/742-2221), next to Alta Lodge, known for its overstuffed wraps and chili. The Sitzmark Club (801/322-4631), in the original pine-paneled wing of the Alta Lodge, is a charming, old-fashioned Western bar with a mountain view, perfumed by woodsmoke from the fire.
Alta is about serious skiing, but it's also suited to beginners. There's an exceptional balance and variety of groomed and ungroomed runs and steep and broad terrain, plus a virtuoso ski patrol. Though school holidays are busy, lift lines move swiftly, and the slopes are never overcrowded. The Alta Ski Lift Co., whose day pass is $38, debuts its first high-speed quad this season. A full day of lessons at the Alf Engen Ski School costs $80 (801/742-2600).
WHERE THE BOARDERS ARE
Alta—famously—doesn't allow snowboarding, but Snowbird (800/742-2222) is 15 minutes away, via shuttle bus.
SHOPPING AND RENTALS
No Chanel at the Deep Powder House (801/742-2400), but plenty of Chap Stick and a good selection of the latest hard and soft ski gear to buy or rent. Renters can trade in equipment as conditions change and demo the latest models.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DON'T SKI
Isn't it time you finished War and Peace and pasted your family photos into a nice vellum album?
*Lodge rates are for November and December and are subject to seasonal changes.
Judith Thurman, the author of Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette (Knopf), is a staff writer for The New Yorker.