To understand Alta Lift Company and it’s policies, one must first examine the history of this skiers-only resort. The town of Alta, Utah was founded about 1865 to house miners in Little Cottonwood Canyon. An 1878 fire and an 1885 avalanche destroyed most of the original mining town. By the 1930’s most miners were gone leaving George Watson as one of the few local residents. Watson deeded his property to the Forest Service in return for relief of back taxes owed on the land with the stipulation that the forest service use the land to build a ski resort. Thanks George.
In 1935 the US Forest Service retained acclaimed skier Alf Engen to hike into the area and determine its potential as a future ski area. Alta Lift Company began operation January 15th, 1939. By the 1970’s an established group of snowboarders sought to ride the resorts. In 1973, Alta allowed some of the first snowboarders to ride the mountain. Dimitrije Malevich, of Winterstick snowboards, tested early board models for his emerging company at Snowbird and Alta. Alta was then at the forefront of allowing snowboarders. When most resorts banned snowboarding in 1981, Alta made an exemption. A snowboarder could ride the lifts at Alta wearing little skis then switch to a snowboard to decend via un-groomed runs.
Immunity was not long lasted and Alta Lift Co. banned snowboarders from their lifts as of December, 1984. Snowboarding continues to persevere despite the ridiculous bans and now riders can enjoy most resorts worldwide. However, Alta has never lifted its restriction of lift-access and is one of three mountains left in the United States that still refuses snowboarders. This winter season 2012-2013 Alta Lift Co. is celebrating 75 years of skiing and 8 short years of progressiveness.
As one can imagine, the greed, boozing, and sexual liberties associated with mining towns were not popular with the world’s largest Mormon population living in the Salt Lake Valley just at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon. An area known as “Hellgate” lies just west of the Alta city limits where Hellgate cliff and condominiums now sit. As the story goes, these were the “gates of hell” heading into this center of hedonism. These days the joke to Alta locals is that the residents of Salt Lake Valley had it all obviously backwards.