Although they share a common name and many of the same interests, the town of Alta and the Alta Ski Area (ASA) are different entities. ASA runs the lifts & facilities of the ski resort and the township of Alta governs things like planning, the library, public safety, transportation and the budget for the booming (as in howitzer shells) 370 person high-altitude metropolis. As a township, Alta is tiny and starts just below the Peruvian Lodge near the By-Pass road and goes uphill to the crest dividing Little from Big Cottonwood canyons. You can ride a bike from Alta’s stem to stern in about five minutes, and even though you can get an Alta/Bird seasons pass and easily ski between the areas, Snowbird is not part of the Alta township, which explains why it has all those eco-lovin’ concrete sky-scrappers.
What makes the township of Alta so important is that it sits at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is the headwaters for 20% of Salt Lake City’s fresh water supply (this is why dogs aren’t allowed – SLC’ers don’t like dog-poo flavored water). Building is VERY restricted up there, and although there are undeveloped lots for sale, you almost need to file an Environmental Impact Statement to blow your nose on them, let alone build anything. This makes developers cringe, but is part of what makes Alta so great – there’s a lot of beautiful open space and minimal development. For comparison, without the guidance of the Alta Township, the Forest Service and the water issues, Alta could easily look like Park City with roads, condos and McMansions plugged in virtually all over. For an interesting history of the town of Alta, click here.
Monday – Help save Alta from itself…
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