WHY IT’S A CONTENDER: It’s safe to say that there is not another ski hotel like the Alta Lodge. It looks like a 1940′s prep school dorm that was designed by a Bauhaus-trained architect. Think "pleasingly austere," with window walls of glass, Bertoia chairs and cement block walls. But those walls of glass look out upon Alta, arguably the most beloved ski mountain in the United States. Beloved by purists, that is. Expect no frills, no snowboarders, and very few limits. The Lodge is run in the European manner, with breakfast and dinner included in the price of your room. And there are people you will meet in that dining room who have been coming for the better part of 40 years. That 80 year old guy in the Dead t-shirt? Likely a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division. The woman wearing peacock feathers? A 1940′s fashion designer who comes for weeks every winter. For many years, pundit William F Buckley, Jr. and economist Milton Friedman vacationed here at the same time. The Alta Lodge is the kind of place where the lone TV is rarely turned on. The lobby is filled where guests who have digested the "Times" before breakfast and could be discussing the finer points of foreign policy,telemark ski technology or powder stashes. The Lodge has an 80 percent repeat factor. If you enjoy it, book next year’s vacation as you check out.
WHO SHOULD GO: Powder hounds who sit down with a Polygamy Porter and "The New Yorker" after a day on the slopes. And families whose kids are amused by other kids. If your offspring crave an Xbox session and you can’t live without nightlife and shopping, stay in Park City instead.
THE ROOMS: Remember sophomore year? Well, it’s a bit of that combined with mid-century modern. But then add 500 inches of arguably the lightest snow in America falling just outside your window. The best rooms are corner suites like 212, with a king-size bed, wood burning fireplace and private balcony. The luxury touch: boot dryers in your room. What you won’t find: a television set. What’s new? Wireless internet throughout.
MORE REASONS TO STAY: The "spa" consists of two hot tubs and two saunas, while apres ski is at the Sitzmark Room, with its fireplace, weathered furniture and easy camaraderie. The food, by the way, is pretty good. And now that Bill Levitt, who has owned the lodge with his wife Mimi for 47 years, has retired from his 34-year stint as Alta’s mayor, he might have more time to regale you with stories. And name another ski lodge that offers a book club one night a week?
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Walk outside and click into your bindings. You are now skiing Alta. Buy a pass to neighboring Snowbird and you have both mountains to explore.
CAVEAT: It’s kid-friendly in an old fashioned way. Like the time my duffle bag grew heavier as I dragged it down the corridor. When I turned around, I discovered that a four year old boy was riding shotgun on it.
WHAT’S THE DEAL: If you can go in low season (pre-December 15, 2006 or after April 9, 2007) or regular season (January 2 through February 14, 2007; February 24 through March 15, 2007; March 31 through April 8, 2007), the rates are more reasonable. An Original Lodge Room with twin beds and a private bath starts at $284 in low season and $332 in regular season. A Standard East Wing room with a king size bed is $344 in low and $402 in regular. And a Slope Facing Corner room with fireplace and private balcony is $396 in low and $461 in regular. These rates are per night, based on double occupancy, and include a full breakfast and dinner for two people.
INSIDER TIP: Leave the Bogner suit at home. And don’t expect a ski valet. The lockers are made of wood planks and you’ll be issued a padlock.