As I explained in my full review of Alta, Alta is totally different from most ski resorts.
At Alta, they don’t position their lifts to allow the easiest lapping of the best terrain. No, they position their lifts with the priority of powder preservation, first and foremost.
What’s this mean? Nearly all the best runs at Alta can be found by searching, hiking, and most importantly… traversing.
And no single traverse at the land of Another Long Traverse Again grants access to as much amazing terrain as The High Traverse. It’s become a right of passage that every intermediate-advanced skier should experience, at least once.
In this guide, you’ll find an intro to Alta’s High Traverse, some helpful tips to keep in mind, and a breakdown of all the Hi-T’s best terrain.
- What is the High Traverse?
- Rules and Etiquette for the High Traverse
- A Guide to Terrain off the High Traverse
What is the High Traverse?
Known as “The Hi-T” among Alta aficionados, this path is so long that it piratically splits the entire trail map in half.
You access it by doing a 180 after unloading from the Collins chairlift.
You’ll notice two entrances to the traverse, which are marked with gates. The upper entrance is best for those who plan on hiking to higher spots along the backside, and the lower entrance is better first timers and those looking to access the terrain we’ll be discussing later in this guide.
Rules and Etiquette for the High Traverse
Really, these rules apply to any of the traverses at Alta, but they’re even more important along the biggest and highest of them all.
(Along those lines, if you’re new to traversing, then Ballroom off Collins, which services mostly blue terrain, is a better starting point before diving right into the Hi-T.)
1. Don’t stop on the traverse!
Nobody likes having to pole around on skis, and advanced skiers prefer to keep their speed up for as long as possible.
Stopping in the middle of the traverse and forcing those behind you to stop is the fastest way to make some newfound enemies in the otherwise friendly atmosphere at Alta.
If you do have to stop for some reason, pulling up and above the traverse line is preferred.
2. Get ready for the bumps!
Traverses can be a bumpy ride, and the High Traverse is no exception!
Try not to get launched by bending your knees and absorbing the bumps with your legs, similar to properly skiing moguls.
3. Avoid cutting a new traverse line.
Whenever possible, try to stay on the main traverse line.
The way Alta is set up, skiers drop in off the traverse once they reach the run they are looking for. If you shoot off early and ski parallel to the fall line, you’re chopping up the run for future skiers.
4. Watch out for rocks.
Even in good snow years, the traverse can have rocks and other obstacles, so keep an eye out!
5. Maybe not on a powder day?
Lastly, if you’re new to the traverse, you might want to avoid diving in first thing on a powder day.
Little Cottonwood Canyon is known for its fierce powder competition, and nowhere is this on display quite as much as the Hi-T on a powder morning. First and foremost, this area is a people mover for advanced and expert skiers looking to hit the goods, usually as fast as possible.
There’s no friends on a powder day, so in that situation, you can imagine how unfriendly the traverse will be to newbies.
A Guide to Terrain off the High Traverse
Of course, the High T is all about the amazing runs it accesses!
Here’s what you need to know about them.
Early Black Diamonds
You’ll come across these early into the traverse. The named runes include Spruces, Race Course, and Sunspot.
I’d classify these runs as traditional black diamonds, and they can be tackled by confident intermediate-advanced skiers. The good news here is that they’re pretty wide open – what you see is what you get. They can also be scoped out from the Collins lift, so as long as you’re sure you’re looking at the right run, there shouldn’t be any surprises.
On my first visit to Alta, I absolutely fell in love with the soft bumps along Sunspot! It’s now one of my favorite runs on the entire mountain.
*A word of warning: If you continue beyond these, you should be confident skiing whatever the mountain throws at you. Although Alta doesn’t use double blacks on its trail map, everything beyond this is true double black terrain, and there’s no easy way down!
Annie’s, Jakes, No Name, Santa Clause, Jitterburg, and the West Rustler.
This is getting into true advanced-expert terrain. Again, you can see these from the ride up on Collins. Their steepness and obstacles should be enough to give caution to most skiers, especially if you remind yourself that runs are much more intimidating up close!
Eddie’s High Nowhere
The longest continuous black diamond (it’s really a double black, for sure) at Alta. This steep run descends over 1,200 feet in one shot. Although it’s technically accessible via the High T, few skiers do because of its technical entrance between cliffs, plus it requires a rope assisted traverse over a cliff band.
This one is no joke!
This is probably Alta’s second most legendary run behind High Rustler. It has a a similar steepness to High Boy (nearly 40 degrees) with the added obstacle of a tight, chute-like entrance between rock formations. No doubt, this is expert skiing to the max!
In order to get there, stay as high as possible on the High Traverse until you notice a side step path to skier’s right. Side step up and over the ridge, and then let it rip!
Located at the very end of the high traverse, head skier’s right over the ridge into the wide open Greeley Bowl.
Greeley Bowl is not quite as steep as some of the other expert options off the High T, and it does flatten out some near the bottom. However, it still pushes upwards of 35 degrees and tends to have moguls, so this will still challenge advanced skiers!
The Fontside Steeps
These are all the runs staring you down as you go about life near the Collins and Wildcat lift, tempting you in with their steepness.
There’s maybe a half-dozen named steeps here, including the most iconic run in all of Alta – Alf’s High Rustler.