Alta retires the Albion ski lift. Will Wildcat — now the only one of its kind at the resort — be next?

Slow and intimate, two-person fixed-grip lift was ski area’s ‘unicorn’

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers revel in a little bit of Alta history as they ride the Albion two-person ski lift on its final day of operation on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Installed in 1962, the lift will be torn down in addition to the Sunnyside lift that services the same area to make room for a new six-person high-speed lift next season.

Alta • Rather than a rock tune, Fabio Eatone chose to blast Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero” from his speakers Tuesday as he rode the Albion Lift at Alta Ski Area for the last time. The ballad seemed fitting for the moment. Not because of its love-song lyrics — which he and his friends gleefully belted out — but because of its tempo:


“It was an incredibly long ride,” said Mike Masterson of Alta, one of the pack of about 10 buddies who journeyed, two-by-two, to the top. “It was far longer than I thought it would be.”

Nothing about the 60-year-old Albion Lift is fast. Each two-person chair takes 12 minutes to travel from the base of the ski resort to the top of the lift. Iglesias could serenade skiers with “Hero” about three times over the course of the journey — if the Spotify ads didn’t keep interrupting his flow. By way of comparison, the new high-speed, six-person lift that will replace both Albion and neighboring Sunnyside, a triple lift, will likely take half that time.

That new lift, which will follow Sunnyside’s alignment, will be installed this summer. So Tuesday marked the last day skiers could catch one of Albion’s 153 chairs for a leisurely ride up the mountain.

“It’s sort of part of Alta,” said Chris Mattern, who was visiting from Greensboro, N.C., “like the historic, classic ski area.”

Installed in 1962, Albion was the third lift to turn at Alta, which began operation as a ski area in 1938. For a time, it was known as “Never Sweat” before being renamed Albion, bearing the same name as the base area where it is situated.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Taking one last ride, skiers fill many of the 153 chairs on the Albion lift at Alta on its final day of operation on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

It was upgraded in 1976, but when Sunnyside was built in 1983 to service the same beginner area, Albion became largely superfluous. Recently, it has gained a reputation as the ski area’s resident “unicorn” because of how infrequently it operates.

But that made it even more enticing to ride when it was running, despite its lack of haste.

“It was always a fabled ride, and it has been closed since I’ve ever known it, which, you know, is one season,” said Masterson, who works at the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge with most of the crew he rode with Tuesday. “It opened once earlier this season for about an hour and I missed it and I thought that was the end. But here we are today. A glorious powder day and I finally got to ride Albion and live my dreams.”

Those who took the time on a rare spring powder day for one long, last ride mostly did so for nostalgia. Such was the case for Christa Schmid of Alta. A former Alta ski patroller, she remembers taking her nephews on the lift when they were 5 or 6 years old. They’re now in their 30s.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Local long-time skier Christa Schmid takes a final ride on the Albion lift at Alta on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

Schmid also remembers that after lunch, lift operators at the top of Albion were given an odd directive: Keep an eye out for kids who, after filling their bellies, had been rocked to sleep during the long, swaying journey.

“If you want to have a nice long conversation with just one person,” Schmid said, “it’s kind of nice.”

While the Sunnyside lift will be sent to Montana’s Red Lodge ski area, Tuesday spelled the end of the line for Albion. That leaves Alta with just one fixed-grip double lift. It is the ski area’s storied Wildcat Lift, which serves some of the state’s most coveted terrain as well as a gate to neighboring Snowbird.

Though Alta has no immediate plans to replace it, the 62-year-old Wildcat’s inevitable demise is much more controversial. The group of friends from the Goldminer’s Daughter agreed that whereas the tedious pace of a two-seat, fixed-grip lift felt inconvenient on Albion, on Wildcat it adds to the anticipation.

“It needs to stay a two-chair,” George Rey said. “It’s limited terrain, so, like, you put twice as many people up there and it’s going to get skied out.

“And it’s nice to have that nostalgic, like, ‘Hey, look, I’m a little two-chair. I’m going to go work through the woods.’ It’s nice.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A bit of history is printed on a whiteboard as Alta shuts down the Albion lift for good on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. Built in 1962, the two-person lift will be replaced, in addition to the Sunnyside lift which services the same area, with a six-person high-speed lift next season.

While Albion’s chairs move slow, those who want one as a souvenir may need to act fast. Alta is giving employees first shot at purchasing the chairs. The rest will be sold for an undisclosed amount on a first-come, first-served basis. To be placed on the waiting list, email info@alta.com and put Albion Chairlift in the subject line.

Correction: April 14, 2:16 p.m. >> An earlier version of this story said the Sunnyside lift would be relocated within Alta. It will actually be sent to the Red Lodge ski area in Montana.

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