Wildflower season collided with construction season this week near Alta.
Just as wildflower blooms hit their peak in high-elevation Albion Basin, carpeting the hills in brilliant hues of red, yellow and purple, Alta Ski Lifts began to move dirt to make way for its new Sunnyside lift. The Little Cottonwood Canyon ski area is replacing the old three-person Sunnyside lift with a high-speed six-person chair while also removing the 60-year-old Albion chairlift, named for the basin.
The new chair will require bigger towers, Alta ski area spokesperson Andria Huskinson said, but will follow the same alignment as the old Sunnyside chair. Alta leases the land from the United States Forest Service, which approved the project. Huskinson said as part of the agreement, any wetlands that are damaged or trees that are cut down must be replaced three-fold elsewhere in the area.
Visitors to the area may also have noticed a frequent buzz of helicopters through the area. They are being used to install Remote Avalanche Control Systems on the slopes of Mount Baldy. The RACS will allow the ski area to move away from shooting artillery from an M101-A1 105 Howitzer across the canyon or dropping hand-held TNT charges onto slopes to mitigate avalanche danger.
The Albion Basin Campground and all trails in the area, including the one to Cecret Lake, are currently open. Any closures will be posted on Alta’s summer website and sent out through Alta’s social media channels. Parking at the ski area lots is free. Accessing the summer road and upper hiking trails costs $10.
Huskinson said the ski area is hoping construction on the new lift will be completed before opening day of the 2022-23 ski season. Wildflower season, on the other hand, is likely to be over within a month.