Simply put, we loved the Rustler Lodge. It was just perfect for us. Here are the reasons why:
1. Reservations were a cinch. In fact, in all of our interactions with the staff of the Rustler we found them to be friendly, efficient, and helpful. As one example (of many), we pre-shipped boxes of our ski equipment to the hotel so that we wouldn't have to deal with all that stuff in the airports, and it arrived a couple of days early. They stored it without a problem and had it waiting for us in our room when we arrived. We didn't even have to ask!
2. We stayed in a unit where two bedrooms were connected -- perfect for a family of 4. We were on the ground floor, with easy access to the ski lockers, ski rental shop, the egress to the mountain, and the spa. Which brings me to my third point ...
3. Everything you need is right at the hotel. We arrived, rented our equipment, bought a few additional items we needed, stored our stuff in the lockers, and settled into our rooms with good wifi and nice large-screen tvs. The bathrooms aren't luxe, but they are more than adequate with plenty of hot water and good water pressure; they provide nice quality shampoo, conditioner, and lotion that they refresh nightly. The beds are comfortable, and our rooms had nice additional seating (sofa, chairs) and ample dresser space and wall hooks (an essential for skiers). The closets held extra blankets, and there were lots of pillows. Both of our bedrooms had small terraces looking out onto the mountain.
4. Breakfast and dinner are fully included (alcohol is extra), and the food is delicious with lots of options for the breakfast buffet (including made-to-order items such as omelets) and nice variety every night at dinner. The dining room has killer wall-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the mountains, which are jaw-dropping. It has a gorgeous wood-burning fire-pit style fireplace that they keep burning at breakfast and dinner. The staff and kitchen are very accommodating; dinner is served as a four-course meal (soup, appetizer/salad, main course, dessert), but you can adjust if you want. (e.g., One day, I preferred to skip the app, but have two salads for my main course. No problem. They offered to add grilled chicken if I wanted additional protein. Even better!) They always offer a fish, a chicken, and a vegetarian option as well as a redder meat (steak, veal, lamb, duck, etc.). The dishes are clever and yummy, and there are some staples (e.g., miso soup, steak) that are offered every night. They have coffee set up for each hallway of rooms every morning -- so you don't have to wander to the dining room if you don't want to -- but breakfast opens at 6:30am, so you can readily go there if you want to to grab a cup of tea or a banana, etc., even if you plan to eat breakfast later. (Speaking of wandering around, the atmosphere at the Rustler is very informal. It's not unusual to see folks walking about in their bathing suits and bathrobes after skiing. Some folks were at breakfast in their long undershirts; others went to dinner in their flannel pj bottoms. This was a very nice feature for my teens, who prefer to keep things as informal as possible!)
5. They have a bar with nightly hors d'oeuvres offered (and, again, killer views of the mountain), board games in a lounge area, laundry facilities, a large hot tub that they keep nice and hot, a lovely outdoor heated pool, small but ample changing rooms, and a eucalyptus steam room. Everything is kid-friendly without being over-the-top kid-centric, so my teens were comfortable and happy, and the younger kids of other guests seemed to be, too. I noticed that they appeared to offer some kind of kid dinner event every night (games, movies, etc.), but we didn't make use of this so I don't know how it works.
6. The spa offerings are wonderful. We tried their elevation sickness treatment, reflexology massage, swedish massage, facial, and body polish treatments. And, this is just the beginning of what they offer! The professionals were terrific, and the services were first-rate. They keep a table with fruited ice water for the taking, as well as fluffy striped towels for spa/pool use.
7. Have I gotten this far without talking about the skiing? Well, let's be clear -- you come to Alta for the skiing. This isn't the sort of place that offers lots of other things to do, even snowboarding is off-limits. But, if you are a skier, then this mountain is incredible. The locals told us that they were not happy with the snowfall this year but, let me tell you, from an easterner's perspective, we were in heaven even in a lackluster year -- I can't imagine what it must be like in a normal year! And, while there wasn't much snow on the ground in Salt Lake City, as we drove up Little Cottonwood Canyon the snowcover got heavier and heavier till it looked several feet high at the Rustler. While it didn't appear to snow much in Salt Lake during our weeklong stay, it snowed every day at Alta except for one -- when the sky was as blue as I've ever seen it. There is plenty of terrain to explore -- especially if you are an intermediate or advanced skier. The powder is, well, I can't really describe it. It felt delightful to ski through -- not heavy or wet, like other powder skiing we've done. It was so easy to carve a turn, explore through the wooded areas, and conquer the steeps. There were really no crowds (and this was President's Week!), and the views were spectacular. We didn't ski over to Snowbird, but that appeared to be easy to do -- the Rustler gives you ski cards (RFID chips, so you just keep them in your coat pocket and you can enter the Alta lifts through a little gateway) that work at Snowbird, too, although the RFID feature doesn't work there so you have to wear the card visibly. There are several restaurants right on the mountains, so you don't have to wander far to interrupt your skiing for refueling in the middle of the day. They also have shops, so if you need another layer, a new gator or, in my case, a couple of bandaids, they are easy to come by. If you lose control in the shop and end up buying more than you want to carry for the rest of the day, they'll send it back to the Rustler for you. If you spend more than $200, they'll ship it back home for you free of charge so you don't have to worry about maxing out your luggage.
8. Speaking of skiing, the Rustler is right at the base of the mountains, halfway between the two main lift areas. Exiting from the Rustler, you ski down a small hill and grab onto a tow rope that can bring you in either direction, so you can easily get on the mountain and start your skiing. At the end of the day, you grab the tow rope back, and there's a small lift that brings you back to the door of the Rustler. Easy as pie!
In conclusion, the Rustler offered for my family a perfect way to spend a ski vacation. The ski conditions were terrific, the hotel offered everything we needed, and we could enjoy delicious food without stressing about getting to a restaurant or, worse, having to cook it myself after a long day of skiing. The apres-ski spa/pool facilities were ideal, and the staff was wonderful. Alta doesn't offer lots of fancy-schmancy dining, shopping, or night life, but that's preferable for my family. And, that must be the case for lots of others, too -- because the Rustler has lots of repeat customers who come back year after year. I think we'll be joining their ranks, too.