Today we sat down with Matty Taylor, the Bar Manager at the Alta Peruvian Lodge. Matty presides over what is arguably the most happening après-ski scenes in Little Cottonwood Canyon at the Peruvian, where locals and lodge guests celebrate days on the hill in a place that is utterly unique to Alta. And he does it all while raising a family and skiing almost every day.
ACVB: Tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you been here at the Peruvian? Where’d you come from before that?
So I grew up in Ohio. I didn’t ski until I was 20 years old, when some college friends took me to a hill called Boston Mills Brandywine. I loved it, but I couldn’t really ski. The next year, I went to Sun Valley on a school break, and that really flipped the switch. I really dug the excitement for being outside in the winter; people didn’t do that as much in the Midwest and the winter is harder to get through without something like skiing.
So I finished college and I got a job as an insurance underwriter for two years. But I spent every possible vacation day at Alta and Snowbird. I bought an Alta-Snowbird pass when I was still living in Ohio, and a friend of mine and I bought a place near Wasatch Boulevard in 2004. I still couldn’t really ski back then–I mostly skied the old Germania Lift, or Wilbre at Snowbird–but I found that I really thrived in the ski town community as much as I wanted to be a good skier.
I got a job at the Canyon Inn near the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon, which helped me network into the Alta community. That led to a gig in the Alta Ski Area ticket office, where I got to work half days and ski to and from the Sugarloaf Pass ticket shack. The Peruvian was always my favorite bar in the canyon, and six years ago, I picked up some shifts after seeing how busy the bar was one New Years Eve. For a few years, I kept all three of those jobs!
Things changed in 2015 when my wife and I had a baby girl–she was born the same day I was supposed to check in for my first winter as the bar manager. But it was a good time for that transition, and it’s evolved into a pretty unique responsibility for an Alta bartender–I am pretty autonomous with so many elements of the business we do here in the bar, from the menu and specials, to booking music, to the vibe.
So that’s me–my wife and I actually had another daughter about six months ago, I live in the valley, I get up here almost every day to do my job and be in the community. I love watching my older daughter Stella grow into a real person here in Alta and kinda figure it all out; my younger daughter Ruby stays in the pack but I can tell she loves it here! I hope I will be able to send them both to the Alta School at Goldminer’s Daughter.
ACVB: So you have a demanding job and a growing family. Do you find time to ski?
Well yeah, I don’t get out nearly as much as I used to. But I probably get out on 90 percent of the good days. If I can get up the canyon, get out the door for enough time to ride Wildcat, then ride Collins and ski Hi Rustler, then ride Wildcat again so I can ski fall line to the Peruvian, I’m stoked. I ski by myself a lot these days, so I can clear my mind before a shift in the bar.
ACVB: What’s your favorite run?
Oh, probably Eagles Nest. Or some of the stuff to the right of it–Garbage Chute is a favorite. It’s a little less crowded, it’s a long way from the lift, and it’s cool terrain but it’s not super exposed .
ACVB: Talk about the bar a little bit. It kind of has to be seen to be understood so…tell me about the look and feel of it, the vibe…
Yeah so, I think this place is kind of the main après-ski destination in Alta. We want locals to feel welcome here and our guests like being in the bar with locals. We have a pretty broad drink menu and we still have some really low prices, which I think sets the tone that this is a place for everyone.
ACVB: Describe the scene in the bar after a big pow day.
Well, I get here at 2:30 most days, although if the skiing is really good I might push it a little later. And I’ll tell ya, on good ski days, sometimes the place will be full fifteen minutes after we open the door. And everyone is psyched! It’s like the vibe at the ski area just moves right inside the bar–people are hugging and hi-fiving, recounting the day, buying drinks for each other…and I love being in here for those days. Even when it’s really busy, me and my crew behind the bar are in the flow.
ACVB: Yeah that’s one of the coolest things about Alta as a destination. All the food and lodging in town is right next to the skiing. It’s right there! You’re barely out of the powder cloud and you’re at the bar, in the dining room, unwinding and getting ready for tomorrow.
For sure. And we are an apres bar, not a late-night bar–our patrons all go skiing the next day.
ACVB: What’s the music program?
Every Wednesday and Sunday we have live music in the bar. Sunday nights are a partnership with Alta Community Enrichment, a local organization that creates events and other programs for the Alta community. And this winter, every other Thursday Tyler Holt is playing. It’s great; sometimes it’s mellow and sometimes it’s a party. But there’s not a lot of regular, live music in Alta so we’re proud to offer it.
ACVB: So I have to say–I am not sure we’ve ever met formally before today but when I do come to the Peruvian and you’re behind the bar you really do convey a welcoming presence: a sense that you’re happy your guests and patrons are in the bar and that they’re part of the family. And like you know everyone who shows up. Is that just you, or is there any special philosophy there?
Well it’s both, definitely. I’ve always been an open, social person. I think I learned it from my mom, who was a beautician. I would hang out with her when she worked with clients, and I saw how she greeted customers and carried on conversation and made them feel welcome in the studio and like she knew them. And while I am pretty good at remembering faces of guests and drink preferences, I make a point of it and I think it makes this place what it is to some extent.
ACVB: Tell me about your ideal Alta day. How would you advise a new Alta skier to go about their day?
Well for me, if I have all day, I like to start with a breakfast burrito at the Goldminer’s Daughter. Then I probably get right on Collins and ride a couple laps until the Keyhole opens, then I ride Wildcat and ski down to Snowbird. I like to do a couple laps there and then come back to Alta via Hi-Baldy. Folks should try all the options in town for lunch; all the lodges have such great lunch menus and of course Alf’s and Watson mid-mountain are both outstanding. Ski until you can’t anymore and then come to the bar!
And I would say…pay attention to the locals. Ride the lift and watch where folks look like they’re skiing smooth. See what they order at the bar. And just soak up the community feel if you can. The business employees in Alta who live in the canyon are one of the really unique factors at this place, and you can learn a lot from them.
Check back in next month for another chapter of our Alta Day in the Life Series.