Solitude Mountain Resort
The best thing about Solitude Mountain Resort (801/534-1400 or 800/748-4754, www.skisolitude.com, $68 adult lift ticket) is reflected in its name—it’s rarely crowded. Even on a snowy Saturday in February, it’s often possible to ski right up to the base area lifts and hop on, with little or no line.
The other thing that makes this ski area distinctive is the European-style village at the base area. The village square is closed to cars—day visitors park in a lot about a five-minute walk away and underground parking lots stow condo guests’ vehicles—and the inn and several condos face the pedestrian area. From all the lodgings, it’s only a short walk to the lifts.
Ski season at Solitude runs from about Thanksgiving until the third week in April, depending on snow.
This area was originally called Solitude by silver miners in the early 1900s. It became a ski area served by two chairlifts in 1957, and in 1989 the Emerald Express became Utah’s first high-speed quad lift. Until the Creekside condominiums opened in 1995, Solitude was entirely a day-use area. Solitude is privately owned by one family; Intrawest was brought in to develop some of the lodgings but has no equity interest in the resort.
Terrain and Lifts
Skiers can choose from a wide variety of runs—there are plenty of nice wide blue cruisers, and, when conditions are favorable, gates open to expert terrain, including Honeycomb Canyon, containing more than 400 acres of ungroomed powder skiing on the back side of the resort. The Honeycomb lift, a fixed quad, makes this challenging, largely natural area relatively accessible.
One of the nice things about Honeycomb Canyon is that, along with all the 50-degree-slope double-black-diamond tree runs, there's one run that's accessible to strong intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Woodlawn, a blue-black run, starts at the top of the Summit lift and goes right down the center of the canyon. There's one short, steep section and a lot of moguls before it reaches the bottom of the Honeycomb lift, but on a clear day with good snow conditions, it's a great challenge for an advancing skier. (In less than perfect conditions, it's terrifying and best left to experts.) Another good, challenging intermediate run is Dynamite, also starting at the top of the Summit lift.
Solitude has upgraded its lifts and there are now three high-speed quads.
Day skiers (as opposed to resort guests) generally head out from the Moonbeam base area, where a quad lift shuttles skiers and boarders up to a network of green and blue runs. A large day lodge at the Moonbeam base has lockers, a café and bar, and a comfortable area where you can sit and wait for your die-hard companions to come off the mountain.
In all, there are more than 1,200 skiable acres, rated 20 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate, and 30 percent advanced. The green and blue runs are mostly clumped together, which makes it difficult for an expert and a novice to ski in the same area and meet up for lift rides together. Although Solitude does permit snowboarding and has a terrain park, most Big Cottonwood boarders head to Brighton.
Adult lift tickets cost $68 (multiday and half-day tickets offer slight discounts, as do various frequent-skier deals). Seniors above age 70 pay $45. Lift tickets for children (7-13) are $42; ages 6 and under ski free.
Solitude also has "per ride" lift ticket packages; a ten-ride pass costs $75 (purchase more and the price per ride goes down) and can be used throughout the season.
Lifts run 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. For more information, check www.skisolitude.com.
Solitude has a ski school, rentals, and a program called Back Tracks, in which ski patrollers take you on a backcountry tour outside area boundaries.
Solitude Nordic Center
Plenty of snow and nicely groomed tracks make Solitude's Nordic Center (Silver Lake Day Lodge, 801/536-5774 or 800/748-4754, ext. 5774, www.skisolitude.com, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily mid-Nov.-mid-Apr., $16 adults, $11 after 12:30 p.m., free for children under 11 and seniors 70 and over) one of the best places in Utah for both traditional cross-country skiers and skate skiers. The 12.4 miles of groomed trails are relatively easy to ski, with level loops for beginners and rolling terrain for more experienced skiers. An additional 6.2 miles of trails are groomed for snowshoers. Don't hesitate to try the gentle, mostly downhill ski from the Nordic Center lodge to the downhill skiing base area at Solitude.
The Nordic Center is in the Silver Lake Day Lodge, about two miles up the road from Solitude's downhill area, almost all the way to Brighton. The shop's staff offers rentals (touring, racing, telemark, and snowshoes), sales, instruction, day tours, and advice on backcountry touring and avalanche hazards. Tickets can be purchased here or at Solitude's downhill ski area. The ski area is 12 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon and only a 28-mile drive southeast of downtown Salt Lake City.
If you're not so fussy about skiing on groomed trails, explore the loop trails at Spruces campground, 9.1 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon. These trails are also popular with snowshoers.
During the summer, the Sunrise lift operates 1-6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends. A single ride costs $6 per person.
Twenty miles of single-track within the resort area, plus easy access to nearby Wasatch National Forest roads and trails, make Solitude a fun place to bike. Bicycles are permitted on the Sunrise lift, which runs on weekends during the summer ($15 for the day, $36 for a two-hour bike rental and two lift rides). Full-suspension mountain bikes are available for rent, as are "mountain scooters," burly, knobby-tired cousins of Razor scooters ($10 per hour, two-hour minimum).
The 18-hole course is free, though you may want to ride the Sunrise lift ($6 per ride) to get to the first hole, which is at 9,000 feet (a pretty good hike up the mountain from the base area).
Most lodgings at Solitude are in the European-style ski village at the base of the slopes and are owned and managed by Solitude Mountain Resort (801/534-1400 or 800/748-4754, www.skisolitude.com). Rates at all of the Solitude-owned lodgings drop by at least half during the summer.
The Inn at Solitude ($269-359) is a few steps away from the base area lifts. As ski resort hotels go, it's rather intimate, with 46 rooms, a fancy restaurant and bar, a spa, and other amenities.
The Village at Solitude Condominiums offers condo units ($260 and up) in three different developments: Creekside is right next to the base area lifts; Powderhorn is only a few steps farther; and Eagle Springs, although a slightly longer walk to the lifts, has easy access to Club Solitude's indoor pool and exercise room. All have fireplaces, full kitchens, TVs and VCRs, and private decks, and come with one, two, or three bedrooms. Just outside the main village area find the Crossings, with three-bedroom townhouses (about $700), and Alpine Creek, offering spacious one-bedroom units for a few dollars less than the in-village places.
About a mile from Solitude, and not part of the resort village, is the Silver Fork Lodge (11332 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon, 801/649-9551 or 888/649-9551, $145-200), which has eight rustic B&B rooms without TV or telephones. The Silver Fork is largely known for its restaurant.
The Inn at Solitude's restaurant, St. Bernard's (801/535-4120, www.skisolitude.com, 7:30-10 a.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tues.-Sun. in winter, $29-36), is the place to go for an elegant (and expensive) dinner. The menu leans toward country French; dinner reservations are recommended.
Kimi's Mountain Bistro (801/536-5787, www.kimismountainsidebistro.me, lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., après ski 3-4:30 p.m., dinner 5-9 p.m. daily, brunch 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat.-Sun., $16-30) is also quite stylish. The food has great Scandinavian influences, but also includes menu items like bison lasagna and beef in an African-inspired curry. Hours may be shorter early in the season and during the summer; call to confirm.
For a quick slice of pizza, an espresso, or good ice cream, stop by the Stone Haus Pizzeria and Creamery (801/536-5767, 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. in winter; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wed.-Sun. in summer, $6-10) right in the village square. During the summer, you'll be able to spot the distinctive grass roof; in the winter it's where cross-country skiers gather for a free shuttle back to the Nordic area.
Cross-country ski or snowshoe (approximately 0.75 mile) to the trailside
Yurt (801/536-5709, 5:30 p.m. Tues.-Sun.) for a five-course dinner ($100). Only 22 people are seated each evening at 5:30 p.m.(5 p.m. on Sun.); reservations are required and it's best to make them well in advance. During the summer, dinner includes four courses ($65) and starts at 6:30 p.m. (Wed.-Sun. July-Sept.).
Outside the main resort complex, the Silver Fork Lodge (11332 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon, 801/649-9551 or 888/649-9551, www.silverforklodge.com, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. in winter; 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. in summer, $15-31) has a friendly and unpretentious Western atmosphere. The restaurant uses a 50-year-old sourdough starter to make its pancakes. For dinner, go high-end with chateaubriand or blue-collar with meatloaf; there's also brisket and ribs done in the smoker.
Getting to Solitude Mountain Resort
From Salt Lake City, take I-80 East to I-215 South. Take I-215 to Exit 6 (6200 South) and follow 6200 South, which becomes Wasatch Boulevard. Follow the signs to Big Cottonwood Canyon; Solitude is 14 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon.
UTA buses and Canyon Transportation shuttles service all resorts up Big Cottonwood Canyon.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition