FINDING SOLITUDE
by Paul Maraschiello

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I was looking forward to doing some deep powder skiing and headed up to Solitude, just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City and about the same from Park City, where I was staying. Solitude is located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The high elevation (10,035 ft.) guarantees lots of snow. They usually get over 500 inches of snowfall annually and it is that blow-away powder that Utah is famous for.



I was impressed as I climbed the access road and marveled at the mountain as I drove up to the ski area. When I arrived, I parked my car and checked out the village that had recently completed. The hotel, condos, restaurants and other facilities looked new and well planned.



The boys in the rental shop located in the watchtower building took good care of me. The snow on the day I arrived was groomed hardpack on a deep base, so the rental staff fixed me up with a pair of Nordica W80 skis with lifter plates that did all I asked of them on the hard-packed surface. This ski and snowboard rental shop didn't look like a normal rental shop. Their inventory was smaller than usual and consisted of a half dozen different brands and multiple models. The shop looked more like a demo shop that specialized in top of the line products from the best companies. I was really happy with their choice of skis. I was into high-speed cruising and these grey skis with no-nonsense graphics were just the ticket for the groomed hardpack I found. When the powder came, they exchanged these skis for a pair of fat Atomic REX powder skis that were ideal for the powder that I found on my last day at this wonderful resort.



Solitude is one of the lesser-known high country ski areas in Utah. It is a well-kept secret that resulted in no lift lines, uncrowded trails and a feeling that you were at your own private ski resort.



An adult lift ticket is only $45 at Solitude. I was provided with their innovative 30-ride ticket that allowed for three days of skiing at a cost of only $135. No matter how many runs you take with this unique ticketing system, the system only deducts a maximum of 10 rides per day from the ticket. I know I beat the system because I made over 20 runs the 1st day and must have clocked around 50 runs in the three days I was there. They have other innovative prices as well for their season passes that cost $933 for an every day pass. If you don't ski every day, you can purchase a custom season pass and build your own season pass pricing structure by purchasing a pass for just the days you ski. By doing that, you will receive a substantial savings. If you only ski a couple of days mid-week your season pass could cost as little as $248.



THE MOUNTAIN
There are 1200 skiable acres serviced by 8 lifts with a 2,047 ft. vertical at Solitude. There are 64 trails and three bowls. Honeycomb Trail is the longest trail at 3.5 miles. These stats are a little misleading because there are a lot more ways down the mountain side than the marked trails. There is plenty of back country skiing and you can even ski to the neighboring ski area, Brighton.





As I had never been there before, I walked to the nearest chair (Apex) and took a warm-up run down Stagecoach, a nice intermediate run. After that, I hopped on the Sunrise Chair and began to explore the mountain. I skied over to the Summit Chair and rode to the top. I went down trails like Dynamite, Liberty , Mine and Broadway before continuing my exploration of this 1st class resort. When I got to the bottom, I went over to the Powder Horn Chair and found a wide steep black diamond run called Diamond Lane that beckoned to me. It was a high-speed cruiser that forced me to put the pedal to the metal and turn on some speed. The Nordicas I was on responded beautifully and I was looking pretty good coming down the steep slope. I skied black diamond trails like Paradise and Vertigo and then headed in for lunch.



After chowing down on a tasty turkey roll-up at the Sunrise Grill, I met up with Dave Morrissey from the PR department and he gave me a thorough tour of the resort. He was a free-heeler who proved to be knowledgeable and pretty damn good on his telemark skis. We spent the entire afternoon going up and down and up and down as fast as we could. He pointed out the tracks of back country skiers marking the trails you can only get to in Honeycomb Canyon by climbing. We skied a lot of cruisers and stayed out of the bumps and trees. We skied Eagle Ridge to Challenger which was a steep slope that led to the Eagle Express, a high-speed quad.



After a while, all the trails we skied began to run together in my mind in a kind of a blur. Keeping up with this young man was a lot of fun. He knew the mountain and showed me a lot of things that I might not have found on my own. By the end of the day, I was a little tired but it was that good tired feeling that comes from a great day of skiing on a demanding hill.





CARRIAGE HOUSE CONDO
I headed back down the mountain to my condo in Park City. I hade been fixed up with a studio in the Carriage House Condominiums. The room included a queen bed, sofa
sleeper, full kitchen, living and dining area, and a fireplace. It was quite comfortable. If you want a reasonablely priced place to stay ($89 and up) where you can do your own cooking, call (888) 754-3279. They manage a number of properties in the Park City area and will take good care of you. Tell them the Ski Bum News sent you.



MORE SKIING
After the guided tour, I felt that I knew the mountain well enough to explore those trails I had seen when I was skiing with Dave but did not try. I found myself doing the Black Forest in Honeycomb Canyon. The bumps were challenging but the snow was so good, I was forced to do it twice. The entire day was spend doing a lot of high-speed cruising and a few black diamond bump runs that included Roller Coaster under the Sunrise Chair. Those bumps looked so good from the chair that I just had to show off a little.



I worked up an appetite and decided to treat myself to a sit-down lunch. I met a few friendly folks while waiting for a table who invited me to join them. One of the men was originally from Buffalo, my old home town. I was a real pleasure to dine with these friendly people. I was going to be good and ordered a salad but they forced me to eat a few pieces of pizza that were cooked in a wood-fired oven that were delicious.



It started to snow as the day progressed, promising an excellent day of powder skiing the next day and I was not disappointed.



POWDER
I arrived early the next morning to sample the powder. The boys in the rental shop fixed me up with a pair of Atomic REX powder skis and I was able to really have a great time in the champaign powder. I did steeps and bumps, including a foray into Buckeye Junior to ski the bumps when they were soft. I was pleased that I had not forgotten how to ski deep powder and I was delighted at the performance of the Atomics I was on. I was forced to do Roller Coaster a couple more times in the softer snow and also hit Timber Line. I did runs down Vertigo and Rhapsody and found some moguls that had built up on Serenity/FIS that were fun.



Solitude turned out to be a really great mountain. With 30% expert terrain, 50% intermediate and 20% beginner trails, this ski area offers everything a guy like me could want, especially when you are luck enough to make fresh tracks like I did on a powder day. This well-kept little secret is a really fabulous resort that can entertain skiers of every ability. There are loads of trails for the experts, slopes to challenge the intermediate and increase their skill and plenty of broad easy slopes for the beginner. Wether you book accommodations in the newly-built village or commute from town as I did, you and all your friends and family will have a really great skiing experience at this high-mountain resort. Solitude was a real delight to visit and I know I will be skiing there again. This is a friendly resort that bills itself as a family mountain. For an uncrowded big mountain experience I can highly recommend Solitude, it has everything you could want with the added advantage of no crowds and reasonable prices.

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