4 different experiences of 4 feet in 4 days


After anticipating it and hearing about it for years, I finally got a taste of powder at the best ski resort in Utah. On Friday, I made my way up the canyon excited for another day at my favorite Utah ski resort. Snow was falling and the weather was perfect. Taking my first warm up run, I couldn’t believe how much different my board felt on the snow with just a little extra powder. Since Salt Lake valley has no snow, I was oblivious to all of the good snow just up the canyon from my house.

 Going down from the Sunrise lift, I turned onto Timberline, a run through the trees that I had never noticed. My board felt like it was floating on a cloud and I realized why everyone always brags about the powder up at Solitude. You don’t have to trek the backcountry or hike fantasy ridge to get some powder. There’s plenty of powder to go around at Solitude.




I should probably win an award for the biggest slacker mom ever! Well, at least when it comes to deep Powder days which otherwise translate into “sick” days for my boys. The first wave of snow started falling last week and after a significant dry spell, it was all but mandatory to pull Noah and Isaac from school. I was completely forthright about the absence…not like they wouldn’t have assumed anyways and off we went, heading up to the newly transformed landscape of our favorite stomping ground.


Favorite runs that have remained closed or have been avoided were now stuffed with white stuff and Noah squealed like a girl when he realized the Powderhorn gates were open and Parachute, Milk Run, Black Forest and Here Be Dragons were all in primo condition. We lapped Summit and hiked Honeycomb in search of untracked fluff until the final school bell rang and our “sick” day came to end. There have been a few more “sick” days over the past week and when I say “sick”, I mean SICK! Solitude is a winter wonderland and the snow is still falling!


It’s early and dark, and my husband’s already downstairs getting ready for another day of avalanche control work. Although I’m exhausted, the creaking and groaning of snow on our roof, collapsing under it’s own weight, has me too excited for the day to sleep another second. I crawl from beneath the covers, fumbling for my ski socks and long underwear from the day before. The groaning of the snow overhead finally pops and I can hear all the snow wooshing off of our metal roof. It shakes the whole cabin as it lands on our porch and I smile in the dark, knowing it will be a good day. 


I say goodbye to my husband and dog as they head off into the snowy and still darkness for work, and then sit down to do the snow report. So many inches to report,  I can hardly talk through my grin. I even throw in a storm total on the phone recording, 36 inches is just too good to not say out loud. I hurry to get ready, pushing past my sore muscles. I’ve been skiing continuous deep powder laps off the lift for 18 hours total since Friday, and my body can feel it. But there are certain rules on a powder cycle beyond “no waiting for friends”: dishes are a chore that can be put off, laundry as well for that matter, and when it snows 4 feet in 4 days, you don’t stop. I lock up the cabin and enter a life-size snow globe, and then click into my skis and  head through the powdery and silent woods for another amazing day at Solitude. 


Teaming up with my friends, we hunt for powder.  First we ski powderoy, carving up the snow that’s settled on the efforts of last night’s groomers. We decide to wait for the powderhorn chair, which is tough seeing everyone ski powder as we stand there, but our patience is rewarded. Our little gang of girls nabs first chair, and the lift line is smooth and creamy, just waiting to be skied. Practically drooling, we unload the chair and charge like we never have before. Three girls flying under the chair, encouraged by hoots and hollers from those still on the chairlift in the air. Our legs are quivering, but gates begin to pop, and we push each other to hit little airs, and tear down the mountain. When our we can no longer turn because our legs are so beat, we retreat to the village. It’s a beautiful area in general, but when everyone is walking around grinning and snow covered, with fat flakes obscuring your view of the clock tower, it almost seems magical. We head into the Thirsty Squirrel, running into friends we’d lost throughout the day. The bar is alive with energy and everyone, most still in ski boots and ski pants, swaps stories upon stories of the most epic storm we’ve all ever experienced over ice cold beers and lots of water.  



I watch the weather for snow, and when I find myself in the parking lot of Solitude I know that I’ve arrived at a destination that offers the best powder skiing in Utah.  For years I have tried to quantify how I have come to that conclusion but ultimately it is about more powder per person. This past storm was a perfect example. 

After a series of storms, Honeycomb sat untouched over the weekend and we knew it was going to be a treat. Like many things in life the immediate gratification of the ecstasy of “freshies” is great, but sometimes waiting has its rewards.  Unlike many of the other Wasatch resorts, powder at Solitude seems to last run after run.  After a couple of warm up runs we head over to the Summit lift as it opens and indulge in the joy that the Headwall Forest offers.  With creativity, insight, and experience I am amazed at how much powder I can have run after run.   As usual we watch for the Summit Gate opening and were right in line when it opens.  Solitude welcomes both skiers and boarders and I choose to do both.  Although, I pitied the adventurous boarders as I found them literally stuck in waist deep in snow on the traverse into the Black Forest. As usual my buddy Steve has to temper my excitement and keep me traversing and side stepping up as we go deeper into the canyon until he “let’s” me take an untouched line of powder that allows me to have a transcendant skiing experience.  It’s simply heaven…. Smiles abound on all the skiers and boarders at the Honeycomb lift as they rise once again to hit the gates leading to paradise over and over again. Ultimately that is the difference of Solitude, the powder continues to last throughout the day and sometimes days on end.

The Game Changer

I remember the days of backwards pizzas, edgie wedgies and hula hoops all too well and trust me, when I say I put my time in on the hill with my two sons Noah and Isaac, I mean I put my time in. There were a few days in between the sweat and tears that I turned them over to ski school so I could break away but more often than not, it was me and them…my two, little, adorable monsters.

For the most part, I have split my time between the two efficiently. Three years apart, Noah had plenty of one on one time with mom and by the time that Isaac was ready to hit the slopes, Noah could easily ski circles around us and cheer his brother on from the sidelines. There came a day however, that Noah needed to step up his game and following his little brother around the groomers and tree trails just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Ski days became all about him or all about Isaac. I just had to work it out.

a compromise on the upper and lower East face traverses of Honeycomb

a compromise on the upper and lower East face traverses of Honeycomb

I remember the day that Noah hiked all the way to the very end of Honeycomb so he could ski an untracked line with me. I remember that day, because there was no whining or complaining, no sitting down for a break. He was just a kid and his skis huffing it out like he owned the place. I knew that my days of slow, controlled skiing were nearly over and I was about to step back into the world that I had left before Noah had joined me on planet earth. There was just one glitch in this otherwise perfect scenario. A little beast named Isaac who was still up and coming.

Noah slaying powder

Noah ripping powder

A few days ago, I found myself on the mountain with just my little BIG guy. Isaac is a solid mass of boy and has closed in on and surpassed his big brother in sheer size and brute. He is strong and his skills on the mountain reflect his strength. As we rode up Summit together, he looked at me and said he was ready to hike. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Although, Isaac is solid on his skis, he is not one to overly exert himself and make things more difficult than need be. I went over all of the not so great things about hiking but he insisted. I made him swear that he wouldn’t complain and he promised. He was determined to see what this hiking thing was all about.


Isaac eyeing the goods of hike-accessed terrain

Isaac eyeing the goods of hike-accessed terrain

We pushed through the gate just below Summit and headed up the north ridge of Honeycomb Canyon. Pretty soon, he stopped from his sidestepping and I figured we were going to be heading down but Isaac just kicked off his skis and lifted them up over his shoulder like he had been doing it for years. I followed him all the way out to one of my secret stashes, a line that he would have never been able to ski had he not worked for it.


Earning his turns

We mined for powder all afternoon on the under skied tree lines of Solitude’s backside. I realized that the game had infinitely changed. My time on the mountain was evolving from mothering to actually shredding and picking lines that I want to ski not just lines that we can ski. The pace is picking up and I rarely find myself needing to ski behind…just in case. The years of torture (kidding) are drawing to a close and the world of big mountain Utah skiing, snow safety classes and avalanche training are just around the bend.  Pretty soon, the boys won’t want to ski with their mother anymore but, I know that I have given them a gift that they will cherish the rest of their ski days….and it’s fine if they blow me off one day soon, this mamma still has plenty of game.


Isaac enjoying his earned turns

Isaac enjoying his earned turns

By: Rachael Hodson