Solitude’s Training Grounds

Skiing is an interesting sport in that you can never be perfect at it. Once you’ve mastered that stem christie, you start working on parallel turns. Soon, you’re pounding out some moguls, feeling comfortable with on-piste conditions, and eventually start traversing or hiking. I suppose this is why we can do this sport, sometimes day in and day out, year after year, and never get bored. No matter how good you are, there’s always something you can’t do…yet.


This focus on perfection is what keeps me coming out on the hill. I always have the mindset that while the last three turns may have been perfectly laid out with hands positioned correctly, no chicken wing, and hips forward, that first one, or the fifth, or seventh turn may have been a bit off. So I go back up and try again, wanting each turn to be perfect.


Skill development doesn’t stop here.You’re turns may be decent, but working up to different types of terrain is another way to push yourself further. It’s funny to think, that years ago when I first came to Solitude, I was scared to death of Sunshine Bowl. It was so steep, so daunting, so visible. Yet now, after years of perfecting each of those turns, I occasionally get to the bottom and am stoked about that run and how I connected with it. Now, I’ve moved on to more advanced runs, but there are still many times when I am terrified.


Just the other day, after a hike up Fantasy with my husband, which in an of itself has gotten easier over the years (I honestly didn’t think our marriage was going to survive the first time he convinced me to attempt the climb), we arrived at the top of shot 22. The iconic rad line of Fantasy Ridge. If you are looking at the ridge from the top of the Eagle Express lift or the West face of Honeycomb canyon, it’s the most obvious narrow chute straight down the middle of Fantasy. What’s crazier is shot 21, which fellow blogger Mike mentioned is a mandatory 40 footer back into 22. In any case, if you’re cool, you ski 22, or at least that’s the pressure I had put on myself when we arrived at the top.


Let me just stop here, and save some face, by saying, that I have skied 22 before. I usually love the steep walls towering above me, the tight hopturns, and the adrenaline rush that comes with it all. Yet for some reason on this day, the entrance looked more intimidating. I could see down in there, and know that once I descended the first part and made it past a mandatory left turn choke, I would be golden. For some reason, though, I just couldn’t visualize the first few turns. Visualizing, for me is really important, the only reason I’ve been able to surpass my fears in the past even back in the day on Sunshine Bowl, was because I could see myself making those turns in my head. This technique has been a source of confidence, which is really all skiing is about. Unfortunately, regardless of which run you’re attempting, somedays you have it and somedays you don’t. So, with the lack of confidence I needed to drop in, we kept moving with a little bit of discord in my spirit, opting for a day of slackcountry powder instead. As we ripped powder turns down the backside of Fantasy towards the Silver Fork drainage, I promised myself to come back when it was a game-on day for me.


This sounds like just some epically anticlimactic tale, but here’s where the beauty of Solitude comes into play. This Utah ski resort is one giant training ground. If you set your sites on something, you have a cornucopia of choices for areas that mimic the terrain with fewer consequences. Before I got into Ortovox on Evergreen peak, I was making laps through the Dogleg and practicing my hop turns in the Powderhorn Cirque. And before I was skiing the Dogleg, I was working on keeping my turns tight in open mogul fields. This way, I could get to the top of something when capabilities weren’t holding me back, just confidence, and say to myself “it’s just like a chute in headwall, but with rocks instead of trees” or whatever was needed to get in and ski a line with confidence. So now, I’ll be working on my Evergreen peak and Cathedral chutes and other lines off fantasy with less exposure, so I can go back and slay 22 when it and I are ready. I hope to see you all out there on Solitude’s training grounds, pushing yourself further too.