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.

Spring Skiing at Solitude

The best time of the year is here! It’s unfortunate that winter has come and gone  but the Utah ski season always saves the very best for last. Spring is a beautiful thing and we are loving it up.

 

springtime shenanigans

springtime shenanigans

The snows are still piling high in the Wasatch Mountains but the days are longer and warmer. You may get powder in the morning, sugar in the bowls for lunch and slushy bumps in the late afternoon but any way you ski it, it’s going to be ridiculously fun! Who doesn’t love to ski hard all day and then shed the jacket and boots for flip flops and tee shirts?

Powder up top, but flip flops in the parking lot

Powder up top, but flip flops in the parking lot

 

In the last seven days, the Hodson’s have clocked in five of them on the hill, one in church and one on our mountain bikes along with a little math, reading and writing mixed in between. The mittens have been stashed  away along with our fleece and toe warmers and instead of warming up at Moonbeam Lodge with hot cider, we are now cooling off at the Round House with ice cold drinks and cheese burgers (well, in my case, a delicious black bean burger).

the boys soaking up the sun at Sunshine Grill

the boys soaking up the sun at Sunshine Grill

 

This is the time of year when you can ski nine to four and not cry about the cold or the wind. No one wants to go in. Solitude is completely covered and conditions are ripe for exploring off the beaten track or looking for jumps and smushy tree lines that give and give. Whoops and hollers have filled the last few days as we have enjoyed the springtime sunshine and excellent conditions.

 

Spring powder in Honeycomb Canyon

Spring powder in Honeycomb Canyon

Solitude is as quiet as ever, other than the Hodson boys and their friends as they have joyfully played about her epic playground. I apologize for their gaiety as they have sung silly songs on lifts, yelled at each other through tight trees off Queen Bess, goofed off with employees and followed US Forest Rangers around with zillions of questions. I believe the sunshine has released the Krakens.

 

Taking advantage of a tour with the Rangers

Taking advantage of a tour with the Rangers

Only a few weeks left, so don’t miss out on the “funnest” times to be had at Solitude Mountain Resort.  But please, try not to come up next Saturday and eat all our chocolate. CHOCOLATE LOVERS FESTIVAL, March 29th!!!

 

4 different experiences of 4 feet in 4 days

Makenzie:

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.

 

Rachael:

ski4

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!

Heidi:
hinpow

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.  

Mike:

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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.

isaac

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

Groms with Glow Sticks Ring in the New Year

 

Cheese pizza, a snow cat ride with your friends, and skiing back down decorated with glow sticks? What more could a kid ask for to ring in the New Year? Youth from the Wasatch area, local cabin kids, and even a few visitors joined us last night for the annual Children’s Glow Light Parade.

kidsincat

 

What a fun night for the kiddos of our community! They started the evening at our Last chance Southwest Grill, dining on cheese pizza and accessorizing with glow sticks. Soon they were shuffled out to our cat, where they piled in with their buddies for a nighttime ride up the hill. Parents huddled outside the machine with their cameras, peeking into the frosty and glowing windows peppered with the too-cute image of children in goggles and helmets. If you’ve never ridden in a snow cat, it’s about as much fun as a spin on a carnival ride, and these pint-size rippers were probably just as excited for the ride up, as they were the ski down.

loading into the snow cat

loading into the snow cat

As the light of the second group of children reached the top of Main Street, spectators moved out onto the flats at the bottom. The beams of the children’s flashlights illuminated their path and combined into the parade of lights to welcome in 2014. The trail of lights was even accented by some creative Utah skiers who’d fashioned outfits of lights in various colors.

ready to head up the hill

ready to head up the hill

 

The laughter and cheers of children faintly drifted down the hill toward the awaiting crowd, who returned with woots and whistles. Parents, spectators, and baby brothers and sisters alike embraced the glowing group as they reached the bottom of the hill, and although it was dark, I’m pretty sure I saw a few gleaming smiles from the participants.

 

The Glow Light Parade

The Glow Light Parade

Like those that participated last night, we hope you spend your New Year skiing Utah, smiling, and glimmering. Happy New Year from all of us here at Solitude Mountain Resort!

All I want for Christmas is bluebird powder…and some friends to ski with

 

Growing up as a skier, every Christmas was inevitably filled with gifts for the sport. Long underwear, ski socks, and new gloves or goggles were often waiting for me under the tree each Christmas morning. My post-present afternoons were spent trying it all out whether in snow caves, cross country skiing, or even snowboarding on the nearby sledding hills of my small hometown. Luckily, this was the typical routine for many of my friends as well, and we would all join together with our shiny new toys and bellies full of cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, playing till it grew cold as the sun set. Unfortunately, as I grew older, while I still unwrapped long underwear and skied in the afternoon, I spent the last few years skiing alone. If I was lucky, I’d get a lap or two in with my husband, who works on ski patrol and is usually very busy during the holiday season. This year, though, with the newfound connectivity of group text messages (now that we almost all have broken down and switched to smartphones) and possibly a little help from Santa, I spent my Christmas break skiing in a group of Big Cottonwood locals.

 

the BCC girls getting some powder on the West face of Honeycomb canyon

the BCC girls getting some powder on the West face of Honeycomb canyon

What a Christmas eve treat to charge with the ladies all day in re-blown powder! We set the traverse out to upper scree, wallowing in graupel snow that far surpassed the snow stake totals. It was a brute, but we were rewarded with smooth, wide open turns all the way down.

 

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Elise H. opening her present from Santa a day early

Christmas day at Solitude couldn’t have been more perfect either. Bluebird skies and newly opened terrain treated me with some powder turns out in the Highway to Heaven and a few secret spots tucked into the cold corners of the Honeycomb East Face. As I dropped into one of my favorite powder stashes, I made sure to whisper a little “thank you” to Santa before slashing another turn and coasting out onto Woodlawn.

 

All I want for Christmas is a bluebird powder day...

All I want for Christmas is a bluebird powder day…

My last lap on Christmas was down the Powderhorn Cirque, breathing in the cold of December’s early evenings. As I hop turned my way down in the fading light, following the whoops of my friends, I realized that while my Christmas this year still had a few pieces of new long underwear in the mix, the best gift was returning to my roots of playing with my friends till the sun sets.

 

First Tracks Online Powder Day Report

by Marc Guido – First Tracks Online
www.firsttracksonline.com

Day 2: Powder day!

The second part of our one-two punch of a storm arrived around 3 am and was a bit bigger than expected. I’d been tossing around the idea of hitting up lift-served at Solitude or skinning at Alta with mbaydala, Skidog and Bobby Danger. I was partially dissuaded from the Alta option due to widespread reports of the collapsing of the snowpack on Saturday. I also knew that my leg conditioning would benefit more from skiing than from skinning. So, Solitude it was.

Random Skier off Eagle Express

En route, however, I got a call from mbaydala. He’d inadvertently left his skins in the car of a woman who’s in Mexico for 10 days. So, Solitude it was for him, too.

I had to start from the Village today and at 9 a.m. there was virtually no one on the Apex chair.

Click here for full post

LA Times Feature Story/Video on Solitude.

By Christopher Reynolds Los Angeles Times Staff WriterDecember 12, 2010

Reporting from Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah —

At last — a ski area suitable for our readers in the federal witness protection program.

Solitude Mountain Resort lies about 30 miles from downtown Salt Lake City, tucked into the same Wasatch range that harbors such famed ski destinations as Park City, Deer Valley and the Canyons. But Solitude occupies a different canyon and a different category. It makes less fuss and draws fewer people than most of those other resorts. Yet it gets just as much snow, often more. And as I found a few weeks ago, it gives skiers plenty to handle.

To reach Solitude, you fly to Salt Lake City and drive (or get driven) southeast, concluding with a careful cruise up curvy Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. As you near 8,000 feet above sea level, a little lodge will pop up on your right, then a pedestrian-only neo-Bavarian village. You have arrived at the retreat Ski magazine calls “North America’s most aptly named ski resort.”

Read the full article here:

Tanner Hall, Chad Spector & Posse Shred the ‘tude

Excerpt from http://chadspector.com/blog/

“A little bird whispered in my ear last night that Solitude was going to open the Powderhorn and Summit chairs for the 1st time this season.  That meant that there’d be many many feet of snow that was just sitting there waiting for someone to ski it.  Snow that had taunted all the weekend warriors who were forced to look up in frustration as they could not reach the promised land.  I felt I owed it to these poor souls to do my part and ski it for the greater good.  You know, base building and compaction and all that snow sciencey stuff.”

read the entire post & check out photos here: