A skier’s best friend

If it’s true that a dog is a man’s best friend, then wouldn’t it make sense to assume that an avalanche rescue dog is a skier’s best friend? I think so! Especially considering that these specially trained dogs bring such a valuable skill and service to the table. And what would that be you ask? They find people. And not just any people. They find people who have been buried underneath feet of snow. Let’s see a human do that with just his nose!

And just like any other member of the Solitude Mountain Resort Ski Patrol team, when an avalanche rescue dog goes down with an injury, it’s a big deal. Because as Scott Rogers, owner of Subi, a Solitude avalanche rescue dog said, “She’s not considered a pet. She’s considered a valuable, contributing member of the Ski Patrol team.”

Subi, a 5-year old Australian Shepphard, suffered significant tears to both her anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) during a training exercise at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort last February. After undergoing bi-lateral ACL surgery at the Cottonwood Animal Hospital, Subi’s recovery was estimated at six months. But like the champion she is, Subi was working her way back into the rotation, featuring 100% mobility and flexibility in just three months! Now that’s toughness!

For those of you who don’t know, avalanche rescue dogs are bred and trained specifically for rescue. They know how to find people, and they do it fast! Avalanche rescue dogs do this by finding where the human scent is rising out of the snow and indicating that location to the other members of the Ski Patrol team. In fact, depending on the wind conditions and the strength of the scent, avalanche rescue dogs can sometimes find avalanche victims faster than Ski Patrollers using beacons! How’s that for efficient!

Subi is now back, working full-time with Ski Patrol in their efforts to make the slopes of Solitude Mountain Resort the safest slopes around.

Time to try something new

I had an epiphany the other day.  Do you want to know what it was?  Of course you don’t!  My epiphany, however simple it may be, is that I’m going to try something new . . . every day . . . or at least as often as I can.  What classifies as something new? Basically, anything involving snow that I have yet to master.  Needless to say, this leaves me with quite a few options:

Classic/Skate Nordic Skiing:  With the Solitude Nordic Center accessible from the Village, I’d be crazy not to include classic and skate style Nordic skiing, even if it does require more work than I’m accustomed to.  Nordic skiing may seem like it requires little to no athletic ability, but believe me, it does.  Unfortunately, it also requires copious amounts of stamina – which I lack.  Luckily, nothing will get in the way of me trying out both skate and classic styles . . . except for a powder day: all bets are off on a powder day.  And as an added bonus, Aram, the Nordic Center manager, competed in all of the Nordic events at the 2002 Olympics for his home country of Armenia.  Talk about learning from the best!

Telemark skiing: I have always been envious of Telemark skiers.  They look so cool!  I’m not kidding when I say that I think Telemark skiers, when they know what they’re doing, are the coolest looking people on the mountain.  Yet for some reason I’ve never made the leap to Telemark skiing.  Maybe it’s the constant bending and crouching.  I honestly don’t know if my chicken legs can handle it!  Or maybe it’s the requisite beard that is sported by all free healers.  Mine just doesn’t fit the bill.  Nonetheless, Telemark skiing will be first on my list.

Snowboarding:    Two things worry me about snowboarding.  One, will I fit into the brightly colored snowboarding culture?  Probably not, I’ll most likely stand out like sore thumb with my normal colored outfit.  Two, am I goofy or regular? And what does that even mean?  Most likely I’ll be so bad that it won’t even matter!

That’s my plan of attack. Are you thinking something similar? Don’t let lack of experience or gear get you down. Solitude Mountain Resort offers top-of-the-line rentals and lessons.

Utah makes a guest appearance in…Utah?

With the return of the snow. Wait, strike that. With the return of redonkulous dumpage only found in the Wasatch, Utah started looking alot like, Utah again.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video that is 43 seconds long, at 30 frames per second, would be made up of 1,290 pictures. The word equivalent would be 12,900 words. This day in age, with most conversations taking place within the 140 character confines of twitter, no one will read my 12,900 words. Even if Tolkein penned the elation of a powder run on Honeycomb, I still doubt you will feel even a single percent in comparison to what this vid will conjure.
Without further adieu:

Avalanche unaware . . .

If you’ve read my biography on the Meet The Crew you know that I’m the rookie. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because all the old timers (I won’t name names) feel it necessary to show me the secret stashes, sweetest runs and the best apres ski watering holes. It’s bad because I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting myself into or the assumed risk that you take every time you click into your skis and head beyond resort boundaries.

Call me naive, but I’ve never worried about avalanches. Part of this may be due to growing up skiing in eastern Washington, which isn’t exactly a hotbed of avalanche activity. But I honestly think it’s because I was completely unaware of avalanches in general . . . until I moved to Utah.

People in Utah are serious about their avalanche safety. This fact is perfectly demonstrated by how quickly I got signed up for Back Tracks Avalanche Awareness Course. The conversation with my boss went something like this:

Boss – “Rookie, have you ever taken an avalanche course?”

Me – “Nope, do I need to?”

Boss – “Yes. And consider yourself signed up for the Avalanche Awareness Course tomorrow.”

And with that I was on my way to the Avalanche Awareness Course, not knowing what to expect and wondering how much there really is to learn about avalanches. Man, was I surprised. At no other time in my life have I gleaned more valuable information in a two-day span. Put on by Back Tracks, and taught by members of Solitude’s Professional Ski Patrol, the Avalanche Awareness Course was a great introduction to the identification of avalanche hazards and how to travel responsibly and safely outside resort boundaries.

Here are some of the more important and interesting factoids I took away from the course. Note: These may or may not be obvious to you, but I’m a rookie.

  • 75% of avalanche victims are experienced backcountry recreationists.
  • Most avalanches occur on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees.
  • Cross avalanche terrain one at a time, not in groups.
  • Snow pits and shear tests are the most reliable ways to analyze the safeness of the snowpack
  • An avalanche is broken down into three parts: starting zone, track and run out zone
  • There is more than one type of avalanche

Needless to say, I’m not naïve when it comes to avalanches anymore. And if I were to give one piece of advice to anyone thinking of venturing into the backcountry it would be to take the Avalanche Awareness Course.

Back Track’s

You may not know it, but I’m a pretty big deal

So, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that The ‘Tude has added three new lifts in two years.  Sure, those other lifts are cool:  Apex gives you sweet access from the Village at Solitude, and Moonbeam has a sweet name, which makes me wonder, what is a moonbeam anyways?  Does the moon shoot beams?  I digress.

Now, I’m not trying to be brash, but those lifts don’t hold a candle to me.  Oh, sorry, where did my manners go?  Please allow myself to introduce . . . myself (cue music).  I’m Powderhorn II, or PH II or the new PH.  Really, you can call me anything you want, the name isn’t important.  The important thing to remember is that I’m going to change the way you visit Solitude.  Again, I’m not being smug, I’m just being confident.  Believe me, there’s a difference.

I’m a pretty big deal for a couple of reasons.  First, I’m a quad.  A fixed grip quad if you must know.  No more of this two-at-a-time, trying to figure out who rides with who stuff.  I’m all about getting you, plus your family and friends, up the hill.  Secondly, I start mid-mountain.  No more long and reflective rides, as nostalgic as they will remain.  This means two things:  Shorter laps for experienced skiers on the upper-mountain and lower Honeycomb Canyon (more of the good stuff!), and even less traffic on the intermediate and beginner runs of the lower-mountain.  Really, I’m a win-win kind of lift. Your welcome.

For the skeptics . . . well, I can’t change your mind.  True, different areas on the mountain will get skied more than they did in the past.  But remember, this is Solitude, there’s never a shortage of sweet stashes to blow through!  You just need to know where to look! And when you find those stashes of the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” and believe me you will, just remember who got your butt up there (Hint:  Me!).

But seriously, there’s no need to thank me.  The powder yelps and smiles will be thanks enough.

See you out there,


Fresh snow and sun – Another blue bird day at Solitude!

There are few things in life that go better together than fresh snow and sun.  Luckily, I live in Salt Lake City where I get to experience this combination more often than not.  For those of you who don’t live in Salt Lake City, I apologize.

blue bird day!

Today up at Solitude was a prime example of this combination at its finest!  Overnight, eight inches of fresh pow blanketed Solitude’s slopes and by mid-morning the sun was out creating perfect early season conditions.  Needless to say I hit the slopes like it was my job!

Three lifts (Apex, Link, Moonbeam) were up and spinning, giving me access to three different runs.  And yes, I skied them all!  With the groomers out last night and this morning, the runs were in pristine condition making for some great turns.  And for those of you wondering, there were powder stashes to be found on the edges of the runs.  I would say they were early season teasers of the great pow days to come.

Insider tip:  Eagle Express opens tomorrow!  You know what that means right?  Time to hit Sunshine Bowl!

Powderhorn II Ready for Operation

With the final bolts tightened, tests passed and chairs hung, Utah’s largest on-mountain improvement for the upcoming season is ready for action – Powderhorn II.

Powderhorn II starts near the bottom of Sunshine Bowl, travels above a widened Concord ski run, and ends in the same location as the original Powderhorn Lift. Some terrain improvements at the top terminal allow Diamond Lane to start right at the top terminal – no more crossing the road to get to the other side. Skiers left – towards Eagle Ridge – has been graded eliminating the off-camber double fall line mogul field to access gentler terrain. Guests will no doubt enjoy a smoother ad quicker transition from riding the lift to making turns.

PH II Bottom Terminal as viewed from Moonbeam Express. Photo: Marc Guido

PH II Bottom Terminal as viewed from Moonbeam Express. Photo: Marc Guido

The move to a mid-mountain starting point allows expert snowriders to make continuous laps on the upper mountain – from Diamond Lane to Sunshine Bowl – without the need to return to the base area via beginner runs. A speedy 7 minute lift ride on the new lift, as opposed to 12 on the old double, saves 5 minutes per run on some of the state’s steepest groomed terrain. Plus, the off-piste terrain in Honeycomb Canyon will still be conveniently accessed from the top of this lift.

Beginner and intermediate visitors will appreciate the new lift, as well, even though they may not ride it until their skills improve, as advanced and expert visitors will remain higher on the mountain, easing traffic in prime learning areas lower on the mountain. Crafting this natural segregation put visitors of like abilities in terrain conducive to their ability, creating an improved experience for all.

Solitude Ranks High In Ski Magazine Reader’s Poll

Far and away, the most legitimate resort awards program is by Ski Magazine. Being that actual skiers – the readers of the magazine – not editors swayed by advertising revenue and popularity contests, are rating the resorts they frequent, Solitude is proud of the amazing rankings we received.

OVERALL – #26. Just being ranked is compliment – nevermind scratching close to the top 25.  Thank you readers!

In individual categories, Solitude really shined in areas we expect to (weather, snow, etc.) as well as in areas we strive to excel, such as providing a wide variety of groomed terrain.

#1 Weather

#4 Snow

#10 Grooming

#6 Value

#8 Access

More news from 9800′

The chopper visited us again and flew in all the towers – believe it or not in about 3 hours they had every tower in place. Talk about efficiency – these guys should run the Senate or something. The next phase of this project will be to put thetop and bottom lift terminals in place, then stringing cable, hanging chairs, etc. With the first day of autumn in the books, Powderhorn II is right on schedule.

Notice that Concord is a much wider run now. We plan on grooming this for your gravitational enjoyment this coming winter.

Notice that Concord is a much wider run now. We plan on grooming this for your gravitational enjoyment this coming winter.

In addition to putting in the lift, Solitude’s Mountain Staff has been hard at work with bulldozers and graders to create a smooth transition from lift to skiing.  It is amazing what these guys can do with equipment weighing several tons – nimbly moving dirt into all the right places.  Skiers left down Eagle ridge used to be a double fall-line bump run, which got old after the first few laps towards Paradise and Vertigo. Your other option was to make a hairpin switchback on a cat-track to access the ridge runs or Diamond Lane. Not exactly what most skiers had in mind looking for a nice steep groomer.  Now, the aformentioned bump entrance to the ridge has been graded, eliminating the double fall line, while also allowing visitors a nice little ramp up into Honeycomb Canyon.  Diamond Lane will now start right at the top terminal – no more crossing the road to get to the other side.  Picture’s really are worth a thousand words, so imagine these with snow on them and hopefully you’ll be as excited as we are.

Honeycomb gate on left, and easy access to Eagle Ridge / Paradise / Vertigo / etc. on the right.

Honeycomb gate on left, and easy access to Eagle Ridge / Paradise / Vertigo / etc. on the right.

A bit of a better view looking down the ridge. The top terminal puts you right on the run!