The pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1847. There is no evidence of Native American settlements in Big Cottonwood Canyon outside of an occasional hunting foray. It appears that the closest Native American settlement was on the shores of Utah Lake some 30 miles away.The first activity in Big Cottonwood Canyon was timber harvesting for the construction of homes. However, the biggest impact on the canyon was not the mining or the logging, but rather the loss of the beaver population. With the activity of the beavers, the stream meandered, with bogs, meadows, and deadfall, making the stream stable and resilient. There were pools, marshes and eddies among the logs and sod. There were also heavier and deeper forests in the place of the gully we see today. At the time, beaver hats in London were very popular, causing the elimination of the beaver population, which, in turn, had a huge impact on the structure of the canyon.
The peak of mining activity in the canyon was during the 1870s and 1880s. The first production of ore was in Honeycomb and Silver Fork Canyons. At that time, the mining district was called the Mountain Lake District because of Silver Lake and Twin Lakes, which is now a reservoir. The first mine, Evening Star, was located by Silas Bryan in 1863. By 1875 there were literally hundreds of mines at or within a stone's throw of Solitude, with romantic names like Argenta, Davenport, Antelope, Teresa, Wondering Boy, Prince of Wales, Highland Chief, Woodlawn, and Copperking. There was enough timber cut in Big Cottonwood for use underground in the mines to build over 40,000 three-bedroom homes. Today, only a few rare spots remain where ancient trees are still alive and standing. Virtually every tree in and around Solitude is a second growth, many planted by Solitude. After the 1880s, mining production declined steadily until the Great Depression. The last active mine at Solitude was the Kentucky Utah Mine which ceased operations around 1950. The mine tailings from this mine were used to create the two parking lots at Solitude. From the Kentucky Utah mine, people could travel underground through it to the Solitude Mine and all the way to Alta. The Silver Fork community now gets its water from that mine. Solitude gets its water from the Alta drain tunnel located in Silver Fork Canyon.
In the early 1900s, tenacious silver miners gave the name Solitude to the geographic area now dominated by Solitude Mountain Resort. The ski area opened in the fall of 1957 with two chair lifts providing access to most of the area now skied on the front of the mountain.
The development of Solitude as a ski area is a rich anecdote. Robert M. Barrett made his fortune as a Moab uranium miner during the early 1950s, moved to Salt Lake City and took up skiing. While pursuing his passion at Alta, he was denied restroom access. The ski area used sewage tanks and was responsible for transporting waste down the canyon. Restrooms were reserved for guests so he declared he would open his own ski area. Barrett bought every piece of land available in the canyon adjacent to Alta and started construction in 1956.
The DeSeelhorst family, owners of the resort, became involved in the late 1970s. They spent eight years master-planning a new village. This village was to embody the essence of the incredibly beautiful mountains in Big Cottonwood Canyon and to create a sensitive, intimate and small European Alpine resort. Solitude received their approvals to build in 1989. In 1982, Solitude added the Summit lift, opening Honeycomb Canyon to lift-served backcountry skiing, and in 1989 installed Utah's first high speed detachable quad chair lift, the Eagle Express. The resort opened Creekside at Solitude in 1995, the first of our six overnight accommodations. The Inn at Solitude was completed in 1996, at the now 44-year-old ski area. Intrawest Corporation was invited to build condominiums, under the master plan, in 1998. Intrawest has no equity interest in Solitude nor any role in the management of the resort. The Powderhorn Lodge was the first building completed by Intrawest in 2000 with Eagle Springs following in 2001.
This intimate village, developed over the years at Solitude, was designed to keep the serene mountain ambiance that surrounds the resort. With quaint shops, exquisite dining, comfortable lodging amidst first-class service and amenities, there really is no place like Solitude. As the only development allowed in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude's Village is even that much more unique. Solitude, the word, says it all, the logo, our American Eagle cries of Freedom.