“You git what you git and you don’t throw a fit.” You’ve heard this, right? In our family this bit of wisdom came from preschool — the kids chanted it during snack time — and it was used to preempt any complaining or whining.
When we were in Utah last week everyone I talked to told me that the snow wouldn’t be worth skiing, not only at Solitude, but anywhere. Still, I figure any ski day in Utah is better than a lot of ski days somewhere else. And so, my two sons and I adopted the preschool attitude, taking whatever we could “git” and being happy with it.
Shhh…..The Mountain Is Sleeping
As we pulled into the parking lot at Solitude last Thursday, the first thing we noticed was an extreme air of actual solitude (if not silence). The village was sleepy, so we drove back down to the Moonbeam parking lot, where there were some lonely guys parking the rare car. We arrived around 9:00 a.m. and had front-row parking. Once we got booted, we went into the cafeteria in the Moonbeam Lodge. Empty. Silent. Still, they were serving hot food and we got some tasty protein on board. It was time to ski.
What We Got Was Pretty Good
And this is the funny part. While all of the Salt Lake Valley has apparently decided that skiing isn’t worth it when the powder is not fresh, we Coloradans thought the snow was pretty alright — good, actually, for early season. Apparently, it’s a matter of perspective. In short, we had a blast. Here’s why:
1. Diverse Terrain. Despite the low snow, Solitude had a good selection of terrain open. No, Honeycomb Canyon and the black terrain off of Powderhorn II weren’t open, and probably won’t be for a while. But there was some ungroomed crud to bust though off of the Eagle Express and some nifty-fun moguls on the edges of Sunshine Bowl. Dropping down lower, the snow got a bit more thin, but we still had our choice of ungroomed blue and black runs heading down to the Eagle Express lift. Sure, we were giving the willow tops a haircut each run we made, but there weren’t many that rocks peaking through and the conditions were relatively soft, considering the 3 weeks or so without significant snowfall.
2. Great Grooming. Solitude has some rippin’ groomers, especially the wall coming down into Sunshine Bowl. We had a good choice of immaculately groomed corduroy leading back to the three base lifts (Apex Express, Moonbeam Express and Eagle Express). And surprisingly, even as it got skied off, the snow stayed pretty soft, with very few bulletproof patches.
Of course, I may not have minded the icy bits because of the ski I was on. I was demoing the new Volkl Aura ski from Ski ‘N See and Utahskis.com in Salt Lake City. I tried the Aura last year, before Volkl added tip and tail rocker. Since this women’s ski isn’t fully-rockered, the Aura still bites into turns like none other. The Aura makes me feel 100% confident ripping hardpack, but was smooth as silk in the crud. It’s a great, if a bit heavy, all-mountain ski.
Our groomer of the day? Get off to the right on Eagle Express, ski down the wall, past the Sunshine Grill and on to the village base. From there go back up the Apex Express chair and connect back over to Eagle Express. Repeat or break off into the crud.
3. No crowds. In fact, almost no skiers. While I know that the extremely low number of skiers we saw isn’t normal for Solitude, our general experience is that this is a mountain where you can find yourself a little space and some actual solitude.
When You Go….
My husband and I first skied Solitude in the 1990s, when there was no base village. There wasn’t much of anything except snow that just kept falling. Without the bustle of a town or village, the peace was profound. We skied through the storm, isolated in the bubble of our own goggles, while the forest filled with powder. We liked it so much, we swore we’d come back every year. And then 15 years passed.
Skiing and Skating in The Village At Solitude
In March 2010, we came back with our two sons and spent 3 days skiing and staying in the base Village. We rented a condo in the Powderhorn Building, adjacent to the ice skating rink. I’m not sure which was more appealing to our kids — the nearly ski-in/ski-out accommodations or the nearly skate-in/skate-out pond. Each day after skiing, they’d throw on their skates and go hard for another hour. It was really fun.
When Solitude has a lot of snow and the entire mountain is open, there is some “don’t miss” expert terrain through the gates into Honeycomb Canyon. Glades, steep pitches and some wide-open chutes offer something for everyone who dares. A big bonus: The Honeycomb Return chairlift provides access back to Eagle Ridge. No hiking.
Other challenging terrain can be found skiers’ right off of the Powderhorn II lift. Although I personally don’t like this area as well as Honeycomb (I don’t think it holds the snow as well), my kids beg to differ. The Summit chair takes you to the top of the mountain at 10,035 feet and has intermediate runs back down. This chair also provides access to the Headwall Forest which lets skiers and riders experience Solitude’s glades in a bit more mellow setting. Hey, it’s all good…whatever you “git.”
Finally, if you are looking to demo or rent skis, I’ve had incredibly good experiences working with Ski ‘N See in Salt Lake. For more information on their new fleet of Volkl rentals and their wide selection of demos, please visit their website. You can also rent and demo skis at Solitude in the Village or the Moonbeam Lodge.
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