If you haven’t already heard, 2017 is turning out to be an amazing ski year. From Lake Tahoe to the Rockies, and certainly in the Wasatch of Utah, the snow is falling, and falling, and falling. Guess it was a great season to try out the M.A.X. Pass, which gets families lift tickets to 39 different North American ski resorts for one add-on price, including to Solitude Mountain Resort.
What to expect at Solitude Mountain Resort:
Let’s start with what not to expect: don’t expect crowds, as Solitude really does live up to its name. You also don’t need to expect the usual high lift ticket prices. Even if you opt to buy tickets at the window or online, instead of getting a M.A.X. Pass, Solitude lift tickets are on the reasonable side, comparatively speaking. And I visited during a long holiday weekend.
Instead, at Solitude, you can expect a local vibe, despite the presence of a base village with lodging for out-of-town guests. There’s an emphasis on off-piste (off the run) skiing and even backcountry skiing (out of bounds), which means the mountain ‘skis bigger than it is’. What do I mean by this? At 1200 acres, Solitude is not considered a very large resort, but if you include all the glade skiing, powder bowls, and off-piste options, which exist depending on snow conditions, it’s very large indeed.
The lifts at Solitude are spaced out enough that some traversing will be necessary at times, but the newest chair, Summit, is not only fast but offers incredible views as you ascend. The village is compact, with condo-style lodging, an inn, a few restaurants, gear rentals, and a snow sports shop, and extremely cozy.
How to plan your trip to Solitude:
I love skiing Utah resorts because so many of them are within an easy commute of Salt Lake City and the international airport. Solitude was within 40 minutes of downtown during my commute. From the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon, it’s only 12 miles. Because we were skiing multiple resorts during our Utah ski trip, my son and I stayed at the entrance to the canyon, at Residence Inn by Marriott. It was comfortable, convenient, had an excellent complimentary breakfast, and was only about 25 minutes from the Solitude parking lot. I highly recommend this hotel if you want to stay central to both Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.
If your ski trip will be solely at Solitude and/or Solitude and its neighbor, Brighton, definitely stay in the Solitude Village. You’ll be ski-in, ski-out at Solitude, and only a five minute drive from Brighton. There are busses that connect the two as well (and you can ski between them…more on that in a minute).
Benefits of staying local at the Solitude Village:
There are two base areas at Solitude, at Eagle Springs and the Village. It’s nice that both have parking lots, to spread out day guests, and both have base lodges with ticket sales and food services. You can stay at the Eagle Springs side, but I recommend Powderhorn at the village, because it’s central to more dining options and gives guests access to Club Solitude. The club is located in the base of Powderhorn and offers hot tubs, game rooms, a large media room, exercise equipment, a sauna, and a comfortable living room space. We found it to be a good apres ski location.
In addition to club access and the ambiance of the village, staying in this area puts you within walking distance of St. Bernard’s restaurant, located in the Inn at Solitude. St. Bernard’s is a European-style dinner buffet serving alpine foods ranging from homemade soups, charcuterie, flavorful meats, and amazing desserts. The atmosphere is warm and relaxing; we enjoyed drinks in the seating area outside the dining room before our leisurely meal. St. Bernard’s was a definite highlight of our time at Solitude, and I hear they have a continental breakfast, too.
If you enjoy skiing off-piste, Solitude is heaven. The Summit chair drops you off at the entry to Honeycomb Canyon, named, it turns out, not after Utah’s honey production, but after the many mines that dotted the canyon a century ago. Multiple gated chutes connect with the bowl, giving skiers and snowboarders a very long and powdery run to the base near Eagle chair. There’s also a front face at Summit, plenty of tree skiing, and groomer runs for intermediate level.
Tip: if you’re a beginner, pay attention to notices at the base of each chair. Solitude is very good about placing signage where beginner terrain will be lacking, so you can know before going up.
Additional glade skiing is excellent off the older (and slower moving) Sunrise chair, and lots of nice blue groomers can be found off Moonbeam and Eagle. If you’re willing to hike, even more bowl skiing opens up, and backcountry skiers will be happy too: just look for the signage indicating when you need your own backcountry shovel, avalanche beacon, and probe to continue. (This is a good indication that you may need to hike out of the run, too.)
Overall, look at signage no matter your ski ability, and be ready to ask for advice from locals…there will be plenty of skiers and snowboarders around who are familiar with the mountain. If you have a M.A.X. pass or combined ticket for Solitude and Brighton, know that you can ski between the resorts via the Solbright run. And, er, if you accidentally ski that run and end up at the wrong base area without a combined ticket, the nice lifties will let you return via the lift…once.
Tip: definitely plan to eat your lunch at the Roundhouse mid-mountain between the Moonbeam and Eagle lifts. This circular lodge has a lot of history, and serves just two types of food: Wasatch mountain food (Utah-inspired soups, stews, and burgers), and Himalayan mountain food (wonderful curries and rice dishes). The food is excellent, and we found there was plenty of room…no hunting for a table at lunch.
Solitude lift tickets:
As with all ski vacations, ease the burden on your wallet by planning your lift ticket purchase ahead of time at Solitude. As mentioned, the M.A.X. Pass is the way to go if you have a season pass elsewhere and plan to spend at least a few days here and at Brighton (even better if you can use the pass later in the season at another participating resort). If you only plan to spend a few days, buy multi-day tickets online ahead of time to save money off the approximate $85 adult day pass price. There’s also a Solbright day pass, which gives you access to all of Brighton, too. Personally, I think you’ll be busy enough at just one or the other, but the flexibility is nice.
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Disclosure: We skied Solitude as guests of the resort, for the purpose of reviewing the M.A.X. Pass option. All opinions are my own.