I had just about packed up my ski boots for the year when the folks in Utah invited me out for a final hoorah this week.
I grabbed my gear out of the closet, loaded up my rolling duffle bag, and set my sights on Solitude, located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just 45 minutes from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Luck worked in my favor. A storm dumped a total of 26 inches on the resort two days before my arrival, setting things up nicely. I spent Wednesday exploring the mountain under bluebird skies; today a new storm blew in and it snowed non-stop.
Without further ado, here are the highlights of my trip:
- The direct non-stop flight from Austin on Delta. I left Austin at 12:15 p.m., caught a shuttle and was at my condo in Solitude, in Big Cottonwood Canyon, at 3:15 p.m. Dare I say it? It was easier to get here from Austin than some of the resorts I usually ski in Colorado.
- Ski Butlers, a ski delivery service, showed up at my door 15 minutes after I did, with a couple of pairs of skis suited to my ability level. I picked a pair of nimble Rossignol Black Ops Escaper skis, which were great for tight turns in the trees and moguls.
- The focus on skiing. There’s a village here in Solitude, true, but there’s not much to it other than a few condo buildings, a hotel, a couple of restaurants, a tiny convenience store and a bar. People come to Solitude for the solitude – and the skiing.
- I quickly discovered my favorite part of the mountain, Honeycomb Canyon. It’s expert-only terrain, with lots of hike-to cliffs and chutes off of Fantasy Ridge so gnarly I stood back and watched through my telephoto camera lens. Then I hiked a much shorter distance to some great expert runs without the cliffs. My favorite? Black Forest.
- No crowds! They call it Solitude for a reason. Not once did I wait in a lift line, not even at 9 a.m., when the lifts started whirring.
- A mid-day ski break for hot waffles at Little Dollie Waffles at Moonbeam basin area. This take-out window serves up small, thick, made-to-order waffles while they’re hot. I got mine churro style (sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar) and with a side of strawberry sauce. Yum.
- Skiing with Will Price, a retired teacher and ice dancer who wears a personalized helmet with orange flames on it, who will turn 90 on Sunday. He skis Solitude five days a week, and I got an introduction. We skied for an hour, and let’s just say I had to chase him down the mountain.
- I’m normally not into massages that much, but after two hard days of skiing, 60 minutes of pampering at Solitude Mountain Spa brought my leg muscles back to life.
- Dinner (red wine, roast chicken, chopped salad and honey lavender panna cotta for dessert) was delivered to my condo room personally by chef Tara Gerome, assistant food and beverage director for Solitude.
- My slopeside accommodations at Powderhorn Lodge are terrific. I’ve got a fireplace, a kitchen, a giant king-sized bed (with 11 pillows!) and what I call a “secondary sleeping nook” with two elevated bunks and a sofa underneath. (I love sleeping in cozy spaces, and confess I spent one night up there.) And it’s all within a few hundred yards of the Apex lift.
- I’m tossing in a bonus here. My flight leaves Salt Lake City at 1:55 p.m. tomorrow, which means I can get up and ski for two hours before I have to load my stuff into a shuttle and head to the airport. Maximizing my time at the mountain!