Solitude is the best value in American skiing. With 500” of snowfall, 300+ days of sunshine, world-class tree skiing, first-rate grooming and fantastic lodging options set in a charming alpine village only 35 minutes from Salt Lake City, it’s hard to believe the resort lives up to its moniker. However, “solitude” is exactly what you’ll find at this spectacularly uncrowded Utah resort.
A few miles up Big Cottonwood Canyons sits America’s most underrated ski resort. It’s hard to believe places as unspoiled, relaxing and downright snowy as Solitude exist. It’s harder still to believe that more people haven’t found it. Just one canyon over from Alta and Snowbird and sandwiched between Brighton, Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and the Canyons, Solitude is a classic case of being hidden in plain sight. There’s simply no other way to explain it because at only 35 minutes from Salt Lake City, Solitude is also one of the most accessible resorts in the country.
As alluded to above, Solitude is a fitting name for the resort as it seems to repel the big crowds that plague places like Park City, the the Canyons, and the Little Cottonwood Canyon resorts of Alta and Snowbird . A long lift line would be any lift line at all because the resort’s modern lift network easily handles skier volume even on “busy” days. The result is that when those 500 inches of dry Utah powder blanket Solitude’s slopes, untracked lines remain for days after being tracked out at Alta or Snowbird.
One obvious reasons the masses flock elsewhere is that some skiers look at Solitude’s 2037’vertical drop and 1200 acres of terrain and think “smallish.” We prefer to view Solitude as intimate. The resort is small enough to learn in a day, but big enough to ski for a week without getting bored – particularly if one takes advantage of the joint lift ticket option with adjoining Brighton resort. Solitude grooms a larger portion of its terrain that all of its competitors, save Deer Valley, making Solitude a great choice for families, beginners and intermediates.
The village that sits at the bottom of the resort’s Apex chair is small, but of a scale that fits the resort. Anything bigger would seem out of place. A handful of restaurants provide enough options to keep most skiers content for the length of their stay. The condo and hotel options are all superior 3- or low 4-star in quality and fit harmoniously into the pristine Wasatch setting. All of Solitude’s accommodations are priced significantly lower than their counterparts at the surrounding big name Utah resorts.
Price brings us back to our initial assertion, that Solitude, in addition to being the best kept secret in American skiing, is also its best value. With deep snow, plenty of sunshine easy access from a major international airport, and a cozy village, Solitude should be expensive. It’s not. Solitude is big mountain skiing at a small mountain price.
When applied to a ski resort, the term “value” can sometimes connote a tired resort of lesser quality, but nothing could be further from the case at Solitude (if anything, Solitude feels like an on snow country club).
Solitude Pros and Cons
+ 500″ of light, dry powder annually
+ world class grooming
+ upscale lodging at value prices
– limited beginner terrain
– limited overall acreage
– non-existant nightlife
Solitude is a victim of the stern competition it faces from the powderchaser resorts of Alta and Snowbird and the more lively resorts around Park City. Into the space that is, quite literally, between these competing resorts, Solitude has carved out a niche as a value for skiers seeking luxury lodging, powder, and uncrowded slopes.
Updated for Winter 2014-15 – David B. Cronheim
Solitude Ski Area
Solitude’s modern lift system provides quick access to several faces that offer varied terrain. From the steeps of Honeycomb Canyon to the groomed runs off the Eagle Express, there’s something for every level skier at Solitude.
To call Solitude snowsure is to verge on comedy. A record low snowfall winter at Solitude would be a record high snowfall winter at dozens of resorts across the Rockies. Solitude is one of the snowiest places on earth. It receives the same 500" of snow as Alta and Snowbird (only about 2 miles away as the crow flies) but only a small fraction of the skiers.
One of the benefits of receiving 500” of powder each winter is that the resort has a lot of snow to play with. Solitude has chosen to allow certain areas to remain ungroomed, while it utilizes its tremendous bounty of natural snowfall in other places to refresh its groomers. The result is a mix of outstanding advanced tree and bowl skiing and the best conditioned groomers in North America.
Guests staying in the village start their day with either the Sunrise Express or Apex triple chair. Day visitors to the Solitude park at the Moonbeam Base Area, one mile downhill from the village and closer to Salt Lake City. There guests will find the resort’s day lodge and plenty of parking.
Expert skiers flock to Honeycomb Canyon on the backside of the resort for an in-bounds backcountry experience and to the pine tree glades of Headwall Forest for world-class tree skiing. Intermediates tend to enjoy the groomed runs on the front side of the mountain off the Eagle Express. The core of the resort’s beginner skiing options is off the Moonbeam Express near the day lodge.
Solitude underwent a major lift transformation in the early 2000s that entirely changed the way the resort is skied. Some skiers have complained that removal a lift which stretched from the village to the top of the peak now served by the Powderhorn lift has limited the amount of vertical skiable in one run. This is a fair critique as it is difficult to ski long vertical at Solitude in a single run. However, the tradeoff when these new faster express quads replaced aging doubles has been that skiers can now make far more laps before.
Lastly, despite being able to snap off lots of quick laps, Solitude has a decidedly unhurried feel. Perhaps not having to fight in lift lines breeds politeness, but the resort has relaxed, almost country club like feel. It’s the type of place where parents still feel safe letting their children take a few runs by themselves and where a long lunch in the sunshine just feels right.
Solitude Beginner Skiing
Solitude's beginner skiing is focused around the Moonbeam base area. Beginner skiers will find they need to progress to explore more of Solitude. However, Solitude is a wonderful place to learn to ski and ride. Seasoned beginners will find the resort lacks tremendous variety in its beginner terrain as no summit runs are rated easiest.
Solitude’s beginner skiing is centered around the Moonbeam Base Area. The Moonbeam Express provides quick access to two main routes down – Little Dolly and Same Street. A few spurs off of these two trails add interest, but there is not a lot to explore.
A second beginner area is found off the Sunrise triple chair. There, the North Star and South Star trails wind through an evergreen forest with upwards views of the resort’s most expert steeps – Parachute and Milk Run.
Due to the fact that Solitude is often sunny and has a well-earned reputation for spectacular snow conditions, it is a fantastic place to learn to ski. First timers and weaker beginners can utilize the Link double chair from the day lodge base area to access the Easy Street run.
Solitude Ski School
The Solitude Ski School registration is located on the upper level of the Moonbeam Base Lodge. Lessons are available for all levels of skier and rider, from beginner through expert.
Solitude Intermediate Skiing
Groomers, groomers, groomers. Intermediates will love Solitude’s wide variety of well-groomed trails.
The Eagle Express is the largest pod of intermediate terrain. Here, skiers will find a mix of wide trails groomed through a treeless alpine bowl in the top section and meandering blue runs carved into groves of hardwoods in the lower. The runs tend to hug the natural contours of the terrain (as opposed to having been blasted out of hillside). As a result, these groomed blues are full of dips, banks, turns and drops.
A second pod of intermediate terrain can be found off the Alta Express. These runs are similar in character to treeless bowl runs of the upper portions of the Eagle Express blue slopes. The widest of these runs is Alta Bird and it’s our favorite because it affords a great view of the village on the way down.
A few additional intermediate runs are found off the Sunrise triple. These trails are well-shaded and not as interesting as the open bowls of the rest of the front side of the mountain or as the steep blues off the Summit double above. Dynamite, Liberty and Mine tumble from the resort’s elevation like an out of control mine train. They are the most challenging blue runs on the mountain, apart from the Honeycomb Canyon runout (Woodlawn) which is more cat track than trail and groomed infrequently.
Intermediate skiers looking to improve their skills can challenge themselves on one of the resorts “blue/black” slopes, a somewhat unique designation employed by Solitude to demark a trail which is rated intermediate when groomed but advanced when ungroomed. Because the snow conditions are generally outstanding, Solitude has marked many fairly steep runs as blues. However, despite their pitch, the lack of ice makes them an option for most strong intermediate skiers.
Advanced skiers also will enjoy ripping the corduroy on many of the resorts blue runs. With so few skiers on the slopes, going fast is less of an issue that other resorts.
Solitude Expert Skiing
Expert skiers will find Solitude offers some challenging terrain, but may be bored after several days if conditions are not favorable for off-piste skiing in Honeycomb Canyon.
On the whole, Solitude’s intermediate terrain is more challenging than its peer resorts, but its advanced skiing is less challenging. In fact, there are many black trails that we feel could be marked blue and vice-versa.
Solitude’s advanced terrain is split into several pods. The Eagle Express serves a number of groomed runs on the front side of the mountain. The rhyming triple-trails of Rumble, Grumble and Stumble together with Serenity are all marked as “blue/black,” meaning they are intermediate when groomed and advanced when ungroomed. The lone black run off the Eagle Express is Challenger.
The Powderhorn II quad services a half dozen advanced runs in an open bowl. These trails are often groomed and tailor-made for fast GS turns. The ungroomed areas between the trails can also be fun on a powder day or as an introduction to steeper ungroomed skiing because of the easy bailouts back onto the groomers.
Off the backside of the Powderhorn II quad one finds Solitude's most challenging expert runs. Perhaps the giant warning signs are a bit of overkill as the terrain is quite steep, but would not merit a second diamond at a resort like Jackson Hole or Taos. Milk Run and Parachute are the class of the four backside runs, all of which are steep and treed.
One trail worth singling out for attention is Headwall Forest, a single black run off the Summit double. It is a steep glade with widely spaced pine trees that is one of the most entertaining tree runs we have found anywhere in the Rockies.
The best expert and advanced terrain at the resort is found in Honeycomb Canyon at the back of the resort. Here a mix of chutes, trees and bowls offer a suitable challenge for any expert skier. Large pockets of powder tend to persist for several days after any snowfall.
The far wall of Honeycomb Canyon is accessed from the top the Summit double, while the near wall (in the shade and more heavily forested) is accessible from the Eagle Ridge trail on the front site of the resort.
Solitude Backcountry Skiing & Off Piste
Solitude's off piste and in bounds backcountry area, Honeycomb Canyon is the crown jewel of Solitude’s expert offerings.
The backside of Solitude is home to Honeycomb Canyon. Honeycomb Canyon is a long narrow canyon with a series of chutes and bowls on either side. The terrain ranges from tight trees to narrow chutes to open bowl. Depending on the line selected, skiers can expect relatively short decents of between 600 and 1000 feet before bottoming out onto the cat track.
The terrain on the far side of the canyon (accessed from the Summit Double) is decidedly easier than the terrain on the near side of the canyon (accessed from the Eagle Ridge trail) because it is much more open. The terrain on the far side is generally suitable for strong advanced skiers comfortable making turns on ungroomed snow, but the near side terrain requires the ability to turn in tight trees.
Honeycomb Canyon Access from the Summit Double
The far side of Honeycomb Canyon is reachable by a traverse from the top of the Summit Double chair. The terrain on this side of Honeycomb Canyon is comprised of open bowls with rock outcroppings that separate a series of wide faces into chutes. This side receives direct sunlight for a long portion of the day. As a result, the snow can get wet and heavy, particularly during the spring.
There are six named runs on the far side of the canyon, but in practice the names are really just for the trail map. A skier can traverse out as far as he likes until a line below looks appealing.A skier can select a tight line or avoid the narrow chutes depending on his preference. The lines farthest out are not necesarily the best, however, as the vertical drop of each run decreases as a skier traverses out. The area shown on the map as Prince of Wales (the first truly steep chute a skier comes across traversing out) is our favorite line.
Honeycomb Canyon Access from the Frontside (via the Eagle Ridge trail)
The near side of Honeycomb Canyon is reachable from the Eagle Ridge trail on the front side of the mountain. Unlike the open terrain on the far side of the canyon, this side offers tight shaded tree runs. The two longest decents - Here Be Dragons and Black Forest - must be accessed from the Powderhorn II chair, but the entrance to Navarrone is reachable from the top of the Eagle Express.
Exiting Honeycomb Canyon
The one downside to the canyon's outstanding terrain is that it cannot be lapped. Every run empties out into a cat track that winds down to the Honeycomb Return quad chair. Skiers can also continue down the cat track on the Honeycome Return trail, but the lift is a faster option and we suggest avoiding the trail in favor of the lift. This arrangement whereby a skier must access the terrain via one lift, but departs via another course means that fewer skiers per day ski the terrain. As a result the snow tends to linger in Honeycomb Canyon the longest.
Solitude Mountain Restaurants
Solitude offers a number of on-mountain and in-village dining options. The resort is known for its upscale, yet affordable, lunch options.
On Mountain Restaurants
Located in the day lodge base, the Moonbeam Lodge serves upscale cafeteria food at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Swedish meatballs with ligonberry jam are particularly noteworthy.
Last Chance Mining Camp
Located near the base of the Apex lift adjacent to the villate, the Last Chance Mining Camp offers standard ski lodge food, including soups, sandwiches and Tex-Mex food.
The Sunshine Grill is Solitude's only truly on mountain lunch experience. The simple food is good, but the view of the surrounding Wasatch Mountains and the village below is spectacular.
Located in the Moonbeam Lodge, the Argenta Pub is a favorite amongst day skiers for lunch and après ski.
Solitude's village is the hub of its limited apres-ski and restaurant scene. The village is small, but provides a convenient and comfortable home base for skiers.
The narrowness of Little Cottonwood canyon can bring about a claustrophobic feeling. Snowbird and Alta seem wedged into their surrounds, a fact made quite plain by the concrete bunker hotels at Snowbird made to withstand a constant barrage of avalanches. Solitude's perch high up Big Cottonwood canyon is more spacious. The mountains rise slowly and gently up to the village before soaring into rocky peaks well above the village. It's a lovely, if less spectacular, setting.
No one would confuse Solitude's mock-European style village for St. Anton or Zermatt, but it's a better effort at most. The relatively small scale of the village is in fitting with the intimate feel of the resort. One main street winds its way past an ice rink and connects the condo complexes and Inn at Solitude with the slopes. No acccomodation is more than a 5 minute (in ski boots) walk from the base of the Apex chair.
Along the main street are a handful of restaurants, a bar and a ski shop.
Solitude Apres-Ski, Restaurants & Bars
For a resort its size, Solitude offers a surprising number of excellent dining options. St. Bernard's and the evening experience at The Yurt are musts.
Restaurants at Solitude
Solitude has a number of dining options. Of the restaurants open in the evening, all except the Moonbeam Lodge, all of restaurants in Solitude itself are in the village.
St. Bernard's in the Inn at Solitude is the most well-regarded. It serves traditional European fare made with locally-sourced ingredients. A brightly and airy dining room is accented by a stone fireplace and high glass windows affording views of the slopes. The Library Bar, also in the Inn at Solitude, provides a relaxing spot for apres-ski or after dinner cocktails.
No trip to Solitude would be complete without an excursion to The Yurt. Guests can either walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski a short distance from the village to reach a tiny yurt set in amongst the woods. A gourment five-course meal awaits. (See the video above)
Across the plaza from the Inn at Solitude is the Honeycomb Grill, which serves typical American fare with an emphasis on steaks, chops and chicken. It also offers large windows that look over the mountains.
The Stone Haus Pizzeria and Creamery, as its name suggests, serves pizza and ice cream, making it a popular choice with kids of all ages. Cooking pizza at elevation is a challenge and the pizza is servicable, but unremarkable.
Other Big Cottonwood Canyon Restaurants
The Silver Fork Lodge is located just 3 minutes down the canyon from the Solitude village. Founded in 1943, the Silver Fork is a Big Cottonwood Canyon institution and a must-visit on any trip to Solitude. The menu is heavy on barbeque and steaks, but some vegetarian and seafood options are also available. The Silver Fork runs a free on-demand shuttle service for guests staying in the village.
Solitude offers an ice skating rink and a nordic center for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
Solitude Nordic Center
The Solitude nordic center is a short drive from the village. The nordic center offers 20 km of trails for both skating and classic (track-set) cross country skiing. Snowshoeing is also a popular activity and Solitude maintains 10 km of snowshoing trails.
The snowshoeing and nordic trails are generally suited for beginner and intermediate participants, but are at high elevation. Acclimation to the high alpine climate can take a few days, so be careful!
A free shuttle runs regularly in winter to and from the village.
Solitude offers a small ice skating rink in the center of the village. The rink also has a nearby firepit which comes in handy on cold days. One drawback to Solitude's legendary snowfall is that during particularly snowy times, the ice rink becomes a dumping ground for excess snow and can be closed until the resort is able to dig out.
Guests in one of Solitude's condominiums also enjoy access to Club Solitude. Club Solitude has an outdoor pool, hot tubs, a sauna and recreation room with X-boxes.