I had almost packed away my ski boots for the year when the folks at Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah invited me out for a final hoorah last March. I grabbed my gear out of the closet, loaded up my rolling duffle bag, and aimed for 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 my first day exploring the mountain under bluebird skies. The second day, a new storm blew in and it snowed nonstop.
My luck didn’t end with the weather. I spent the third day skiing with a local who is something of a Solitude celebrity. (More on him later.) And then I heard from an Austin friend, who just happened to be arriving at the very lodge where I was staying later that day. I’d be able to make some runs with him before I had to head to the airport the next afternoon.
Getting to Solitude Mountain Resort
That’s one of the things about skiing at Solitude. With the direct non-stop flight from Austin to Salt Lake City on Delta, it’s easier to get to Solitude than some of the resorts where I usually ski in Colorado.
I stayed at Powderhorn Lodge. The condo room had 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. It was situated just a few hundred yards from the Apex Express chairlift.
As for the rest of the resort? They call it Solitude for a reason. There’s a village, 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. Not once did I wait in a lift line, not even at 9 a.m., when the lifts started whirring.
I spent the first day mainly skiing 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.
Skiing with a spry 90-year-old local
The next day I met Will Price, who celebrated his 90th birthday a few days after I skied with him. Everybody, it seems, knows Price, who lives in a nearby retirement community and hits the slopes five days a week. He’s fast, and he wears a custom orange helmet with flames painted on the side.
“I only have one way of skiing, and that’s full out,” he told me as I chased him down the mountain. “My friends tell me to slow down and take it easy but I can’t. I just love to ski.”
As we rode up one lift, he explained that he used to be an ice dancer, an airplane pilot, a windsurfer, and a teacher. He started skiing at the ripe old age of 40.
“First of all, I love the mountains,” he told me. “I guess I just love the freedom that I feel, and the beauty of the snow on the trees.”
Skiing at 90, he says, feels about the same as it did at 80, 70 and 60.
“I like things that involve risk,” he said. “It’s a challenge and I like to prove things to myself… Don’t stop. Keep going. That’s what I tell everybody when they’re surprised to find out I’m still skiing at my age.”
Breaking for waffles
I needed to refuel after that exchange, so I took a mid-day ski break at Little Dollie Waffles at Moonbeam basin area. The 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.
A final run through the trees at Solitude Mountain Resort
When I got back to my room that night, I heard from my Austin friend, Collis Williams. We agreed to meet in the morning. My flight didn’t leave until 1:55 p.m., so I had two hours to get in some runs before I had to catch a shuttle to the airport.
I’m glad I did. The weather had warmed and the powder was growing scarce on the groomed runs. It was late season, after all. But Williams and his two friends knew where we could still find some fluffy stashes of untracked snow.
Our group spent those two hours well, running laps up the Sunrise lift and down into the trees below Evening Star. We twisted and tucked into tight sections of trees, jumped into hidden snow caches, and raced each other through the woods. We found tons of snow, and I racked up the absolute best moments of the entire trip.
I skied until the last minute I could, then dashed down to the lodge area to quickly change clothes and meet the shuttle.
At Solitude, you can squeeze every last minute out of your ski vacation.
If You Go
Delta offers direct flights to Salt Lake City. From there, it’s a 45-minute drive to Solitude. Rent a car or book a seat on the Utah Mountain Shuttle.
Book a room at Powderhorn Lodge, just steps from the lifts. You’ll have access to nearby Club Solitude, with its outdoor heated pool and hot tubs, game room, billiards table and exercise equipment.
Ski, ski, ski, of course. Or snowboard. Or go snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or book a spa treatment –– think hot stone massage, an alpine scrub or a couples massage –– at Solitude Mountain Spa, on the lower level of the Inn at Solitude.
Eat & Drink:
Try the hot waffles at Little Dollie Waffles at the Moonbeam Basin base area. Honeycomb Grill in Solitude Village does a good après ski, plus bison burgers, vegetarian options and comfort food. If you don’t feel like going out, pick up cook-at-home options at the Village Store. Stone Haus Pizzeria offers good grab and go breakfast options, plus pizza and ice cream.