Utah: Skiing in Solitude

Shoot the Canyon! Honeycomb Canyon. Solitude Mountain Resort photos.
Shoot the Canyon! Honeycomb Canyon. Solitude Mountain Resort photos.

Solitude’s Short List

By Cathie Arquilla

Perfect your turns! Take a lesson, Solitude's Ski & Ride School Photo Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Perfect your turns! Take a lesson, Solitude’s Ski & Ride School Photo Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort

Deciding where to ski out west?  Making it simple, Utah’s Solitude takes the guesswork out of it all–where to stay, ski, eat, is all right there, steps away.

Here are seven ways to maximize fun and relaxation during a Solitude Mountain ski vacation.

Make the mountain home base.

Solitude’s self-made village has several categories of accommodations, from condos to multi-level townhouses, all fully equipped to live slopeside. BUT to avoid dishes, do without a kitchen and stay at The Inn at Solitude. This is a full-service hotel. It’s an easy walk (even in ski boots) to the chairlifts.

The Library Bar at the Inn had a wine tasting while I was there, and it attracted a local, sophisticated crowd. The tasting spilled out to the adjoining lobby where folks lounged, sipped, and tasted, fireside as puffy snowflakes dusted the slopes outside.

Ski Honeycomb Canyon.

Fly private! Get a one-on-one lesson at the Ski & Ride School
Fly private! Get a one-on-one lesson at the Ski & Ride School.

The Summit Express chairlift takes you to the top of the mountain. Here Solitude’s legendary Honeycomb Canyon awaits. Honeycomb is for the undaunted, black diamond skier offering chutes and sublime tree runs. If you’re not advanced, there is still plenty of blue-ribbon, blue run, choices to get you down (just not through Honeycomb Canyon).

Add to Honeycomb Canyon stats on the average annual snowfall – over 500 inches, and with 1,200 acres of terrain, Solitude makes skiing sense. And yes, as its name suggests it’s uncrowded, but so are a lot of Utah ski resorts, Solitude just feels different, it has a magical aura about it – that “ski high” feeling avid skiers and boarders crave.  

Don’t skirt the Yurt.

The warm glow from the Yurt welcomes you at Solitude.
The warm glow from the Yurt welcomes you at Solitude.

A Yurt is a Mongolian shelter, usually round with a door that requires ducking to enter. This is a protective device against an unwelcome intruder. The Yurt at Solitude is a dining experience that begins with snowshoeing through a lantern-lit forest and sitting down with 24 guests who will become your Mongol horde!

A four-course dinner ensues and is prepared right there at a center island kitchen. Chef Craig Gerome and his colleagues provide entertaining banter. Host Kris Davis told us that before his time at The Yurt he bought a bike on Craig’s List for $50 and rode it from Vancouver to Tijuana.

The seared diver sea scallops, on a puddle of puréed cauliflower topped with fried capers, Marcona almonds, and roasted scallion oil, had a smoky campfire taste that was extraordinary!

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We made friends with the couple next to us who had left their two girls in the care a babysitter the resort had arranged. This was the second time they had vacationed at Solitude, and they said they liked skiing here, “Because it was low key and easy, as relaxing as a ski vacation can get.”

Order some gourmet grub at the Honeycomb Grill.

Chef Craig Gerome preparing the second course in the Yurt
Chef Craig Gerome preparing the second course in the Yurt.

Reading the menu at the Honeycomb Grill, I’m reminded of a song from the musical Oklahoma, “Oh, the farmer and the cowboy should be friends!”

Call it farm to table or ranch to table, Honeycomb Grill invites you to taste the great outdoors and everything it produces. Yet, the food is more creative than most ranch hands get. Consider the Elk Ragu–pancetta, San Marzano tomato, basil, and pecorino, a combo to delight!

The menu changes with the seasons, but favorite cowboy food is consistent; Bison Burger, Niman Ranch Pork Chop, Popcorn Duet, to name a few.

Honeycomb Grill has an ample selection of local beers, and the wine list does not disappoint. But what’s not to like when your view from the grand windows are those inviting slopes.

Pick “The Refresh” Spa treatment at Solitude Mountain Spa.

This is a foot focused massage and who doesn’t want THAT after a day of wearing vice grip ski boots!? Tunde Opra, manager of the spa, also recommends asking for hot towels, perfect for cold weather and tight muscle pampering.This spa is all about treatments. There are no “facilities” like a steam room, sauna, locker room, but Tunde is quick to point out that it’s not a quick “in and out” experience either.

She explains, “We want to build a rapport with the customer, and we make sure they get a whole hour of hands-on treatment, allowing for plenty of time between client appointments.”

Bubbly with a view at the Honeycomb Grill at Solitude.
Bubbly with a view at the Honeycomb Grill at Solitude.

Hit the Thirsty Squirrel between 3 pm and 7: 30 pm.

Bar manager Ketti Wehrle says there’s a “ton of local rippers out on the mountain who like to get really good lines before other people do,” so they start skiing early and end about 3pm, and that’s when bar scene gets going. Ketti also said that live music brings in visitors and locals, and often it’s standing room only on the weekends.

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I tried the Black Forest Mule –Ketel One Vodka, muddled blackberries, ginger beer, and fresh lime juice. That led to a Bavarian Pretzel with house-made beer cheese sauce. I didn’t feel obligated to stop there and ordered another specialty cocktail. Home was 30 feet away.

Treat yourself to a private lesson at the Ski & Ride School.

My ski instructor, Rob Pearre, explained that compared to other places he has taught, Solitude’s ski school agenda is to, “Focus on individual students, giving them time and attention to advance their technique. Bigger resorts can be more of a factory, feeding groups through a pipeline.”

I wanted to learn how to let my skies do the work. When I began skiing in the 70s, skies where a very different shape – basically long straight boards, now they are fatter at the tips and tails, engineered for easy turning. But I still ski old-school, weighting and unweighting through the turn, and driving my skies through.

This is exhausting to your thighs and apparently unnecessary with current day skis. Rob taught me how to roll from edge to edge on my skies, with plenty of “no edge” between turns, and no heavy drive through. Basically, allowing me to “ride” my skies instead of “driving” them. Much less effort, stress, labor. It was a breakthrough after 45 years of skiing!

So you’re never too good or too old to benefit from a ski lesson!