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Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah

Published: 02/04/2014
Billy Brown, USA Today-- Even though it lies only a 40 minute drive away from Salt Lake City International Airport and the bustling urban center of the same name, Solitude Mountain delivers a quiet atmosphere that fully lives up to its name. The mellow, family-friendly feel of the resort can be attributed to the relatively cozy 1,200 acres of skiable terrain and the short lift lines that typify a day on the mountain. Its location near the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon affords Solitude an average of 500 inches of the region's trademark dry powder, and the mountain's lack of crowds make it a go-to destination for skiers looking for untracked powder.

Solitude's family-friendly reputation is bolstered by the fact that the beginner terrain is naturally separated from the expert terrain, making the learning experience much less intimidating for newbies and families. It can also be a welcome change for advanced skiers who would prefer to hit the mountain with like-minded companions.

Serviced by eight lifts, a good 70% of the mountain's 65 named runs are listed as beginning and intermediate, the easiest of which are the low-angle Easy Street and the wide runs off the Moonbeam Express Lift. Intermediate riders can start of the blue runs off of the Sunrise lift, then progress to the more challenging blues off of the Eagle Express.

For more advanced terrain, head to the Headwall and Black Forest areas for a good chance at hitting untracked terrain, while the Navarone run is well-regarded for its tree lines and drop-offs. But Solitude really awards the more adventurous skiers and riders willing to traverse a little to find the sweet, untracked stuff. Those of that ilk should head into Honeycomb Canyon, where steep lines, dense trees and, more often than not, virgin powder awaits. That said, snowboarders should be aware that a few flat spots, especially around the Headwall area, may require some boot-huffing.

The only terrain park at Solitude is geared toward beginning-level freeskiers and snowboarders. So if you yearn for more tabletops, rails and jumps, consider spending a few more dollars and getting a combo lift pass, which gives you access to neighboring Brighton. This 1,050-acre resort already ranks among local snowboarders as Utah's best-kept secret, thanks to the ample supply of natural terrain, as well as a legit main mountain terrain park with a half pipe. To reach the resort, you can take the SolBright Trail, but snowboarders should take note that the SolBright trail is flat enough to require hiking in sections. Instead, consider the inter-park bus for the quick, mile-long journey.

The relative lack of glitz and glamour makes Solitude a favorite among Salt Lake locals, who revel in the lack of crowds, even during the busiest days of the season. But out-of-towners can also bask in this relative isolation, using the pedestrian-friendly self-contained village as base camp. You won't find the rollicking parties that embody some of the other Utah resorts, but a wide array of lodging, dining and a massive mountain lodge makes it ideal for those looking for a more low-key ski experience.

STAY: Creekside's in-the-village condominiums offer one- to three-bedroom luxury units with private balconies, full kitchens and wood-burning fireplaces. Conveniences include ski-in/out proximity to the mountains, ski/board lockers and free underground parking.
skisolitude.com

DINE: You can have your pick of good restaurants in the village itself. But to embrace the environment fully, Solitude guests can cross-country ski or snowshoe with a guide up a forest trail to The Yurt, a traditional Mongolian yurt, where the chef and staff will prepare a full, five-course meal for up to 22 guests.

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