While many of Solitude’s finer points include what I’d call some of the world’s best in-bounds off-piste experiences, sometimes I just want to cruise.
OK, I’ll be honest. Mostly, I want to cruise. I’m a solid blue guy. I can handle powder, have even managed to enjoy it but mainly it remains intimidating. Most of my powder days have been following folks who are much more, say, enthusiastic about the fluffy stuff and I’ve spent a lot of time digging myself out of spectacular plunges into deep snow. It’s a hard confession to make as a lifelong Utahn, but …
Hi. My name is Jeremy and I’m a Blue Skier.
Give me a patch of untracked corduroy and I become Bode Miller laying down the perfect turns that I know how to do but somehow forget when there is all that unformed, fluffy snow everywhere. I don’t like the back seat and that’s where I end up in powder. I like the front seat, feet above my skis, edges at the ready making huge Super G turns, with every ski lesson I ever had since college urging me to point those skis down.
And, while I can easily tell you where the hot shots for powder lie at Solitude—the Powderhorn gates, for example, especially on skier’s right, are often overlooked by eager powder hounds racing for the Summit—I am much more versed in the resort’s groomers. Basically, I have a Ph.D. in Blues from the College of Solitude.
So, let me offer you my TED talk on the finer points of intermediate skiing at Solitude.
First, your bread and butter will be found on the Eagle Express Lift. From Eagle Ridge, you’ll have access to the best section of blues on the mountain. As you head down the ridge toward the top of these runs, you’re going to be tempted by Sunshine Bowl and Sundancer off to your right. Do not be fooled. If you’re the first one on either of these runs on a bluebird day, congratulations, but they get skied off quick precisely because they look so tempting.
Instead, gather your courage and head on to Challenger. I know, the name is a little scary and it’s one of those blacks that we Blue Skiers tend to balk at, but Challenger is what I call a beginner black. It has a steeper pitch at the top, but you can do it! The name is Challenger not “Certain Doom.” Just rely on your old bad hockey-stop habits and make your way down the steep bits, and once you’ve reconnoitered it, you’ll find it’s a thrilling drop on a second or third run.
You can either stay on Challenger to the lift or peel off right into the trio of blacks that turn into beautiful blues—Rumble, Grumble and Stumble. Solitude’s grooming folks alternate grooming these three so be sure to peek down the run if you really want to avoid, gasp, un-groomed snow. But either way the pitch is reasonable and they each have nice wide open spots to practice staying over those skis and out of the back seat. If you aren’t up to the, umm, challenge of Challenger, Sundancer to Eagle Express Lift or Sundance to Wander is preferable to the Sunrise bowl, in my opinion. Do note that if you yard sale you will be in full view of the lift.
As my primer continues, I direct you to Main Street, which is, as advertised, a main line through the center of the resort but its bottom section, which accesses the Apex Lift, is a lovely wide open run to the base, perfect for putting some flourish on your turns and building some speed to get across to the flat to the lift (or the Last Chance Lodge, if you’ve just had it for the day).
Next, don’t overlook the Sunrise lift. This lift, which used to be the only way to access the Summit before Solitude realigned its lifts, ended up sort of cut off from the rest of the mountain. This sounds like a bad thing. It’s not. First, it means it’s less crowded and second the blues in this area are gentle—perfect for beginners wanting to step out of their green ruts. There are also some nice trees to venture off-piste into, with a nice safe blue waiting for you. North Star to South Star to the lower portion of Dynamite is an excellent route.
Finally, the ridge line off Powderhorn is a black run called Diamond Lane. When it’s groomed, it is a chance to really test your mettle. A steep continuous pitch, coupled with stunning views on either side, make it the graduate course on which to apply all your work lower down on the mountain.
So, fellow Blue Skiers, there you have it. You have my full permission to say to your powder hound friends, “no thanks, I’ll just cruise today.”