Your guide to the best powder in the Wasatch

When I first moved to Utah, I was in awe of the Wasatch. I’ve been a lifelong skier and in recent years, a competitor in the Freeride World Tour qualifiers. The first time I saw these mountains, I was filled with excitement and a desire to explore them. That’s why I leapt at the opportunity to try the Hidden Tracks guided tour at Solitude. While a lot of transplants with my background might flock to Alta or Snowbird, I was drawn to Solitude. The village and culture remind me of some of my favorite childhood ski areas in Colorado. Just by looking at the trail map, I could tell that this was a mountain full of hidden gems, the kind that are hard to find, making them feel even more special. To this day I am still discovering new and exciting zones and secret stashes at my home mountain.

What are Hidden Tracks guided tours?

You’ll be exploring the mountain with one of Solitude’s top instructors. Don’t think of Hidden Tracks as a ski lesson, it’s a half-day guided tour. Solitude’s guides have the expertise to help skiers and riders tackle steep terrain across the mountain with more confidence. Solitude has plenty of exciting terrain, but some of the best lines are hidden away and easy to miss. For skiers visiting Utah for the first time, these guided tours are the perfect way to kick off a trip.

My guided tour was on a powder-filled Saturday, which can make for a crowded, hectic day at any mountain. Once I met my instructor, Gregg, all the usual weekend stress disappeared. Gregg has been instructing at Solitude for over 40 years, and it was clear he has a powder day routine. One of the immediate perks of skiing with an instructor is the priority access in the lift lines. Perhaps the even greater perk was the inside knowledge on how to avoid the crowds in the first place with someone who inherently knows the general flow of mitigation and terrain openings.

Our chairlift rides were filled with the rich history of Solitude. Greg told how small it was when it first opened, and how it has expanded over the years. He had great stories of historic snow years (our current snow year is one of the best he’s seen). I loved hearing about the insane feats of patrollers past, while our runs were uncrowded and filled with stashes of snow that others had not managed to seek out yet.

Skier in a hidden tracks guided tour at Solitude

What parts of the mountain does the guided tour cover?

With Gregg’s sage wisdom, we perfectly timed the Milk Run rope drop–something that I always seem to miss when skiing on my own. I usually say this about every untracked, steep, and deep powder run, but that run was hands down the best powder runs I’ve ever had. The pitch was perfect, the terrain was playful, and the snow was incredible. If the guided tour had ended there, I would have felt over the moon!

But there was even more that Gregg had to offer. While I’ve been skiing my whole life, I didn’t grow up with lessons or a racing background like many of my fellow competitors in the Freeride World Qualifiers. Because of that handicap, one of the areas I stand to improve on is my skiing technique. As a fully certified PSIA trainer, I knew Gregg would be just the guy to help me with that. Gregg assured me I’m an excellent skier (thanks!). When I asked him for some help and brought up specific issues I was having in my skiing, he dove right into the exact type of skiing analysis I was looking for.

He started by talking about Mikaela Shiffrin and her technique in her most recent race. Gregg had memorized and analyzed every part of her turn. He explained it in such a simple way that I was able to pinpoint exactly where my own technique faltered. By the time we got off the lift, he gave me a few ideas on how to adjust my technique. Within two turns of trying it out, I felt a significant improvement.

Getting into the groove

As we were nearing the last hour of our guided tour, we came upon the recently opened west-facing gates of Honeycomb Canyon and I mentioned how I hadn’t spent enough time back there to learn where all the cool cliffs and best lines are. Gregg got excited and showed me his favorite zones in the area and how to access them. We took two steep and fast runs there before it was time to say goodbye. I gave Gregg a handshake and tipped him for his excellent service before heading to lunch.

Where’s the best place to eat lunch at Solitude on weekends?

My personal take on lunch: All the Solitude restaurants are surprisingly well-priced with excellent quality for on-mountain dining options. Especially on weekends, The Yurt is a clear stand-out. It’s off the beaten path and offers an intimate dining experience, making it significantly less crowded than the main options. It is slightly more expensive with craft cocktails and locally sourced ingredients like morel mushrooms in the wild mushroom risotto, but the prices are still no different than you would find in a nice restaurant downtown. You can ski down to The Yurt from Sunrise or Apex Express, or rent a pair of snowshoes and enjoy a 5-minute stroll up to it. It’s well worth the venture for its calm and cozy atmosphere, and space to spread out, relax, and completely disengage from the weekend bustle most ski areas are known for these days.

Who should sign up for Hidden Tracks?

It really doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned local or just visiting for the day. Hidden Tracks is the best way to learn Solitude’s signature off-piste terrain with a veteran guide. Many advanced and expert skiers think they no longer need a ski instructor, but I find guided tours like Hidden Tracks that are tailored specifically to advanced/expert skiers are quite special and should not be overlooked. Ski areas like Solitude have so many hard-to-find magical places, and so many passionate people like Gregg who know this place inside and out that are eager to share their passion and knowledge. Saturday had the potential to be another stressful day battling crowds and missing rope drops. Instead, it was one of the best days of my season with great snow, great company, new knowledge, and new terrain, all before 1 pm.

Follow Julieana’s adventures at Solitude: @julieanarusnak
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