After a half-day of alpine skiing at Utah’s Solitude Mountain Resort, I was crafting plans to pack up the mini-van and drive over to the next canyon and Alta, where I had enjoyed one of my most memorable days on snow, a decade ago.
Luckily, I reconsidered. Two days and dozens of superb runs later, I had skied all the terrain I could handle and discovered the real beauty of Solitude: convenience for families, minimal lift lines and terrain for all levels of ability and courage.
This was our first big-mountain ski vacation with our twin girls and a group of friends that has grown to nine adults and five kids, from 15 years to 20 months old. The easy, 40-minute drive from Salt Lake International Airport, skiing to the front door of our condo in the village and the close-by day-care for the toddlers brought calm to the chaos.
My wife and I traded off the first day, taking child-care shifts in the condo and joining the gang on the slopes. Days two and three, we dropped the girls at the Play Academy and made it onto the first chairs of the Moonbeam Express with ease. (Next year, they’ll be on skis in the Snowsports Academy).
Those were pricey mornings for a group that started out at budget-saving Porcupine Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With the child care and lift tickets, my wife and I paid $230 a day for our time together on the hill.
It proved to be money well-spent.
We joined friends for long cruisers on the blue and black runs off the Eagle Express lift, and dropped into the chutes of Honeycomb Canyon to test ourselves and our marriage. Guiding my wife down her first double-black diamond run and sharing her victorious cheer at the bottom was well worth the extra dollars.
Apres skiing at Solitude doesn’t quite compare to the party atmosphere at the bigger resorts, like Deer Valley or Park City, but it suited us well. The girls and their toddler friend tumbled in the snow, while we sampled the local micro-brews in the sunshine at the bottom of the Apex Lift, and others made the short walk to Club Solitude to relieve their sore muscles in the hot tubs.
The Nordic trail – 20 kilometers total – started just 100 yards away, and I added a quick tour on skinny skis to my alpine pursuits.
The daily drive down Big Cottonwood Canyon for provisions, about an hour round-trip, was a minor inconvenience offset by the fantastic meals we shared. For 18 years now, we’ve chattered and cackled into the night, relived the day on the slopes, shared our parenting successes and failures and learned what it means to go “hard in the paint.” The set-up at Solitude made that as easy and joyful as ever.