Solitude Mountain Resort continues to be the sleeper of the Wasatch. Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, just next to Brighton Resort, Solitude caters to those looking for an escape from the big crowds and long lift lines found at other resorts during peak times. Solitude does offer, well, solitude, but there’s more to Solitude than that. Hiding behind the peaceful facade is an expert’s paradise–Honeycomb Canyon.
In recent years, Solitude has built out a solid base area with top-notch accommodations with the Inn at Solitude. The front side slopes are groomed to perfection with uncrowded terrain that winds through trees, or moguls to satisfy the kid in you. But, if you’re looking for steep tree skiing and open bowls, Honeycomb Canyon is where you want to be.
The Solitude Experience
We got to Solitude right as the lifts opened on a Saturday. In typical Solitude fashion, cars were slowly trickling into the parking lot and the mellow crowd was peacefully waiting for the lifties to drop the rope. Maybe this nonchalant attitude was because there hadn’t been any measurable snow along the Wasatch for nearly a month, or maybe it’s just the type of crowd that Solitude Resort attracts? Either way, the vibe was good.
We quickly make our way to Honeycomb Canyon to see if we could find some hidden leftovers. If there’s a downside to Honeycomb Canyon, it’s access. From the lower parking lot, you’ve got to take three lifts just to get to the summit. We chose to take Eagle Express Lift to the Sunrise Lift, then finally the Summit Lift. It tends to be a long process, so lapping the area isn’t as convenient as other areas. I don’t consider that a bad thing–the snow will remain untracked longer on a powder day that it otherwise would, simply because of the unlappable nature of Honeycomb.
The addition of the Honeycomb Lift in 2002-2003 plucks you out of the Canyon just in time to drop you back onto the middle of the mountain. From the top of the Honeycomb Lift, you can also access some steep tree shots back into Honeycomb. On this day, the conditions weren’t too favorable in the trees, but, I’ve typically found great conditions in that area.
Once back at the top of the Summit Lift, you are treated with an awesome view of Twin Lakes Pass, Wolverine Cirque and Brighton’s Millicent Peak to the South. Then, to the North, Honeycomb Canyon awaits. The Honeycomb Cliffs–with several tempting chutes–hover over the area. From here, there are basically three choices of attack: 1. take the traverse to skier’s left underneath the Honeycomb Cliffs, 2. take the traverse into the trees on the skier’s right side of the canyon, or 3. ski the groomer down the gut. Because of the snow conditions, we opted to take the left-hand traverse as far out as we could–hoping to find some hidden pockets of snow.
The traverses on either side of Honeycomb Canyon are typical Wasatch style traverses… long. The good thing about the 15 minute or so traverse is that it weeds out the weak and impatient. We were in no hurry, and hiking is not a big deal to us, so we ventured out as far as we could and ended up finding some surprisingly-good snow considering the lack of recent snowfall. Our first run was basically down the “Boundary Chutes.” The terrain is pretty open, but with enough trees here and there and terrain features to make it interesting. We found a few rollers to play with and pockets of untracked next to the trees. By the time you’ve traversed this far, it’s a pretty short run back to the gut, maybe 400 vertical feet or less–depending on where you drop in.
After making our way back to the top of the Summit lift once more, we decided to traverse further out and higher up the slope. As we approached “No Man’s Land,” the traverse splits to a higher and lower track. We sidestepped up to the upper traverse to play with the rib that separates “No Man’s Land” from the “Boundary Chutes” areas. We found some hidden pockets of untouched snow and some great lines to ski. The snow conditions were variable at best and the untracked sections were more like skiing sloppy seconds, but considering the lack of recent snowfall, I was stoked to ski anything that resembled untracked snow. On this day, we didn’t venture on the traverse to skier’s right of the Summit Lift. This traverse can yield some of the best tree skiing around. In fact, just a few months back, I hit the right-side traverse all the way to what I think was “Here be Dragons” and found amazing snow conditions and open tree shots. The goods can be had in Honeycomb Canyon… you just have to be willing to traverse for it.
The Lowdown on Solitude’s Honeycomb Canyon
The bottom line is that Honeycomb Canyon is Big… yeah, yeah, yeah. Sorry for the cereal joke. In all honesty, I could ski at Solitude every day and still have a blast. Honeycomb Canyon offers tight tree skiing and open bowls–depending on which side you traverse. It also has great backcountry access to the Twin Lakes area. With a front side that offers the best groomers this side of Deer Valley, and open bowl skiing in Honeycomb, Solitude is a great place to get away from the crowds.