Easy Access, Hidden Lines, and Isolated Vibes in Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon

Mr. Luxury Ski

In need of a quick Wasatch powder fix, Mr. Luxury Ski touched down in Utah and zipped up Big Cottonwood Canyon to find Solitude Mountain Resort.

As promised, she skis bigger than her stats: 1,200 skiable acres and 2,045 feet of vert spread across three bowls, powdery glade drops, and sidecountry chutes. Though the lifts are a quick 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City, Big Cottonwood Canyon is a protected watershed, ensuring the skiing and scenery live up to the resort’s branding. It’s easy find solitude in its forests and canyons.

The east face of Cottonwood Canyon at Solitude Mountain Resort. (@BeingAlexP)

The east face of Cottonwood Canyon at Solitude Mountain Resort. (@BeingAlexP)

It’s also easy to see why Deer Valley Resort swooped in and bought the 60-year-old resort in late 2014. The company has pumped some $7 million into the mountain, most critically replacing the double chair accessing Honeycomb Canyon with a high-speed quad.

After a late arrival to his slopeside digs, Mr. Luxury Ski awoke to the sweet echos of avalanche blasting. To get the best out of the foot of freshies that fell overnight, we booked a Solitude Hidden Tracks. Solitude Guide Gregg Griffiths greeted us at first chair, with a wry smile. “Sure hope there’s something left up there.”

Solitude Mountain Resort Hidden Tracks guide Gregg Griffiths. (@BeingAlexP)

Solitude Mountain Resort Hidden Tracks guide Gregg Griffiths. (@BeingAlexP)

It’s just another powder day for the 38-year Solitude veteran, who sniffed out fresh snow across the resort while ski patrol dropped gates and opened lifts. We started with a few laps in Sunshine Bowl via the Powderhorn II Quad Lift. As soon as patrol dropped the gates on Milk Run, Griffiths moved us to the south face and guided us past the first drop and into untracked Cirque glades. Next lift to open is Apex, zipping us up to the resort's 10,000-foot summit for turns down Headwall Forest; on our next lap we traversed the ridge past the legendary “Corner Chute” and into a hidden drop dubbed “Bombs Away.” Indeed.

Gregg’s instinctive turns revealed an intimate knowledge of the terrain, and his personal relationships with ski patrollers and lifties were invaluable on this powder day. With every lap he mined his sources for the latest intel on gates and terrain so that when Honeycomb Canyon opens mid-day our crew was ready to ride, diving into the west face’s calf-deep Black Forest glades.

The only turns Griffiths can’t deliver were down Honeycomb Canyon’s eastern face. The wet, heavy snow had ski patrol working all day but they couldn’t drop the gates on Fantasy Ridge, a series of chutes draining into pine forests.

Slide into The Yurt at Solitude for a five-course feast by chef Craig Gerome. (@BeingAlexP)

Slide into The Yurt at Solitude for a five-course feast by chef Craig Gerome. (@BeingAlexP)

Finding solitude doesn’t preclude enjoying a gourmet dinner, so reservations at The Yurt at Solitude are a must. Tucked into a wooded slope, the seasonal, 25-top, BYOB set in a yurt is a revelation under new chef Craig Gerome. Mr. Luxury Ski’s five-course feast meanders past tuna tartare with Avocado mousse and a seared diver scallop atop a cauliflower veloute before getting meaty with a medium-rare New York steak with potato puree, cippolini onions and brussels sprouts.

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