brighton-v-alta-v-snowbird-v-solitude
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wojo
January 4, 2006
Member since 01/17/2005 🔗
312 posts
Going to be in Salt Lake for 3 1/2 days with 1 - adult, 1 - teen intermediate, 1 - 9 year old intermediate. I can be happy skiing with my 13 year old. I wouldn't mind putting my 9 year old in a class or group. I have the super pass for the older two and the 9 year old is free at Snowbird and Brighton.

Thoughts on which resorts to go to and whether to put the kids in 1/2 day and ski on my own a bit . . .

Thanks in advance
JimK - DCSki Columnist
January 4, 2006
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,724 posts
Snowbird has a majority of advanced to hair raising terrain (particularly underneath the tram), that might be the place to put the weakest skier in a class for part of the day, so the stronger ones can check things out. A decent intermediate can take Chips Run from the top of tram. Are you going to try to hit all four? I would say try alta and snowbird first, if you still want to try the other two, go for it, but at least then you will have seen the two most renowned (and rightly so). Have a great time, don't think you can lose. They just got dumped on.
Crush
January 4, 2006
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,026 posts
I like Brighton it's real homey and local. Great especially if someone in your crew rides. The Great Western lift accesses some real nice stuff. Like what Libery Mountain Resort would be like if they grew 100 times their size. I like the laid-back attitude ... well heck they are mostly locals !!!

Your wife will like Solitude. The base village has become rather "dense" in constrution but you'll get this sort of nouveau-Barvarian-shickyMicky-kitch experience that is sort of charming. And Honeycomb Canyon can put a big grin on your face (or clenched teeth of terror depending ..).


Snowbird .... well some people love it and some think it is a kick in the head (me I love it). If you are a good expert or advanced skier you'll totally get off on it and you can get way over your head if you like ... hey I love choices!!!! IMHO the intermediate runs are ok but Solitude is better for that. If you ride the tram be prepared for the "snotbird" attitude that is exuded by the 100 adrenaline rippers in an enclosed space ... just open your eyes reaaaal wide and talk too fast and you'll fool 'em into thinking you are a local!

Alta - you *must* do it! Resonable prices, great terrain (me I love the chutes around Glory Hole .... please no gay sex club jokes it's getting old ... ) and you get a glimps of what skiing was all about ... and what it is now!
MadMonk
January 5, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
Of the four I've only been to Alta and will say that it's one of the best times I've ever had despite slightly spraining my knee. Hoping to get back out there in early Feb and try Solitude as well.
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KevR
January 5, 2006
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
They are all great, i say figure out which one has the best snow and go to that one first! Ttry 'em all (or nearly) while you are there. Alta/'bird are LARGER by far and up LITTLE cottonwood canyon. My experience was this canyon road is MORE likely to be cut by falling snow, than BIG cottonwood canyon, the home of brighton & solitude. Brighton is larger than solitude (or it seems to be) -- solitude, in my mind especially the front part reminded me far more of an east-coast resort than anything i've skied out west -- however that's not to say there's not tons of off trail skiing, I've heard (but have no first hand knowledge of) solitude's honeycomb canyon is quite nice in the back... At least when I was there, Alta bans snowboarders...
MangyMarmot
January 5, 2006
Member since 12/25/2002 🔗
183 posts
Brighton seems to be really family friendly. There always seem to be a TON of kids there. I don't do terrain park stuff, but theirs looks really neat. Plus there are a couple places where you can take the kids up to the top on a lift, plop them on a mellower run shoot down something a bit more challenging and then meet them partway down mountain to ride the rest together.

Snowbird is great too, though mebbe not on first day. Might want to get legs back and do some confidence boosting first.
If you want to see a story I just wrote on these four resorts, go to http://www.sfexaminer.com/articles/2006/01/05/travel/20060103_tr01_tr.txt

mm
MangyMarmot
January 5, 2006
Member since 12/25/2002 🔗
183 posts
One more shameless self-plug. I noticed the Examiner cut a bunch out of the story. If you want more details about resorts beyond Alta and Snowbird, go to full story at

http://us.cnn.com/2006/TRAVEL/DESTINATIONS/01/03/salt.lake.skiing.ap/

mm
JohnL
January 5, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Brighton - best layount for snowboarders, probably the best of the four for intermediate Mid-Atlantic skiers. (Still a huge jump on the fun scale from the Mid-Atlantic.)

Solitude - low crowds, the best of the four for catching untracked snow well after a storm or the most amount of freshies during a storm. Drawback: there are long traverses for a lot of the expert runs (before and/or after the main face.) I prefer the expert terrain of Solitude to that of Brighton, but Solitude has much less intermediate terrain.

Alta - the legend. You have to check it out. Plenty of terrain for everyone. Doesn't allow snowboarding. All of the four have very good ski schools, but Alta may have the best of the four. They do groom several runs at Alta, and there are plenty of moderately-pitched open faces for those new to off-piste skiing to hone their skills. For experts, plenty of steep open faces, trees, rock-lined chutes, etc.

Snowbird - if you haven't already heard of the terrain right under the Tram, you probably shouldn't be skiing that terrain. There are a few intermediate runs down the frontside from the top of the Tram, but there is ofen plenty of weather at the top of the Tram. Not the place for a timid skier. Mineral Basin, off the back side of the mountain, has plenty of terrain for intermediates to experts. (You can access Mineral Basin from the top of the Tram and from other lifts.) For true experts to the movie stars, Snowbird probably has the "toughest" advanced terrain. (But there is plenty of advanced terrain at the other three.) Even though there are numerous intermediate runs, IMHO, most of Snowbird can be pretty intimidating for an intermediate.

Don't bother with the combined Alta/Snowbird pass. Each area has enough terrain by itself for a single day.

Have fun. I'll probably ski more days in Utah this year than in the Mid-Atlantic.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
January 5, 2006
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,225 posts
I took my first trip to Solitude last year and concluded that it is a dangerous place to go looking around off the trails. I was with a friend and his wife and in the morning we all skied together. After lunch we split up. Utah was in the depths of a mid Jan. thaw. No snow had fallen for 2 weeks and the days were warm with freezing nights. My buddy checked out Honeycomb Canyon and said it about rattled his fillings out. I went to the other side and found some soft skiable snow in a deeply shaded area called Headwall Forest. I called him and we joined up there. After several runs we were really comfortable and skiing pretty fast through the trees when we got cliffed out. We just missed going over it. It was near closing time and we didn't see an open way down and had to climb back up for what seemed like forever to find another route and get out safely. There was nobody left on the mountain by the time we got out. Earlier I saw a lot of even more dangerous situations from the lift. For example, off to the right there is a high ridge with a gentle run in from the top. It rolls over just a bit and then there is a band of big cliffs, about 60 footers. It was exactly the kind of place I have often explored on my own. I like steeps, however I like runs where I can stay on the snow all the way down. This would have been different, a gentle run in, followed by a roll over, followed by perhaps an untidy demise. I saw a lot of potential death traps like this at Solitude. Just a few miles away at Alta, it is really quite difficult to get into serious trouble unless you go looking for it. There are remarkably few cliffs and many many great shots where you can safely ski over a convex lip not knowing what's ahead and it will simply be a beautiful steep snow covered slope perhaps with a narrow choke point, but no cliffs. I don't know why two areas that are separated by just a few miles should be so different. They even appear to have different geology.

Here is an Alta story,
http://www.telemarktips.com/Alta.html
JohnL
January 5, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Denis,

Are you talking about MLK/Inaugaration week last year? I lucked out with some very nice conditions early in the week (including the first Sunday at Solitude), but by the end of the week the conditions were pretty poor. By that Friday, even Alta was an ice skating rink; even the faces that get a lot of sun exposure were bullet-proof.

Where did you cliff out in Headwall Forest? I am assuming you are talking about skier's right looking down from the Summit Lift. I'm curious, since I don't recall any obvious cliff bands in that section, and I like to be aware of any hidden surprises. Did you keep on traversing skier's right until almost to Evergreen (big open slope to the left of the Summit Lift) and then drop down into the trees?

I agree about the obvious (from the lift) dangerous cliff bands seen to the right when riding up the Summit Lift. I've always headed skier's right through the gates of Powder Horn lift to avoid that section.
Crush
January 5, 2006
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,026 posts
Denis - Duuuude! I'm not an extreme skier or anything but I *always* scope the terrain. When I first came to The Canyons I bought a pair of binoculars to scope out from the bottom lines I couldn't see from the top. Surprise cliff bands are a given .... you gotta take off-piste stuff seriously; just because it is in-bounds doesn't mean it's care-free! It just means there is avalanche control and a sweep at the end of the day. When I have guests skiing with me I make sure I know the line that will keep 'em safe....
Denis - DCSki Supporter
January 5, 2006
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,225 posts
Quote:

Denis,

Are you talking about MLK/Inaugaration week last year? I lucked out with some very nice conditions early in the week (including the first Sunday at Solitude), but by the end of the week the conditions were pretty poor. By that Friday, even Alta was an ice skating rink; even the faces that get a lot of sun exposure were bullet-proof.

Where did you cliff out in Headwall Forest? I am assuming you are talking about skier's right looking down from the Summit Lift. I'm curious, since I don't recall any obvious cliff bands in that section, and I like to be aware of any hidden surprises. Did you keep on traversing skier's right until almost to Evergreen (big open slope to the left of the Summit Lift) and then drop down into the trees?

I agree about the obvious (from the lift) dangerous cliff bands seen to the right when riding up the Summit Lift. I've always headed skier's right through the gates of Powder Horn lift to avoid that section.




John,

It was about halfway down Headwall Forest and not very far from the open slope that parallels the lift line, perhaps 200 ft. If you bear right more or less continuously as you go down thru the woods you will miss it. It isn't a big cliff, ~ 15 ft., but more than I want to jump and it is kind of a terrain trap where ridges begin to rise on both sides that funnel you into it. It's not obvious at all, until you ski into it. You definitely have to be careful.
http://www.skisolitude.com/downloads/stand_alone_Trailmap_2004.pdf

Crush, believe me I am no extreme skier. I am the most cautious adventure skier I know. I scope out new terrain very carefully from the lift and that is why I didn't go there. However I have seldom seen such enticing terrain that led to cliffs and it is easy for me to see how someone could be lured into it by a seemingly benign look from the top.

I believe it was the week after MLK. Everyplace had some hardpack, but the Greeley and East Greeley faces at Alta softened nicely by about 10 each day we were there. I believe we did 2 days at Solitude, 1 Brighton, 3 Alta. I have done Snowbird, Park City, and Deer Valley but it was 20 yrs. ago.

Everybody, be careful out there.
JohnL
January 6, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:

It was about halfway down Headwall Forest and not very far from the open slope that parallels the lift line, perhaps 200 ft. If you bear right more or less continuously as you go down thru the woods you will miss it. It isn't a big cliff, ~ 15 ft., but more than I want to jump and it is kind of a terrain trap where ridges begin to rise on both sides that funnel you into it. It's not obvious at all, until you ski into it. You definitely have to be careful.





Thanks for the heads-up. That's one section of the mountain I probably underestimate. I'll do some more scoping from the lift next time. IIRC, the section of Headwall right near the trail under the lift looked like it had some overly tight trees with some "funky" looking terrain near the bottom. In Headwall, I tend to go to skier's right. (But if you go too far skier's right, you hit some of the obvious drainages that get skied out pretty quickly.)

On a powder day, some of the open funnels through the trees traversing past Corner Chute, are nice spots to hit while you are waiting for Honeycomb Canyon to open and Headwall Forest has become skied out.

Quote:

I believe it was the week after MLK. Everyplace had some hardpack, but the Greeley and East Greeley faces at Alta softened nicely by about 10 each day we were there.




The second day I skied Alta that week, even the Greely's did not soften up that day (except for a very narrow strip.)

Quote:

I scope out new terrain very carefully from the lift and that is why I didn't go there. However I have seldom seen such enticing terrain that led to cliffs and it is easy for me to see how someone could be lured into it by a seemingly benign look from the top.




I'm always scoping out the terrain (especially out West) for cliff bands and nice lines . Unless I'm skiing behind someone out West, the first time I ski a line I tend to assume most drop offs are likely cliffs. Fortunately, most areas have signs in the trees letting you know you are in a cliff area so you know you have to be cautious.

Worst surprise I *almost* suffered was at the top of the Harmony Ridge at Whistler back in the mid-90's. I noticed from the lift that there were some serious cornices at the top of the ridge. I skied a trail (so skied off it was nearly groomed) before (I thought) I had reached the cornices. The trail disappeared before me, but I thought no way something this skied off would lead to a cornice. At the last second my spider senses tingled and I stopped just in time. Across the entire trail was a 15-20 foot cornice onto a hard-pack flat landing. No warning signs in sight. That near miss has taught me to be a bit paranoid out West.
KevR
January 6, 2006
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
I've heard whistler is notoriously under marked actually from some friends...

As for the headwall at solitude -- perhaps of interest: it is findable using google earth. Cliffiness is not overly visible given the resolution however. It is easiest to type in park city first, then zoom up a bit until you see the trails around there, then drag the whole image to the right ... you'll see the trails of brighton and solitude come into view, you may have to push the image up slightly.

With a bit of finagling, its possible to zoom right in on the headwall... which is pretty cool if you ask me (or take a look at the honeycomb from different angles...)
You'll probably want to turn on roads and geographic features -- honeycomb is labeled with "HoneyComb Cliffs" when you get down low enough...

Now if we could just get Crush to wear that recordable GPS, vid cam helm, and satellite link, we could get a first hand report tied into the thing!

Ok, maybe next version!
Roger Z
January 6, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Hmmm... I never noticed the cliff in the Headwall Forest either. Parachute and Milk Run are well-marked for on-piste cliffs, so you can avoid them easily. And maybe I need to ski Snowbird and Alta someday... I'm used to the hike-tos for advanced and expert skiing out west. Oh well.

My lesson in out-of-bounds skiing occurred at Brighton. A local gave directions to a nice bowl off the Western Territory. I think I followed her directions, but wound up at a 30 foot cliff. Not sure if I missed a turn, should have kept skiing to the right, or that she assumed I wouldn't mind hucking air to get into the bowl. Regardless, I wound up hiking back up the trail, literally shaking in fear at the near-miss. Never again will I attempt something out-of-bounds out west without a knowledgeable local going with me, and making clear that I intend to ski NO CLIFFS on the way down.

On the other hand, I avoided the Honeycomb Cliffs the whole week I was at Solitude, only to discover at the end of the trip that the ridgeline up to the cliffs was also the ridgeline that accessed Silver Fork Canyon, which looks absolutely magnificent. Next time I head out that way I hope to hike up with a couple folks and ski the Silver Fork- looks like an amazing area.

Scoping is mandatory, too. Even in-bounds terrain should be surveyed before skiing it (if possible- sometimes you just have to hope the ski patrol marked the run and go). You never know what you won't see hidden around a stash of trees or something when you're skiing a run.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
January 6, 2006
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,225 posts
Quote:


Thanks for the heads-up. That's one section of the mountain I probably underestimate. I'll do some more scoping from the lift next time.




John, there is no way to see it from the lift, the trees are too dense. As you have guessed, the way we found it was by going a little more skier's left on each run. The pitch was steeper and the trees tighter as you went further left. It was beautiful up to that point. There were some tracks so some folks jumped it I'm sure. There is probably 1/4 mile length to the catwalk above Headwall Forest, you can drop in anywhere over that 1/4 mile, and not more than 50 ft. of it that would lead you into that mini drainage terminated by the cliff.

Quote:

Worst surprise I *almost* suffered was at the top of the Harmony Ridge at Whistler back in the mid-90's. I noticed from the lift that there were some serious cornices at the top of the ridge. I skied a trail (so skied off it was nearly groomed) before (I thought) I had reached the cornices. The trail disappeared before me, but I thought no way something this skied off would lead to a cornice. At the last second my spider senses tingled and I stopped just in time. Across the entire trail was a 15-20 foot cornice onto a hard-pack flat landing. No warning signs in sight. That near miss has taught me to be a bit paranoid out West.




Canada is a different ball game. They have much less liability and do not mark lots of obstacles. Whistler is particularly dangerous and a lot of Americans get hurt there applying the assumption that risk is the same there as here. It isn't.
JohnL
January 6, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:

My lesson in out-of-bounds skiing occurred at Brighton. A local gave directions to a nice bowl off the Western Territory. I think I followed her directions, but wound up at a 30 foot cliff. Not sure if I missed a turn, should have kept skiing to the right, or that she assumed I wouldn't mind hucking air to get into the bowl. Regardless, I wound up hiking back up the trail, literally shaking in fear at the near-miss. Never again will I attempt something out-of-bounds out west without a knowledgeable local going with me, and making clear that I intend to ski NO CLIFFS on the way down.





Sound like the huge open bowl marked Cliff Area on Brighton's trail map

The marked Cliff Area between Millicent and Crest Express looked pretty sweet from a distance - I need to check that section out next time I hit Brighton. That section has numerous lines which you can ski down without mandatory air.

Quote:

On the other hand, I avoided the Honeycomb Cliffs the whole week I was at Solitude, only to discover at the end of the trip that the ridgeline up to the cliffs was also the ridgeline that accessed Silver Fork Canyon, which looks absolutely magnificent. Next time I head out that way I hope to hike up with a couple folks and ski the Silver Fork- looks like an amazing area.





Not sure what section is called Honeycomb Cliffs. Skier's left side of the Canyon, about as far down as you can traverse/hike?

I'd be more worried about Avi danger OB in Utah than cliffs... It may only be one drainage away from the ski area boundary, but you don't get much skier compaction or any controlled slides from patrol. That's where skiing with an experienced local backcountry slider is important.
Roger Z
January 6, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
That's the spot. Yeah a lot of Wasatch backcountry is pretty wide open. Unfortunately I did not stumble into that area.

The Honeycomb Cliffs are the area right above Honeycomb Canyon. You hike up to them from the summit lift. The backside of the cliffs offer an intermediate/advanced descent to Alta, if you ski out the ridge you can hit Silver Fork. But from the summit lift, it looks like you're walking about a knife edge to ski into a 60 degree chute with mandatory air on most lines.
JohnL
January 6, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:

The Honeycomb Cliffs are the area right above Honeycomb Canyon. You hike up to them from the summit lift. The backside of the cliffs offer an intermediate/advanced descent to Alta, if you ski out the ridge you can hit Silver Fork. But from the summit lift, it looks like you're walking about a knife edge to ski into a 60 degree chute with mandatory air on most lines.




I think I know the face you are talking about, right above the Summit Lift. Saw some people going down it last year. Given how steep the Honeycomb side is, it's surprising that the back side of that ridge is intermediate.

I've got a picture map of the SLC ski areas in my cube, and I'm checking out those ridges right now.
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