Solitude
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MadMonk
February 11, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
I won't bore everyone with a write up of my entire week in Utah (Park City twice, Deer Valley, Alta, Canyons) because most of those mountains seem to be written about here quite often.

I will however give a brief review of Solitude which we did today (2/11). It was a beautiful bluebird day with a high of around 34 and light winds. Having never skied Solitude before we weren't quite sure what to expect.

What we discovered was a gem of mountain with something for everyone. Despite it being a weekend there was never a lift line and the slopes were uncrowded to say the least. The snow was soft and in great shape despite it being nearly a week since any fresh had fallen.

As for the mountain itself the front face sort of reminds you of the basin side at Snowshoe as the steepest pitches are found on the top half of the mountain. Unlike Snowshoe the top half is much bigger and the expert runs are actually expert runs. Another plus on the front-side runs is that they'll groom one side (actually about 2/3) of some runs while letting the other side form bumps. As someone still perfecting his bump technique this is awesome as it lets me ski a dozen or so bumps and then bail out if need be. Lastly the frontside has runs for everyone from gentle groomers to groomed steeps to cliff areas and moguls.

Now the backside of the mountain is something else. All of it is fairly steep. One side consists of the black-forest which has some great tree skiing. The snow was soft but a bit chewed up. Now across from the Black Forest is Honeycomb Canyon.

The snow over here was extremely soft. I caught a tip in one chute, released one ski, cartwheeled, and found my rump planted into a couple feet of very soft snow. Heck digging out and putting the skis back on was more tiresome than the traverse and skiing itself. The great thing was the further you were willing to travers the better the snow was. We actually managed to find some that hadn't been tracked out despited the week-long snow drought. Seriously we skied five runs over there and saw a grand-total of four other skiers; all on the first run. We commented that if skiing alone you should definitely have a walky-talky or cell just in case you hurt yourself and need help.

We didn't get over to the Headwall Forest on the front-side.

Overall we really enjoyed Solitude and will definitely be heading back...hopefully on a powder day.
JohnL
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Small world, I skied Solitude the same day. I'd grade the conditions on Saturday a C compared to other days I've skied there the past two seasons. But Utah doesn't suffer from grade inflation and you wouldn't believe what an A is like.

Despite the very warm temps last week and the relatively cold temps of last weekend, I was surprised how good the conditions were at Solitude. The north-facing trails generally had nice snow (front face, far side of Honeycomb, etc.), but a lot of the fun advanced trails (Navarone, Black Forest, chutes accessed via the gate at the top of the Powerhorn Lift) really suffered from previous sun exposure and didn't soften up at all.
MadMonk
February 14, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
If you had skied The Canyons the day before you would have given Solitude a much higher grade. Friday at the Canyons was like skiing a big version of Liberty; and I generally like the Canyons.

Like one local at Solitude told me, "We're spoiled."
tommo
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
303 posts
I was at Solitude on Friday, and it was a mixed bag (at least by Utah standards). Corner chute and the overall area around headwall forest was excellent. But the north side of Honeycomb, e.g. Black Forest, Here be dragons, was pretty bad where the sun had turn the top to ice crud mixed with breaking crust. If you could stay in the shade, it was OK, but far from perfect conditions. On the other hand, most of the main front bowls were quite good, and the groomed was, well, groomed. Which, of course, so far exceeds anything we have here in the mid-atlantic that it's always a treat by my standards.

Same was pretty much true at Park City on Thursday. Saturday we were at Snowbird, where the morning was terrible except in the Gad Valley because of high winds and crappy snow. By the afternoon, though, Little Cloud and most of the mineral basin side was very, very good considering the snow was over a week old.

Ahhhhh, Utah
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Roger Z
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Kind of makes you wish we had the problem of week old, hundred inch natural snow bases around here, doesn't it?
kennedy
February 14, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
I'm headed there next week. Hope it all doesn't melt in the meantime

Actually it looks like the snow machine should be kicking back in over the next few days there. Hopefully our snowmachine is gearing up for a few more too. I'd like to come back for a few turns before wrapping it up for the season.
KevR
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
it doesn't seem (from afar looking at either pics folks have sent or weather forecasts with resort conditions) that its really been a banner year there. We missed fresh snow too last year at Snowbasin, Powder... just a wish really for the future.
Chad
February 14, 2006
Member since 12/12/2000 🔗
270 posts
Quote:

it doesn't seem (from afar looking at either pics folks have sent or weather forecasts with resort conditions) that its really been a banner year there. We missed fresh snow too last year at Snowbasin, Powder... just a wish really for the future.




not sure why you say this. no snow for the past ten days but the year-to-date at alta is still at 373 inches. and looking at the monthly averages they can still expect around 200 more in feb-may. that would put them over their average of 500 yet again. last year they got 697 through april at alta.

http://alta.com/pages/snowhistory.php http://alta.com/pages/0405history.htm

here is a pic from a few weeks ago at solitude:



More pics here...

here are some excerpts from todays "HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK" for the utah mountains...

SIGNIFICANT SNOWFALL IS LIKELY OVER NORTHERN AND WESTERN UTAH AND SOUTHWESTERN WYOMING WEDNESDAY INTO THURSDAY MORNING. STRONG WINDS ARE ALSO POSSIBLE OVER SOUTHERN UTAH WEDNESDAY.

ANOTHER ROUND OF WIDESPREAD PRECIPITATION IS POSSIBLE OVER THE WEEKEND INTO EARLY NEXT WEEK.
kennedy
February 14, 2006
Member since 12/8/2001 🔗
792 posts
I was talking to someone on the chair at 7 Springs about Utah and he seemed to be under the impression that they were having a drought which I couldn't understand since they've been getting pounded over the past few weeks.
Crush
February 14, 2006
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,026 posts
The season started kind of late but it's where it should be now. The little baby tree outside my place is almost totally covered with snow and that is how it was last year and the year before. The snow is piled up so high I can't see around corners at intersections. The Jordanelle Resevoir looks totally full.

This is very typical weather for here ... two weeks of sun two weeks of storms. We had clear skies for about two weeks and today it is getting cloudy and we will get about 1 foot over the next 24 hours, I'd reckon.
KevR
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
i think the entire west is still technically in a drought -- they either don't get the rain or snow pack, or something -- I LIKE THAT PIC THOUGH! as long it looks like that in two weeks, then i'll take back what i said!
MadMonk
February 14, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
Isn't the traverse in Honeycomb like some type of death march for boarders?

On a side note while I was paying $3.75 for bottles of gatorade/powerade at Deer Valley/Canyons, I was able to get a bottle of gatorade and a beer for $4.50 total at Alta (Goldminer's Daughter window).
tommo
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
303 posts
We had a boarder with us this trip - first time I've ever done much real skiing with one. I tried to keep in mind his inability to deal with even short flats, but it sure seems like he still had to do a lot of hopping and, sometimes, unbuckling. Dropping into Honeycomb wasn't really a problem, though he had to walk from the gates at the top of Powerderhorn over to the left. From the summit, my daughter and I could traverse much further down canyon before picking a route, whereas he had to sort of drop/traverse/drop/traverse. On the other hand, he had more control, I'd say, in the trees around headwall and in the trees/chutes off of Jupiter Peak. The bottom of Honeycomb is no longer an issue with the new "Canyon extraction quad" (which, by the way, even has a new Safety Bar!!! installed this year).

On the prices note, I don't really begrudge them what they charge for food/drink on the mountains; They gotta pay for all that infrastructure and employees, and the cost of lunch isn't really that significant in the context of the whole trip cost. I DO recommend getting discount lift tickets, though, as that can save quite a bit of $$, esp. when purchasing for several people. PCMR tickets, for example, are $74 at the window versus $57 elsewhere (or 2 days for $100). Snowbird is only $45 for chairs, or $53 if you want the tram (which is a cool ride, but not worth the extra dollars in imho...) So, you can save a big part of the lunch bill by just buying discount tickets ahead of time. And you avoid the ticket line as an added bonus...
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
February 14, 2006
Member since 07/18/2001 🔗
1,935 posts
I was pretty lucky to have hit UT a few weeks ago at the end of a storm cycle. I used a ski and stay package, so I have no idea what I paid for the lift tickets because they were part of the package. What I do know is that for tickets, food, and lodging (i.e. if you exclude transportation), UT is a bit more expensive than Vermont and significantly more expensive than Europe, but the snow quality and consistancy there trumps VT by a huge measure and Europe by a significant measure. Hence, if snow is the single most important factor in skiing, which I think it is, then UT is worth the extra money.
Roger Z
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
?

Where did you get that impression? Snow levels are ahead of last year right now in Utah, which was considered a banner year, and water content is far higher than average. Totals out of western Colorado are about the same, and have you been following Lou's posts from Canada? The winter has been absolutely sick up there. Utah had minor flooding after the spring runoff last year so I think they're out of the 5 year drought they were stuck in.

On the other hand, the southern Rockies (southern CO and UT, NM and AZ) are hurting real bad this year. Second year in a row after a great winter three years ago.
Chad
February 14, 2006
Member since 12/12/2000 🔗
270 posts
Quote:

Isn't the traverse in Honeycomb like some type of death march for boarders?




i thought it might be. at the bottom there was a short flat (and even a little uphill) stretch where i had to walk. i walked a short stretch, around the corner, and voila, there was the honeycomb return chairlift.
MadMonk
February 14, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
Tommo,
Great points about buying advance tickets. We used the Air Force for tickets the Park City resorts. For Solitide and Alta we did the deal w/ Canyon Hop; $76 for roundtrip transportation and lift ticket.

For those w/out a military connection you can get discounted tickets via Canyon Sports in SLC, Albertsons in SLC (the one in Park City does not participate), GoUtah.com (Canyons only) and probably a few other places of which I am unaware.
KevR
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
i haven't been paying attention, i had heard it was little less snow out that way awhile back. first yr i went to utah, we had 2ft the first day and fresh snow half the other days, with another fairly large dump of mayb 12 inches or so... then last year NOTHING... blah.
I got spoilt rotten
JohnL
February 14, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Ok you skiers and boarders, were you taking the high or low traverse at Honeycomb Canyon?



The high traverse required a lot of side-stepping to keep on course, and it seemed like it would be a bear for snowboarders. It was not fun for skiers, for that matter.
MadMonk
February 15, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
I did both. I thought the high traverse was probably done by Satan. Then again I suck on traverses (had a really good spill on a hardpack traverse once when a ski released in the bottom of a death ditch).
Roger Z
February 15, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
When I was out there a couple years ago they only had the low traverse, everything above it was closed to skiing (unless you came down the Honeycomb Chutes). It was a bit intimidating traversing under those giant rocks with all that snow sitting there, looking like it was ready to pounce on forlorn skiers. Never did make it all the way out to Crystal Point. I skied beyond the "Experts Only" sign once but wore myself out so bad that I basically fell down the slope (the snow gave way underneath me, or, to be more honest, I did something which caused the traverse to get broken. I had to scramble out of waist deep snow and apparently ruined the route for everyone else. To anyone there in early January two years ago: sorry. ).

Other than that traversing incident, Honeycomb Canyon was awesome. Black Forest was one of the best powder runs I ever had, and a phenomenal area to ski. Think I made first tracks down it at about one p.m. You can't beat that.
tommo
February 15, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
303 posts
On the west side, from the summit chair, we did the "straight across" traverse, which I would consider the low one. They were not permitting any hiking to get higher on Friday. And, in reality, the conditions on the west side weren't real good due to the frozen chunks surface. There were a couple of nutso tracks from earlier in the week coming off the true summit rocks (waaayyy up high) that would have been Warren Miller Films stuff to watch, but any hero runs were out of the question by the end of the week.

On the other hand, headwall forest, corner, and any northeast sides of gullies in Honeycomb, e.g. off of Here be dragons, were still very good.... And over at PCMR, the hike to the top of Great Scott yielded some good snow, and McKonkey's, since it tends to stay in the shade, was also decent.
warren
February 15, 2006
Member since 07/31/2003 🔗
485 posts
John,
Every time I've done Honeycomb canyon, I've always used the lower traverse. At least the lower traverse seems pretty friendly.

-Warren-
JohnL
February 15, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
The higher traverse (requires plenty of side stepping but no hiking) is higher up the mountain than last year; I couldn't imagine trying to do it on a snowboard without taking your board off. When the snow is good, you do get a couple of more powder turns compared with the lower traverses, and you can also access the terrain beyond the gate. Warning: there are a couple of sections of the traverse beyond the gate that are not for the faint of heart: steep side-steps and narrow tracks above some rocky steep terrain and rock bands. However, a lot of the terrain in between the sketch is not too difficult; getting there is.

Tommo, PM me if you make it out to Utah again this winter; I may be out there the same time. What skied well on Saturday varied immensely, even within 50 yards sections of the same face. Here Be Dragons and Navarone had some OK sections at the top in between the poor sections, but they were frozen solid at the bottom (more sun exposure and lower elevation.) Frozen death cookies and frozen cut-up are impossible to ski cleanly. Sounds like they may have been a bit better on Friday, but I've found that face of Honeycomb Canyon degrades very quickly from sun exposure and warm temps. When it's good, it's great, but it doesn't last long.

Mr. Z, on Saturday I continued the traverse further past the gates than I've ever done in the past and dropped over the back side into Silver Fork Canyon. Even though that back face got a lot of sun exposure, I found some well-sheltered tree sections that were awesome; very steep and some very nice pow. By far the best snow around that day. The return trip back to the base was a bit funky, since you ski down this narrow road with five foot banks on each side (barely wide enough for a car). Even though the road is plowed, it still had several inches of snow on it. Sure glad I didn't meet a car headed in the opposite direction.

Got some general hints on that route from a Solitude worker during a January trip.
JohnL
February 15, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:

This is very typical weather for here ... two weeks of sun two weeks of storms. We had clear skies for about two weeks and today it is getting cloudy and we will get about 1 foot over the next 24 hours, I'd reckon.




Bingo! Sounds like Crush may know something about Utah weather.

It's the luck of the draw: you may get non-stop snow on your trip or you may get bright sunshine with 100" bases. Either one is good.

There was still a lot of good snow to be skied last weekend in Utah if you knew where to look. Even though some natural snow trails sucked, the groomers were universally fine. Plus, poor conditions on trails that I normally ski forces me to explore new terrain in search of better conditions. I discovered a lot of nice new terrain to be skied in the future.

Friday at Brighton: The ungroomed trails off of Great Western universally sucked; refrozen chop that was dangerous to ski. I moved on and found some decent snow in some north-facing trees. I also found some untracked snow in steep, steep trees after a short hike. The steep runs under the Milly lift were generally skied off by Utah standards, but they still skied well. Some nice packed powder and chowder could be found off of Milly if you got off the obvious lines just a bit.

Saturday at Solitude: besides Silver Fork, found some funky uncut snow off of Sol Bright. Scouted out some faces that I still have to figure out how to access. Explored some trees on the front side I've never bothered with before; some nice packed powder in them.

Sunday, Monday at Alta. Sunday was warmer and the snow was less skied off, Monday was a bit challenging to find good snow since even the Greely area didn't soften up. Still, I found some nice snow around the Sugarloaf lift on Monday and some decent snow in some chutes around Supreme. On Sunday, with a short hike up Devil's Castle, got some untouched and some chowder. Hit some nice lines on the backside, including Gunsight for the first time. After a bumped out entrance, there was some very nice snow if you went a bit left or right. The hike up the front side to access Gunsight was a bit nerve raking: a steep side-step up an icy face, rocks to either side of the side-step. At the top, you then had to ski above a rocky area, with only two narrow ski tracks to glide on. One of the tracks had a rock poking through the surface.

The sun softened up the West Rustler face on Sunday PM. Plus, I was able to hike to the top of Mount Baldy, and ski down the main chute. That was quite the adventure!

Not an epic weekend, but plenty of fun was had.
Roger Z
February 15, 2006
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Quote:

Scouted out some faces that I still have to figure out how to access.




Are you talking about that face up above the cross-country ski area by any chance?

Thanks for hitting part of Silver Fork, I have completely lost concentration on my homework (who's concentration is menial at best usually). You do make it out to Utah a lot...

...speaking of which it appears I might have a job interview (still tentative, keep your fingers crossed) not far from a major ski resort further north of UT. If the interview comes through then I'll provide more details; don't want to jinx my prospects for it.

JohnL- you still up for a get-together at The Canyons with Crush? Jimmy is gonna be out there, too, no? We need a headcount and a date. I know, I keep saying that. Maybe Jimmy can start a Utah "Crash with Crush" thread or something.
MadMonk
February 15, 2006
Member since 12/27/2004 🔗
235 posts
JohnL, is the main chute as steep as it looks ... or steeper?

Any other runs to which it compares?
JohnL
February 15, 2006
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:

JohnL, is the main chute as steep as it looks ... or steeper?

Any other runs to which it compares?





It wasn't that difficult, but I skied it very conservatively since I had never done it before and was skiing by myself that day. Snow conditions were very nice, but it was starting to get a bit bumped up in the middle. Skiing the main chute is more of a mental challenge than a skills challenge. It is not that steep or that narrow. The scary part is that it is very long with rock walls. If you did fall and start sliding, things would not be good unless you self-arrested quickly.

Click on the pictures to get a larger version.

Main chute is the chute on the right. Look at how skied off the face is, including some very sick and very exposed lines. Plenty of amazing skiers ski Alta.


Main Chute is the gulley towards the back. From this pix, I'd guess it's 40+ degrees.


But the hike up is a physical and mental challenge. You start at the cattrack where the two people are standing at the bottom of the pix. You follow the ridge up to the very top. There are a couple of very dicey sections near the bottom; the boot pack steps were not consistent or deep, some were over rock with little or no snow on top, one part was up a 50-60 degree slope. It was scarier than the run down.


Wish I had brought a camera with me the day I did the hike. From the top of Baldy, you were looking down at the top of the Snowbird Tram and even helicopters flying below you. There was an incredible view looking straight down Little Cottonwood Canyon with Salt Lake City framed in the background.
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