WORDS — Julian Carr
I learned to ski in 8th grade and I had a season pass to Solitude my freshman through junior year of high school. You could say I cut my teeth there. My first cliff drops, first 360, first deep pow, first steeps, loads of frustrations, learning and lots of highs—it all went down at Solitude. Ever since those early days riding the Summit Express to the peak of the resort, one of the burliest in-bounds cliffs had been staring back at me on Fantasy Ridge and, just a few seasons ago, I finally got my chance to hit it. My man Parker Cook and I had been airing a bunch of cliffs during a two-day cliff bender at the resort, and the Fantasy Ridge 80-footer was finally good to go.
A quick boot-pack with double knife-edge exposure got the blood going. Up on the deck of the cliff, we stamped out a big left-hand turn runway. We knew it was going to be cloudy all day, but we were feeling it. I soared a swan dive front flip off the lip and, right afterwards, Parker threw a mean and clean straight air. We landed to a nice round of applause from everyone at the top of Summit. Fantasy ridge 80-footer… check…
But let’s zoom in on the Summit Express to highlight what it really has to offer, apart from that massive drop. I’d be hard-pressed to say there is a single chairlift that accesses as much radical terrain; I’ll put Summit Chair up against any chairlift on the planet, no doubt about it. As I mentioned, you can immediately start hiking Fantasy Ridge and access some of the most bonkers terrain anywhere—and, I reckon, there are still quite a few first descents ready to be opened up in Black Bess Chutes along the ridgeline that tops out over 10,000 feet.
Don’t feel like hiking? Take a short side-step and a quick jaunt downslope, and find your way into the Cathedral Cirque. A little tricky to locate, you access it by skiing along the Honeycomb Canyon ridge and keeping your eyes peeled for a right-hand drop. Pat yourself on the back once you make your way to the zone. You’ll want to keep your wits about you, though, to avoid getting caught atop one of the many committing cliff bands.
Once you shred the lap in Cathedral, head back to the top of the Summit Express and jump into Honeycomb Canyon. Navigate the traverse along the far wall, looking up at all the Fantasy Ridge rowdiness, and keep your eyes peeled for a backcountry gate, just past the Boundary Chutes, as your landmark. Don’t drop into the backside of the resort because your prize is still in-bounds: No Man’s Land and Crystal Point. Here, you’ll rarely see another skier and the terrain offers a slew of open pow lanes and tree skiing. Even though it’s still within resort boundaries, you’ll feel like you’re in your own backcountry heaven.
SKIER: Carlo Travarelli
PHOTO: Bruno Long
LOCATION: Solitude, UT
The best part of skiing these runs in Honeycomb Canyon is that it’ll spit you out at the Eagle Express, which then provides access to a completely different side of the mountain off the Powderhorn II lift. On the ride up, you’ll hoot or heckle at everyone skiing Paradise Lost right under the chair, full of pow lanes, jumps, mini-cliffs—you name it. Once you hop off Powderhorn Chair, you’ll ski one of my favorite runs of all-time, Milk Run. To this day, my longest, uninterrupted powder-laden resort lap was on Milk Run, which photographer Adam Barker and I still reminisce about over beers…
That day, the two of us were out shooting pow in the trees and, after about an hour of taking photos, we heard ski patrol was going to drop the rope to access Milk Run. We raced over to the rope and were the first in line. As you know, on those deep days, it’s difficult to just stand there and wait, hoping the rope will drop. But we bided our time, all the while hearing hoots and hollers from skiers all over the mountain. We almost bailed, but we stayed put. Sure enough, Patrol came over and, right when they were about to drop the rope, Adam looked at me and said, “Lets just shred it, no photos.” I obliged. Adam shot through first and I was right behind him. The snow was as light and deep as I’ve ever skied: We’re talking full White Room, chest-deep glory with every turn. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to ski many places with high-quality snow, but I’ve never linked so many turns together on one pitch as we did that day on Milk Run. At the bottom, we figured we had linked 30 full speed, full immersion pow turns and we still determine it to be the single best pow run of our lives…
Anyway back to the beta—I’ve just scratched the surface of the options at Solitude. You could spend an entire season skiing exclusively off the Summit Express and I’m positive it won’t get old; the only downside is that you’ll realize you’ll have to spend another season exploring it and maybe a lifetime to ski everything. From Summit, you could hit Back Door that’ll place you in the steeper Evergreen Chutes. Or, in Honeycomb Canyon, you could access the Black Forest, which offers some of the best pow skiing anywhere. You could practice your beacon skills in the training area in the Headwall Forest and, afterword, hit up the Highway to Heaven gates, that provide access to backcountry terrain between Solitude and Brighton. And the list goes on. But, if you do anything at all, go ski the trees. Solitude has some of the coolest, old, craggy trees. Go skiing there and you’ll say to yourself, “Julian was right—those are some crazy f*ckin’ trees.”