Like the eagles that fly above its runs, this ski area is soaring. Although the majority of its visitors are day-trippers from nearby Salt Lake City, destination skiers are discovering Solitude's plentiful snowfall (nearly 500 inches a year), 1,200 acres of terrain and $39 lift tickets. Only a 35-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake, Solitude is tucked into the scenic splendor of pristine Big Cottonwood Canyon. Seven lifts, including a high-speed quad, serve its 2,047 vertical feet. Uncrowded, spacious runs such as Sunshine Bowl epitomize the Solitude experience for many of its intermediate skiers. Experts head to the tight glades and steep, rock-lined chutes off the Powderhorn chair or explore 400 acres of remote terrain in Honeycomb Canyon on Solitude's backside. Liftlines are almost unheard of. "You ski down, get on the lift and go up-a line would at least give you a rest," says one exhausted reader. Solitude has an intimate, cozy charm with its handful of rooms and only a few restaurants. Despite a new European-style base village under construction, the longtime family owners of Solitude say the resort's feel will be preserved. The development's first phase, the 83-unit Powderhorn Lodge, opens this season. Even when the village is completed, it will have only 560 rooms-compared with thousands in Park City or Little Cottonwood Canyon. The challenge, of course, will be to maintain the essence of Solitude, which is summed up by one reader: "small resort/big mountain."
WHAT'S NEW The slopeside Powderhorn Lodge, with 83 rooms, a skier services center and the Thirsty Squirrel pub.
A GOOD DEAL Buy a 10-ticket book for $280. Available until Nov. 1; visit www.skisolitude.com.
DON'T MISS The nightly excursion on cross-country skis, with headlamps, to a Solitude mountain yurt for a five-course gourmet dinner. Book early. Call (801) 536-5709.
MEDALS GOLD Snow, Terrain, Challenge, Value, Weather, Accessibility; SILVER Grooming, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK Snow (4), Weather (9), Accessibility (12); Après-Ski (63), Off-Hill Activities (66), Family Programs (71).
READER REMARKS (+) "Diverse terrain, magnificent snow, good lifts, no crowds-by far the best value in Utah." (-) "Advanced terrain is hard to access." "Very little in services and lodging."