Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Two Centre Conundrum at Jackson Hole

Me at Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole
The downhill dilemma: How to decide whether to stay on the mountain at Jackson Hole's Teton Village with all the ski in/out conveniences or lodge 12 miles away in town, using shuttles to get to the skiing, and enjoying the après atmosphere of historic Jackson

Having stayed right at the base lifts at the 
Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa last time when I was doing Elevate The Women's Ski Camp, I opted for the opposite experience in March: bunking in downtown Jackson, starting off at the exquisite Hotel Jackson which wasn't even built when I last skied there four seasons ago. 

Hotel Jackson, Jackson Wyoming
The Library at Hotel Jackson
'Boutique hotel' has such a wide range of definitions these days that it is difficult to know what to expect, but Hotel Jackson is the topnotch version, a 2018 Four Star Forbes-rated, meticulously manicured, mountain-modern extravaganza. Run by the Darwiche family since 2015, it combines the latest multi-textural architectural and decor elements with pristine and personal service. Using reclaimed barn wood and locally quarried stone, it was built on the site of another hotel which dated back to the early 1900s. Precise attention to detail has resulted in an exquisite blend of raw materials and fun features - such as the icicles hanging from branches which are changed to Christmas decorations and Easter eggs at the relevant seasons. The carpets are made from New Zealand wool which was sent to the UK to be woven into gorgeous modern designs. The Library is a treasure trove of tranquility with huge tomes, antiques, artwork and artifacts needing a lot more free time than is available on a typical ski holiday. 

Exquisite snacks greeting us in our room on arrival at Hotel Jackson
Beef kebab with fattoush salad at FIGS, Hotel Jackson
With roots originally in Lebanon, the family have brought Middle Eastern style, flavour and spices to their cutting-edge cuisine, attracting tourists and locals to FIGS Restaurant. Much of the mezze-style menu is by chance also vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten free. And everything is made fresh in house, with lots of locally-sourced meats and produce, complimented with cold-pressed olive oil from Lebanon, organic chickpeas, and spices imported from the Middle East.

Fireplace at FIGS, Hotel Jackson
Direct flights come into the one-runway Jackson Hole Airport (which is bang smack in the middle of Grand Teton National Park so it can’t be expanded) from Atlanta, Phoenix, JFK New York, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, LA, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Houston, Newark, Dallas, and Chicago. On arrival at this delightfully small and very Western-themed airport (think greeters in Stetsons, cowboy boots and duster coats), we were met by British chauffeur Joe, who regaled us with tips and tales about the Tetons as we drove the nine miles to town. Apart from being an interesting and very informed character, Joe's a real asset for the Hotel Jackson as he's fluent in Chinese. He told us he lived in China for decades, running a business there, before semi-retiring in Jackson. Grand Teton National Park attracts lots of Chinese visitors among its more than 1.6 million overnight summer stays. Winter visitation is a fraction of this, around 550,000 skier days.  

Ski butler at Hotel Jackson
Another chauffeur service offered by the 
Hotel Jackson is the seamless ski shuttle, competing with the ski in/ski out conveniences of staying on the hill which is 16 miles away. The ski valet brings heated and dried boots as well as skis, poles and snowboards to the 15-person Mercedes van which runs three trips every morning to the hill and three back each afternoon. As well as scenic with wildlife spotting opportunities, the journey is a great opportunity to get the driver's - and other passengers' - tips on where to ski, lunch and après. For those who prefer privacy, there is a new ski butler service in luxury vehicles complete with hot toddies.

Of course, one of the main bonuses of staying in 
Jackson is the eclectic, historic and impeccably-preserved Western town itself. Jackson vaunts 40 plus art galleries, a similar number of restaurants, and around 20 unique stores. Lots of western character. The Darwiche family also owns several businesses around town which is peppered with covered wooden walkways skirting most of the shops and restaurants. 

From Native, Jackson
Crazy Horse Authentic Indian Jewelry was started in 1978 by the Darwiche patriarch and hotel GM, Jim and now features gorgeous rugs, baskets, and pottery. In 1983 he opened the first Swarovski outlet in the USA, called A Touch of Class and nowadays selling Alex and Ani and Pandora products, too. He also launched Native the same year, specializing in Native American fine art, artifacts and artisan jewelry. Elements from these stores are displayed around the Hotel Jackson including local artwork and signature pieces such as the turquoise-encrusted cow skull in the bar area at FIGS. I don't like dead animal parts on display typically but this is unusually gorgeous. 

Hotel Jackson lobby
One of the influences behind the 
Hotel Jackson's signature style is Sadek Darwiche who was born in Jackson. "I started skiing at three-and-a-half on Snow King, the town ski hill," he told me over dinner at FIGS. "I still occasionally hop on the shuttle to Teton Village and go a few runs with guests and I also ski at weekends with my kids. “Majoring in political science and economics at Berkeley, Sadek first worked in finance before moving back to Jackson in 2005. "There’s a lot of opportunity here," he says. "I continued to work in finance at first and then, when we acquired this property, I worked on the rebuilding, working closely with the architects and interior designers." It's really a family affair, with brother Dorian also working at the 55-room hotel, taking guests on excursions such as snowmobiling. They are also working on employing a local ambassador who would guide visitors on various outdoor sports both winter and summer. 

As local property owners, the Darwiche family is solving the perennial problem of where to house seasonal staff - it's particularly difficult in the Jackson Hole area as Teton County is the richest county in the USA - meaning inflated house prices - and has a significant divide between rich and poor. Jim insists that the affordable property he builds is designed to a high standard, saying "If I couldn’t live in it, I don’t want my employees to live in it". Apartments have two bedrooms, lofts, and Jacuzzi tubs. This caring attitude extends to employee satisfaction. "We allow employees to have ownership in what they do," says Sadek. "They have a seat at the table and our doors are always open." 

Ownership would be nice, too, for visitors - what I discovered after two nights at 
Hotel Jackson was that you can check out any time you like, but you’ll never want to leave! (You have to be an Eagles' fan to understand the reference).

The Wort Hotel, Jackson Hole
My nightlife picks during my five day visit all involved live music and dancing. Every Tuesday local band One Ton Pig plays at The Wort Hotel's Silver Dollar Bar attracting a dinner group followed by a lively late-night younger crew. It was fun meeting up there with locals Tenessa Singleton and husband Geoff Gottlieb who I had kept in touch with since doing the Elevate Camp. It's always useful to have local leadership around the runs and Geoff turned out to be a great guide over the next few days. 

Dancing to One Ton Pig at the Wort Hotel's Silver Dollar Bar
Michael Franti at Rendezvous 2018
On the Thursday night we went to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar which, as well as iconic saddle bar stools and cowboy décor, features Western dance lessons. And the Friday and Saturday coincided with Jackson Hole's Annual Rendezvous Festival which is split between the town on the Fri night and the ski hill next day. Great music from the Mavericks, Michael Franti and Portugal. The Man. And, with all the booze consumed, it's handy that the resort puts on extra free buses all evening to get everyone safely home. 
Tenessa with Babe Force
As well as skiing with Geoff, my other local mentors include pro skier-turned-instructor, Crystal Wright who was also an integral part of my Elevate camp experience. A talented fitness trainer, she's also a board member of Jackson Hole Babe Force (a girly group that provides support for women in the ski world) which this year gave away two scholarships to Elevate. 

One of them, Katie Everson, wrote a blog about her experiences. Crystal's pick of the piste is Hoback which she says is an exceptionally long run, unbeatable on a powder day. "I also love Alta Chutes and Expert Chutes because they are north facing and keep good snow," she adds. 

One of three resident moose at Jackson Hole

One of the fun places to eat on the hill is Piste Mountain Bistro right at top of Bridger Gondola. It's really lively, with a warm fire at the entrance, comfy seats and the best views of the mountain and valley via floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu - featuring Rocky Mountain cuisine made from locally-sourced ingredients - included a triple chocolate mousse - which was mildly amusing as we saw three moose every day in the woods just above the base area. 

Bar Enoteca, Jackson Hole
Back in Teton Village, Il Villaggio Osteria is fabulous for sit-down rustic-Italian pasta lunches or dinner and next door I found upbeat après at Bar Enoteca (a new addition since 2017). I was interviewing Jeremy Walker, Regional Beverage Director and Private Wine Buyer for the Fine Dining Restaurant Group for another article. "My favorite picks on food are the whipped ricotta, cured Iberico pork leg, and the rabbit rillette," he told me. And his recommended tipples are Tomado de Castro Albarino, Getariako Txakolina, and Vinha da Malhada Trincadiera Blend (which I really liked too). "They are Spanish and Portuguese wines that are light yet complex, great with food, and complement our food which represents the regions where these wines come from," Jeremy explained. With a wide range of culinary influence around Jackson and Jackson Hole, the Fine Dining Restaurant Group also encompasses the Rendezvous Bistro, The Kitchen, Bin22, Bodega, Bistro Catering, Roadhouse Pub & Eatery and Roadhouse Brewing Co. 
Handle Bar at the Four Seasons  
Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Make a reservation if you're planning to go to the Handle Bar at the Four Seasons – otherwise you'll be stuck in the lunchtime and après mobs haggling for tables. People had overflowed onto the patio, eating despite light snow falling. With a Scottish theme in music and décor, there's tasty food (think mussels, bison burgers and interesting salads), topnotch service, and Whisky tastings. Lots of creative cocktails, too, and, best of all for me, Taittinger by the glass. Another reason to visit - if you're not lucky enough to be staying there - is the sensational spa where I had an indulgent mani/pedi, giving my feet and ankles a treat after my last ski day of the season (day 38, by the way). There's nothing better than some form of massage and pampering when the body has been pushing the boundaries of its strength, endurance and flexibility and the slopes.

Our Tahoe ski buddy, Steve Urbani (who I mentioned in my Squaw Valley article )
came to Jackson to tick off a bucket list resort, having recently retired from a school board psychology career. Although he gets 100 days skiing at least at Squaw Valley (where he is an instructor), Mt Rose and Sugar Bowl, he was keen to explore a bit further last season. "Wow, what a huge mountain!" was his first response. "With a 4,000 ft vertical drop and all the terrain that an advanced skier could want! I was amazed at all the chutes and gullies." Although spring conditions weren't ideal for chutes, he dropped into a couple on his first day and somehow survived! "I can only imagine skiing them on a powder day," he said. "But I would recommend Jackson Hole to any skier - they did a great job grooming the mountain every night, which meant good skiing for all ability levels." He loved the convenience of Teton Village with easy access to skiing, dining and nightlife. His faves were Il Villaggio OsteriaTeton Thai and the Mangy Moose. "After skiing at Squaw Valley for 40 years I didn't  think I would find another ski resort with the diverse terrain like Squaw, but Jackson Hole exceeded my expectations," he said. "I had a lot of fun and would go back in a heartbeat."

At the top of the Jackson Hole Tram - Steve Urbani (left) with Dr Simon Hudson (right), who by the way has a PhD in skiing!

Local skiing super star, Lynsey Dyer in the Jackson Hole Tram
Lesser known fact - one of the Rocky movies was shot here – the one where they were supposed to be in Russia! And Jengo Unchained, and an episode of Modern Family when they are shown at a ranch. The resort actually turned down The Bachelorette, and also the Kardashians even though the famous family often ski there. Also, Teton Gravity Research, known for extreme action films such as Life of GlideTight Loose, Rogue Elements and Proximity, derives from Jackson Hole. Lots of celebs, from stage, screen, business and politics, own houses in the area, too, including Harrison Ford, Sandra Bullock and Dick Cheney, complete with their illustrious entourages. So, lots of opportunities for star spotting - although they do have the perfect disguise in ski goggles, helmets and bulky ski wear.

Mountain Modern Motel, Jackson
Clever closet at Mountain Modern Motel, Jackson
Another fascinating place to stay in the town of Jackson is the Mountain Modern Motel where we spent three nights. Refurbed in a very modish way, it has dark brown exterior paintwork with pops of red accents on doors, chairs and tables both outside and indoors - red buffalo sculptures outside and adirondack chairs, and red sunloungers around the swimming pool room. Very Millennial-inspired, it is a model for what everyone should be doing with crumbling, outmoded motels. The rooms are spacious with trendy accents including wallpaper featuring black and white artwork maps of the area, a clever sink/washbasin area, and long low shelf for suitcases with lots of pegs for hanging. There's a comfy and chatty seating area (red, of course) by reception with WiFi, sofas, cast-iron fireplace and free breakfasts.

Lobby at Mountain Modern Motel, Jackson
Sales Manager, Spencer Long says winter rates range from $109 to $199 (very affordable, especially compared to $119 to $399 in summer). "We offer complimentary grab-and-go breakfast in the mornings during winter months, as well as complimentary shuttle service to/from Teton Village," he adds. The entire property was renovated from floor to ceiling: "New design features, amenities, bedding, décor, etc. It’s like a brand new property, with an excellent location in Jackson. Launched in May 2017, the 135-room Mountain Modern disrupts the typical motel experience with its frontier flare and plaid-to-the-bone stylish and welcoming design, vibrant atmosphere, whimsical delights and more, all at a great value." Their target clientele is the Adventure Traveler, looking for a 'basecamp' from which to explore the rugged area. "We may not all be able to ski the steepest terrain, climb the highest mountain, or raft the swiftest stream but we all aspire to be that person," says Spencer. "So, the Adventure Traveler can be a couple in the 70s driving through Yellowstone, a family of five on a western vacation or a group of men on a guys ski trip! We get them all." Number 1 review is the location right downtown but people are also impressed with the design, comforts and cleanliness. "We really leaned into the motel style, and we’re making it cool to stay at a motel again!"

Mountain Modern Motel, Jackson in summer
Other things you'll notice around the town of Jackson include symbols outside businesses - Mountain Modern has its shiny colourful buffaloes, but other businesses feature big and bold icons which you'll have fun spotting. Locals have also taken on the project of re-using and re-inventing old skis. You'll see fences made of skis, benches, bar and hotel décor and also custom ski swings made for private houses by local handyman Jon Wiedie – 307 413 4356. Check out the ski decoration in Moe’s Original Bar B Que – they put out a Facebook call for old skis and attached them to horizontal barn wood. Interior designer Kristin Fay – Trauner Fay Designs – has installed ski lift chairs from retired chairlifts on decks around town.

Jackson Hole

Things to do après-ski:
Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National park -

Ranger-led free snowshoe tours in Grand Teton National Park - 

Double H National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides –

Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris – 

National Museum of Wildlife Art - a few miles north of town with 5000 works of art.

Snow King Mountain - Nightskiing; Tubing; Winter Mountain Coaster -

Check out Maiden Skis – custom handcrafted skis and sitskis made in Jackson Hole – 

Franco Snowboards, made at the foot of the Tetons out of American hardwoods - 

Second from left, me wearing Stio orange pants bought during Elevate Women's Ski Camp - Tenessa is in the leopard pants
Stio – a Jackson-Hole based ski wear designer and manufacturer. Available online and also through original downtown shop (Stio Mountain Studio) and a newer outlet in Teton Village at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. 

Lori Roux at Jackson Hole
Links to previous articles on Jackson Hole:

Social Media:

What's New this Season?

December is additionally the opening of Jackson Hole's specialized learning facility - Solitude Station - an all-in-one (tickets, rentals, lessons, dining and lockers) accessed via Sweetwater Gondola mid-station, servicing beginner adults and children aged seven and up. By developing a sophisticated, multi-use building geared for a diversity of Mountain Sports School clients, JHMR has created a revolutionary space that is functional for many types of skiers and families. The Cody House at the resort’s base will continue to operate the Kid’s Ranch for daycare and younger children’s lessons. 

A Little More About JHMR Mountain Sports School:
• Visiting families make up approximately 30% of JHMR’s winter guests.
• 15% of visitors are beginner skiers.
• JHMR employs approximately 645 instructors during the winter season.
• Last season over 68,000 guests participated in a lesson with the Mountain Sports School.
• Adult Class Lessons have an average of three participants to every instructor and cap at five people per group.
• Youth classes at Solitude Station have an average of four kids in each group. 
• Greater than 90% of JHMR's full time Mountain Sports School staff holds a PSIA/AASI

Jackson Hole

Also new for this season is the RPK 3 après bar and restaurant at the base of the Tram. Offering fast casual lunch, fun après scene and everything in-between, the menu is a mix of healthy-ish, comfort food and hot and cold beverages for all. With an expansive bar, mix of communal and smaller tables and a modern fireplace in the center of the room, RKP 3 is a destination for locals and visitors alike, open daily at 10am for bar service, 11am for lunch, and food and drinks are served until après is over. 

New for Teton Village
Winter in Teton Village and at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is magically enhanced with the addition of an outdoor ice skating rink. The ideal and central gathering spot on the Village Commons is surrounded by new shops, hotels and bars all within immediate walking or skiing distance from the Tram. 

The Tram at Jackson Hole

Mountain Collective
and IKON Pass

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a proud participant in both the Mountain Collective and Ikon Pass products this winter. Brought to skiers and riders by Alterra Mountain Company, the Ikon Pass unlocks access to a community of diverse destinations for the ultimate winter experience. 


This winter fly to Jackson Hole non-stop from 12 major US cities. Non-stop routes from Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Newark, JFK, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver and Salt Lake City make Jackson Hole a really accessible Rocky Mountain destination resort. In addition, Jackson Hole airport with its recent $30 million renovation and expansion makes the arrival and departure experiences efficient and comfortable. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is just a short 30 minute drive from the terminal, now easier than ever to reach. 

Kids Ski and Rent Free
Jackson Hole Resort Lodging (JHRL) is pleased to offer Kids Ski and Rent Free, an exclusive program to JHRL that applies to all types of vacation rentals and lodging packages. Choose any condominium or home rental for four nights or more, receive 10% off your stay, and for each paying adult, kids 14 and under ski and rent free. Restrictions are few within this exclusive deal for JHRL guests, and the program is valid for stays all winter except the Christmas Holiday week. For more details and to book: 800-443-8613 |

Save $300 All Season Long!
AND Sweeten the Deal with Ikon and
Mountain Collective Passes
Visit Jackson Hole this winter and save up to $300 in airfare per person by booking roundtrip flights, lodging, and lift tickets -or an equivalent winter activity.

SAVE: $300 Per Person on Flights
COMBINE: Tack that on to any combination of IKON
& Mountain Collective privileges and we’re talking real savings!! VISIT: check out the detials
BOOK: Between June 1, 2018 & September 7, 2018
STAY: Travel dates between November 11, 2018 to december 27, 2018 and January 6, 2019 to April 7, 2019

*Book roundtrip airfare to Jackson Hole, minimum of 5 nights of lodging and lift tickets or equivalent winter activity required depending on travel dates. Offer is valid when booking flights, lodging , and activity as a package. Flights, lift tickets and lodging both need to meet minimum night requirements. Restrictions apply and availability is limited. New reservations only. Discount will be applied to total package price, including taxes and fees. May not be combined with any other special offer. Maximum 8 people. Additional baggage fees from airline may apply. Book by September 7, 2018. 

 Pro skier, Kim Havell at Jackson Hole

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Serenity at Solitude

Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
It may be quiet and crowd-free at Solitude Mountain Resort, but you’re never alone. Tucked away in Little Cottonwood Canyon, 40 mins drive from SLC Airport, Solitude is an Alterra-owned 1200-acre, 77-run resort which resonates particularly with friendly families, chatty couples and garrulous groups – and those seeking a bigger proportion of powder per person than is typically attainable at larger resorts. Be prepared to share your tips on the chair or the hot tub, though, as this is a really conversational place!

The Inn at Solitude - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Anchored by the Inn at Solitude, the village has an Austrian Alpine theme with cute shutters, beams and balconies. With no through traffic, the prevailing ambiance is calm and laid-back with only the sounds of euphoric voices to compete with the birdsong - Solitude’s emblem is incidentally a yellow bird on a sky-blue background. Luggage is transported from the lodging carpark around accommodation by extended golf cart with a trailer – reminiscent of car-free Zermatt, Switzerland.

Breakfast Buffet at Inn at Solitude - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Tim Wolfgram
Courtesy of 
Solitude Mountain Resort
Arriving early morning, we checked into the Inn at Solitude with time for the big buffet breakfast before heading off for skiing with then Communications Manager (and ace ski photographer) Sherri Harkin. Her husband is Tim Wolfgram, Director of Solitude's Snowsports Academy, who managed to squeeze a few rapid runs with us in his Sunday schedule. I had interviewed him recently so it was great to meet him in person although his Mach 2 skiing speed limited conversations to the chairlifts! Honestly, Sherri and Tim are probably the most accomplished skiing couple I've ever seen. I can imagine tourists just moving over to the side of the piste and watching in awe as they speed past like polished Olympic athletes. Tim started skiing at age 14 when living in Wisconsin - "My friend Greg Nelson from school brought me up to Birch Park in Wisconsin way back for some night skiing, I think we rode the school bus up there. I was mesmerized by the big hill all lit up, he taught me a stem christie using a rope tow, and I was off and running". Six years later, Tim became an instructor, going on to teach in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, New Hampshire and New Zealand as well as Utah. He's also ski bummed around Europe, Canada and South America. With skiing changing his life, he has gone on to influence others: "Sure I have had fun, and I love to ski the deep powder still, especially with my wife, but it's the profound differences I have made in people young and old. That is what skiing has done for me."

Simon celebrating the ski day with Solitude BrewSki at The Last Chance Lodge
The Roundhouse - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Love The Roundhouse where we had lunch with Sherri that day - Tim had to zoom off back to work. There are Himalayan delicacies as well as local Wasatch fare and the building's architecture is as eclectic as the menu, with its central iron fireplace which survived a devastating fire in 2016. This is where we first discovered - and later sampled at the Last Chance Lodge - Solitude's own branded beer, BrewSki which was custom made for the winter season by Bohemian Brewery SLC and launched around the resort December 2017, both in cans and on tap. 

'Honeymoon' Canyon
Skiing at a somewhat slower pace that pm, we were able to explore Honeycomb Canyon - nicknamed Honeymoon by me because of its secluded beauty - which is a gorgeous traverse-accessed bowl, followed by a sweeping area of forest and trails meandering through the valley. 

The Library Bar at Inn at Solitude - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Back at the Inn, it was outdoor tub time, watching the slopes closing down for the evening from the hot sanctuary. Having forgotten my flipflops, I discovered that the walkway to the tub is heated, too. So thoughtful! 

Although nothing here is super-duper modern, the rooms are huge with loads of sockets for all the electronics, great balconies overlooking the slopes or the quaint village, huge king beds, good bathrooms with spacious separate sink area, lots of hanging hooks for all the ski wear, fridge and coffee making, and my favourite luxury: bath robes. 

Downstairs, the Library Bar is great (and there is actually a library of books to borrow nearby) with a cozy fireplace lounge abutting the St Bernard RestaurantSunday is Bavarian buffet night, so after Prosecco in the Library, we indulged in a smorgasbord of salads, charcuterie, filet along with three other entrees, pasta, vegetables and potatoes, and a collection of chocolatey, nutty, fudgy bites.  

Kelly (left) with me
Following a guilt-absolving parfait next morning, trying to resist the blow-out breakfast, we met ski instructor Kelly Boardman-Fowler, who specializes in big-mountain coaching for teens. Well, we're young at heart, but our injuries preclude anything remotely radical, so Kelly had a different focus with us. "Addicted to turning" became the mantra of the day and we spent several intense hours working on technique before launching into great bump terrain and letting rip. 

Kelly at work - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
With a Masters in Geography and dreams of doing a PhD, Kelly is type A in her skiing too. She's going for Level 3 Alpine instructor and is also a Level 1 snowboard instructor and proficient telemarker and Nordic skier. We skied lovely uncrowded frontside spring conditions off the Powderhorn and Apex lifts, including perfect groomers on Main Street and Diamond Lane, and a bit of off piste on Paradise. 

Kelly in action - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
We discovered, too, that if you have a pass for neighbouring Brighton Resort, you can ski there via the Sol Bright run, doing both resorts in the same day. "I fell in love with the mountains, snowsports, rock and mountain climbing, mountain biking and trail running," says Kelly who spent her youth skiing the Lake Tahoe resorts, followed by four seasons at Mammoth Lakes. Raising two kids now she is supporting the family's active lifestyle with her work at Solitude which includes training the Big Mountain Team at weekends all season. "On Wednesdays, I coach a women’s clinic for local ladies who want to get out and improve their skills and shred Solitude’s expert terrain," she says. "In between, I teach tots to adults, beginners to experts, skiers and snowboarders. On my days off I am usually skiing the awesome stashes of Solitude." 

Like I say, the vibe around the slopes is fun and friendly, where everyone is either in the know or happy to share their locals' perspective. Everything seems very calm and Zen, rather than ruthless competition. This is not just my impression - it is reinforced by local Olympian, Graham Watanabe who joined the resort's "influencer" program three years ago. Influencers, or ambassadors, by the way, are a trend at an increasing number of ski resorts which engage local pro athletes to harness their persuasive word-of-mouth power to encourage visitation and enhance the visitor experience. Graham, who has lived in Utah for 14 years, is a two-time Olympian in Snowboard Cross, and X Games silver medalist, and twice national champ. He is currently head coach for U.S. Adaptive/Paralympic Snowboarding. 

Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Back to Solitude: "I think my favorite area is anything under and around Powderhorn II lift because especially on a powder day, this seems to be where most people begin their day," says Graham. "Being able to see and be seen by all the other skiers and boarders, cheer them on, and share the stoke goes against the phrase "No friends on a powder day" in the best way possible. Maybe, 'Everyone is your friend on a powder day!'" His off-piste pick is Fantasy Ridge but, for a full day of "Solitude solitude", he recommends lapping the Black Forest area. "I used to be too excited to be bothered to stop through the course of the day for food, so I would just bring snacks for lift rides."  

However, now that Graham is a father, he enjoys setting up camp in the Moonbeam Lodge, trading off babyminding and shredding with his wife in order to continue the mountain lifestyle as a family affair. This lifestyle is a year-round commitment for the Watanabes who focus on snowboarding, skiing and Nordic in the winter and disc golf, hiking and mountain biking in summer. 

Josh Manwaring
Another interesting local character is teacher and coach, Josh Manwaring who returned to the scene of his childhood ski trips, six years ago. Some of the steepest and deepest skiing at Solitude, he says, is off Fantasy Ridge and Crystal Point - he should know, he is Head Coach of the Big Mountain Team. When he's not coaching, he's skiing and then in summer he morphs into a multi-tasking travel blogger, living and traveling in a van with his wife: "I spend whatever time I have left doing graphic design, photography, videography, and co-managing a Circus/Aerial Arts Facility in Sandy, Utah."

Just Joshing!
Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Josh takes part in the annual Torchlight Parade on New Year's Eve at Solitude. "During this event, participating instructors ski down from the top of the Eagle lift at night in formation with road flares in-hand. It's quite the spectacle and the camaraderie we experience at this event is awesome," he says. But another more unusual event is the Annual Chocolate Lovers Festival which runs in March. It's a novel scavenger hunt which starts off by skiers picking up Chocolate Lover's Passports at the base which directs them to different stations around the mountain and village for complimentary choccy fixes such as chocolate icecream, chocolate-covered strawberries, and chocolate milk. The passports are also stamped and later entered into prize draws at the end of the free event. 

Peter cooking brats for the FOGs
Running throughout the season is another signature event - the Solitude FOGs' tailgating party which is set up in style in the carpark. The FOGS - who have their own Facebook Page - are 'professional' partyers bringing gas BBQs, tables and chairs for groups of 30 or more. Longtime member Peter Geisthardt says FOG stands for either 'fast on groomers' or 'friendly old guys' but mentions there are other unprintable definitions. As well as working as a lift foreman at Solitude, Peter has worked at Alta Ski AreaDeer Valley ResortCanyons Resort and Snowbird

Honeycomb Grill - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort

Our last night at Solitude we had a feast at Honeycomb Grill which has the cutest little rustic bar area for pre-dinner drinks (or bar snacks) and a lovely restaurant featuring Alpine faves such as raclette as well as succulent bison burgers and all the main mountain munchies. It was buzzing with a mix of Millennials, families and emptynesters like us.

Check out last year's article about Solitude, too:

Social Media

Solitude at night - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
What's New:
Serene Solitude 
Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Solitude and Brighton Join Ikon Pass

Ikon Pass holders now have access to nearly 10,000 acres of terrain in Utah between Deer Valley Resort, Alta, Snowbird, and now 
Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Resort - the most terrain offered in Utah on any season pass.

Alterra Mountain Company completed its acquisition of 
Solitude Mountain Resort located in Big Cottonwood Canyon in early August. The mountain offers skiers and riders 77 runs, three bowls, and a vertical drop of 2,030 feet across 1,200 acres, plus some of the most impressive off-piste terrain in the country. The quaint base village offers ski-in/ski-out accommodations along with year-round activities for guests.

Brighton, located at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, boasts one hundred percent of its terrain as accessible by high speed quads, allowing guests to maximize their day of incredible Utah skiing and riding. Both mountains average 500 inches of Utah's light, fluffy, dry snow, making them a paradise for skiers and riders.

Brighton Resort is excited to be included in the Ikon Pass and honored to be part of such a premier group of destinations. We look forward to providing an exceptional experience for Ikon Pass holders visiting the Wasatch Range," said Randy Doyle, President & General Manager, Brighton Resort.

"The Ikon Pass is expanding, and with the addition of 
Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Resort, we are excited to offer unparalleled access to Utah, a state known around the world for its snow quality, variety of terrain, and accessibility," said Erik Forsell, Chief Marketing Officer of Alterra Mountain Company. "We are thrilled to jump start the ski and snowboard season by adding more premier Ikon Pass destinations for winter 2018/2019."
The Inn at Solitude on right - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort