Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chilling out at Brighton Utah

Vibrant Vertical Vista at Brighton Resort - By Simon Hudson
Having experienced Brighton Resort a few years ago during a thin patch, it was absolute bliss to be back during this year's deep winter conditions! Due to 557 inches of sensational snowfall already this season, the entire first floors of the houses surrounding the ski hill were buried, with owners having to chisel tunnels out of the snow to gain access to downstairs doors and windows. 

Relaxing on the quad at Brighton Resort - first time wearing my new Helmet Hugger. It is not a hat! It is a new type of
stylish helmet cover. You can order them in many colours, fabrics and trims!! 
This was day 2 of my Utah ski safari with Dr Simon Hudson, skier, author, professor of tourism, and ski researcher - not to mention a guide with the Ski Club of Great Britain, with many years of alpine guiding experience. Having been to a polished and personable presentation by eminent Olympian Michael Phelps at the Qualtrics Insight Summit that morning, we only had half a day to ski Brighton. But that is the beauty of the array of amazing resorts surrounding Salt Lake City: they are so close you can easily drive (or take the bus), even if you only have a few spare hours for rugged recreation. Brighton is just 31 miles away, a 43-minute meandering motor through Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Corduroy Carpets - Courtesy of Brighton Resort
Doyle's Dive at Brighton Resort - by Simon Hudson
With blazing blue skies, Brighton was a playground paradise that day: we cruised the groomers, conquered a few double diamond glades, dipped into Doyle's Dive, and ripped down the mellow moguls on Pine Marten. I'm sure you know that freedom feeling on warm sunny days: everything is so much easier without worrisome weather and visibility issues to contend with. The run layout is intricate and interesting at 81-year-old Brighton Resort, with trails following the undulating lie of the land, turns, corners and surprises around every corner. We had no guide that day, just the piste map and our own intuition but we never got lost. 

Brighton is another of those 'in-the-know' Utah resorts - no glitzy advertising, limited accommodation onhill, but a radical reputation with locals and fervent fans. I was first attracted there for the simple reason that it is the same name as the town I come from in the UK. Having experienced Brighton by the sea (you can check out my Brighton Rocks article in the Calgary Herald), it was alluring to try out the mountain version and my day there three years ago made me want to come back. 

Courtesy of Brighton Resort
Benefits at Brighton include five high speed quads accessing ALL the terrain over the 1050 acreage which, due to its position at the top of the Big Cottonwood Canyon, averages 500 inches of snow per season (already exceeded this mega year). For those with kids, a significant advantage is the Kids Ski Free policy which extends up to 10-year-olds. There are five terrain parks and there's gnarly night skiing over 200 acres Mon-Sat from 4-9pm. As well as the snowsports school, there's an edgy educational Tour with a Ranger program, which combines guiding around the easy to intermediate slopes with a naturalist's overview of the indigenous wildlife, geology and history. 

Simon Hudson figuring out the route at Brighton Resort
For those who want to be first on snow every day, there's the rustic 20-room Brighton Lodge, (complete with hot tub) a few yards from the Crest Express Lift (kids 10 and under stay free!) and also a variety of luxurious mountain homes for rent with Mount Majestic Properties. Or you can stay 10 mins down the road at the more humble B & B, Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant. We were happy commuting from SLC.
Courtesy of Brighton Resort

For a smaller ski area, there are plenty of eateries - and drinkeries - to choose from. The newest is the Millicent (Milly) Chalet by the base of the Millicent Quad with great views, patio and comfort food - grilled cheese highly recommended! Lower down is the Alpine Rose Cafeteria for all meals, breakfast through dinner, featuring cookouts in spring. Also at the base is Molly Green's full service bar and grill, famous for hand-tossed pizza, nachos and beer. In the Brighton Centre, the Blind Miner serves coffee, waffles, brats and snacks and there are lots of places around the hill for picnicking. There may be nothing fancy at Brighton but the simplicity of the facilities are complemented by the most deluxe downhill descents and amazing million-dollar views. 

2017 SLUG Games at Brighton - Courtesy of Brighton Resort
Social Media Links:

Phone 855 201 SNOW

Upcoming Spring Events:

March 31: Free S'mores Night from 6pm at the Alpine Rose Deck

Beautiful Brighton - Courtesy of Brighton Resort

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Powder Peace at Secret Solitude

Powder Pleasure - courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Another perfect powder day at Solitude, Utah! Last time I was there I skied in knee-deep fresh the whole time, so I never imagined I would luck out again! Mind you it is the best season in recent history - everyone is arguing about how far back the record stretches - with 451 inches of snowfall so far. 

Powder Plunges - courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
As usual I was there with Dr Simon Hudson - foremost expert in ski tourism research and author of Snow Business and Winter Sport Tourism - who was attending Qualtrics Insight Summit in Salt Lake City. I was a media delegate at the conference and, although it included a ski day at the end of the week (more on that in a few weeks), we had tacked on extra days for further field research at six ski resorts. 

Moonbeam Lodge - courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
With fabulous forecasts of fresh snow, Solitude Mountain Resort was first on our schedule and we eagerly arrived at the quaint, Alpine-themed village at 8 am to pick up tickets. Lifts wouldn't open until 9 but we planned to have breakfast before getting up first in line. Around 50 people were already congregated in the Moonbeam Lodge – around 90 % male - having breakfast or coffee, champing at the bit to be first in the powder. Skies were clearing after last night's storm, everyone was donning boots, helmets and gloves which they had first heated up by the cosy fire. There was a great anticipatory atmosphere especially for those who had missed out on the first pow day of the week - the day before as we were flying in - and were anxious to get their own bragging rights for the apres ski bar later. As one local worker said to me on the ski lift later: "We keep getting such regular snowfalls this season, so every week or so I get another best day ever!"
Solitude Villagecourtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Some hardy hikers had already had their powder fix. En route to Solitude, through the beautiful Big Cottonwood Canyon, we had passed parked cars to which extreme earlybirds were skiing down, having skinned up in the dark and finished their bonanza backcountry descents in time to drive to work at 7:30 am. We were told later they use flash lights to negotiate the rugged route.

From left to right: Simon Hudson, Louise Hudson, Sherri Harkin and Paul Marshall - waiting for the rope to do down into Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude Mountain Resort
Honeycomb Canyon
Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
We, too, had a secret way to get the most out of our powder day but with a lot less effort: local knowledge! Sherri Harkin, Marketing & Communications Manager for Solitude, and Paul Marshall, Director of Communications for Ski Utah, were our guides and they made sure we found fresh tracks all day long. Hovering around the Honeycomb area mid morning, we were first in when the rope went down and we had great runs too in the Black Forest, Evergreen and Here Be Dragons. Bonus: it was a Tuesday so no lift lines and runs almost to ourselves the whole day!

There's a great mix of 'serene and extreme' at Solitude, with lovely glades as well as wide open bowls dotting the dynamic downhill domain. "My favourite groomer is from the top of Powderhorn chairlift, called Diamond Lane," said Sherri, who is also a mountain photographer for Solitude. "Diamond Lane connects to Wall Street, then Main Street into Solitude Village. Another very scenic long groomer is Woodlawn in Honeycomb Canyon: the run goes from the top of Summit Express to the base of Honeycomb Return chairlift." 

 Snowsports Academy - courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
For bumps, she recommends Concord off the Powderhorn chair. "My favourite trees are the glades in Headwall Forest, the snow always seems to be deeper and lighter in this area," says the enthusiastic expert. "On a powder day I either head out to Middle Slope or take the short, side step traverse into Black Forest, you can't go wrong at either location!" 

Solitude Village
Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Based at an enviable office in Solitude Village, Sherri often takes an hour's break from work to do a lunchbreak lap from Apex lift to Powderhorn lift, then down Middle Slope run, up Summit Express to any of the lines in Honeycomb Canyon, up Honeycomb Return lift and down Olympia run to Main Street and back to Solitude Village. And of course part of her job involves getting great shots: "I'm very fortunate that my job as the marketing and communications manager also allows me to utilize my photography skills," says Sherri. "Solitude is truly is a hidden gem for any photographer, starting with being surrounded by awe-inspiring scenery, to capturing sunsets around the European style village, to shooting carving action on the wide groomed runs, to powder shots in the the gnarled and twisted limber pine trees areas (high elevation pine that grows near timberlines) and the endless nooks and crannies located off all the chairlifts. Each area offers a multitude of different photo opportunities and will keep professional and amateur photographer's clicking away." 

For an onhill gourmet break, it has to be the renovated Roundhouse between the Moonbeam and Eagle Express Chairlifts. Last season it burnt down leaving only an invincible iron firepit which is now the signature centrepiece of the mountain-modern wood, glass, cement and metal edifice. The fireplace pieces came from a Moab uranium mine that was part of founder Robert M. Barrett's billionaire business portfolio back in the 1950s. The next owners, the Deseelhorst family, sold to Deer Valley in 2015, leading to some cool culinary improvements among the $7million upgrades, including the menu at the Roundhouse. Developed by DV's top executive chefs, it is half Wasatch (eg local, farm fresh) and half Himalayan - think spicy lentils, curry fries and chicken tikka masala.

Roundhouse Relaxation - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Powering down all those perfect powder pitches all day, we didn't really notice what other people were doing and only took one paradise pause for our own photos. But Sherri told us about a shutterbug event going on called the Ski City Shootout, now in its 10th season. Conditions couldn't have been better for the premier photography contest with all that fresh-snow fervour highlighted by bluebird skies. Entrants submit scintillating ski and city photos to vie for cash and kudos.

Thirsty Squirrel at Solitude Village
Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
We had to go back to the city that night but for those staying in the Village, the Thirsty Squirrel is the classic apres ski bar. Another pick for commuters from Salt Lake (which is just    mins away) is the Silver Fork Lodge which has a lovely panoramic patio, a rickety western vibe, and casual comfort food just along the canyon road. 

With Park City, Deer Valley and Alta monopolizing the mass media, many of you may not have heard of Solitude before but it is a special secret which attracts lucky locals as well as internationals in the know from Australia, UK, Germany and South America. 

Solitude VillageCourtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Vibrant Village Life:

- Stay at The Inn at Solitude for alpine charm and cosy cuteness
- St Bernard's for buffet breakfasts and dinner, the Library Bar, and occasional wine pairing events 
- Stone Haus Pizzeria & Creamery - open for all meals
Thirsty Squirrel apres ski bar
- Snowshoe up to the Yurt for fine-dining four course feasts
- Packages:

The Yurt at SolitudeCourtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort

Sunday, March 19, 2017
Solitude is hosting a Rossignol Demo Day. Here’s your chance to experience the latest in ski and snowboard technology! Visit the Last Chance Lodge to participate.

Saturday, March 25, 2017
Solitude’s 27th Annual Chocolate Lovers’ Tour
Come celebrate chocolate with fellow chocolate lovers! Begin your day at 9 a.m. by grabbing a complimentary “Chocolate Lover’s Passport” from Club Solitude. Follow the map on your passport to find different stations on and off the mountain, where complimentary goodies are offered throughout the morning. Receive a stamp from each station and you will be entered to win great prizes! The completed passports are due by noon and the prize drawing is at 1 p.m.

Avalanche Dog Team at Solitudecourtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Avalanche Dog Demonstration
Solitude’s Avalanche Rescue dogs provide an amazing service to our guests and the surrounding community with their life saving efforts. These specialized and highly trained dogs are used for search and rescue efforts throughout the Wasatch Front. Watch and learn "mock" avalanche drills will be conducted, where Solitude's Avalanche Rescue dogs and Ski Patrol seek out people buried in the snow at Apex Express chairlift at 4:45 p.m.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Easter Egg Hunt and Ski with the Easter Bunny

Children ages 2 to 10 are welcome to participate in this complimentary event at the Snowsports Academy in the Moonbeam Base Area. All guests are welcome and the event begins at 9:30 a.m.

Pure Powder - Courtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @skisolitude
Facebook: Solitude Mountain Resort
Instagram: @skisolitude
Phone: 801 534 1400
Snow Report: 801 536 5777
Snowsports Academy: 801 536 5730

Solitude Trail MapCourtesy of Solitude Mountain Resort