Finding Solitude Near Salt Lake City

Is that the Narnia lamppost on the snowy grounds of Solitude near Salt Lake City Utah (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Is that the Narnia lamppost? At night on the snowy grounds of Solitude near Salt Lake City, Utah (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

It’s hard to find a more perfect name than Solitude for a getaway resort.

I was looking forward to speaking at a recent America Outdoors conference for outfitters, guides, and adventure tour operators, but it seemed a shame to go all the way to the host venue in Salt Lake City, Utah and not experience the world-famous winter resorts in the nearby Wasatch Mountains.

Until recently, winter resorts haven’t appealed to me because I can’t downhill ski or snowboard thanks to a bum knee. I’ve tried Nordic, but it requires some practice and coordination. Fortunately, I learned how to snowshoe in the Adirondacks a few years back near Lake Placid, New York, and as they say, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.”

A bunch of searches for the best places to snowshoe near Salt Lake City kept bringing up Solitude, which sounded like a mellow place, not too big or expensive, without a bunch of attitude about “non-shredder” sorts of people like me.

The great thing about Salt Lake City is that you can take public transportation from the airport all the way up into the mountains. I decided to try their Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Ski Bus so I wouldn’t have to deal with a rental car in snowy weather.

The One Way Ski Fare is a bargain US$4.50, and the price is included in many resort passes as well.

Between Google [public] Transit on Maps and the UTA GoRide app, I plotted my route to Solitude. The initial try to make my connection via a local bus from the airport didn’t work out, but I switched to the airport’s TRAX light rail station and it all worked.

This TRAX train platform on my route shows you how close the mountains are to Salt Lake City….

Waiting on a TRAX train platform in Salt Lake City working my way to the Wasatch Mountains (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Waiting on a TRAX train/light rail platform in Salt Lake City, working my way out of town to the Wasatch Mountains (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

My only problem with TRAX was that it took me awhile to realize that the doors don’t open automatically, which is what I’m used to with light rail and subways. When we arrived at my TRAX stop to catch the Ski Bus for my resort, I lugged my carry-on and laptop bag to the train car door and waited. By the time I figured out that there was a button I was supposed to press, the train started moving again.

No matter; I got off at the next stop and caught the next train going back.

The Ski Bus picked up right next to the TRAX station, then stopped at a Park and Ride lot before heading up through spectacular Big Cottonwood Canyon to Solitude.

Once I checked in at the Inn at Solitude (you can also rent condos) here was my view….

View of the Village from my room at the Inn at Solitude near Salt Lake City Utah (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

View of the Village from my room at the Inn at Solitude (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I was at the resort in early December, so they’d only been open for the winter season for a few weeks. There were a few hiccups with outdated menus in one of the eateries, and every staff member seemed to be brand-new, but they were friendly and went out of their way to make sure I was having a nice time. It certainly was not crowded – I arrived on a Sunday afternoon and checked out Tuesday morning, and many times felt that I had the place to myself.

Word to the wise – it is about 8,000 feet of elevation at the Solitude Village level, so drink a LOT of water, don’t be surprised to find yourself somewhat winded, and don’t be an idiot like me and order a second Wasatch Brewery Devastator Double Bock beer because the first one was so good. Alcohol at altitude can pack a wallop.

With a fresh deposit of powdery snow the day before, it was simply gorgeous everywhere I looked.

Morning sun through the trees at Solitude near Salt Lake City Utah (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The winter sun peeks through the trees at Solitude Mountain Resort (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I did admire the skiers and snowboarders for awhile before going to rent my snowshoes. One tiny “skier” that I saw going in and out of the trees turned out to be a search and rescue dog with one of the ski patrol people. That dog was having the time of its life; so much energy!

Bottom of ski slopes closest to Solitude Village (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Deep blue skies and not crowded; bottom of the ski slopes closest to Solitude Village (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Another advantage to snowshoeing is that it is so affordable. My snowshoes cost US$13.94 to rent for a half day (about all that my fitness level could handle right then,) and my day pass to go on the trails was US$8.58.

I packed everything for the trip in my carry-on, so didn’t want to bring a bunch of extra clothing. Light hiking boots, thick socks, jeans, a fleece pullover with wicking layer underneath, gloves, my usual long insulated winter coat, and a fleece headband to cover my ears were all fine.

The gear rental people recommended that I try the Redman Loop snowshoe trail – the groomed snowshoe and Nordic trails were all a few steps from where I was staying at the Inn, and there are a bunch of them. Since I’d only been snowshoeing once before, and that was with an experienced friend, I tweeted at the beginning of the trail that I was rather nervous. My phone beeped the rest of the afternoon with people saying encouraging things, which I appreciated.

The start of one of the snowshoe trails at Solitude (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The start of one of the snowshoe trails at Solitude (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I had poles adjusted for my height, which were handy when navigating the deeper drifts or trying to turn around to see something.

There were lots of markers on the trees so I wouldn’t get lost….

Red tie markers guide you along the snowshoe trail at Solitude (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Red tie markers guide you along this particular snowshoe trail at Solitude (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

It was so beautiful that I kept stopping to take photos (and, OK, catch my breath) but I was out among the trees and the quiet for almost two hours and only saw one other person; a Nordic skier passing by at the very end of my route.

Bliss.

View after fresh snow on a snowshoe trail at Solitude near Salt Lake City, Utah (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

View after fresh snow on a snowshoe trail at Solitude near Salt Lake City, Utah (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

A nice big dinner was my reward for all that calorie-burning, then I took a nighttime walk around the Village before I had to check out the next day.

Part of Solitude Village at night in December, with lighted trees (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Part of Solitude Village at night in December, with lighted trees (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The Solitude Resort shuttle takes you to Moonbeam Lodge where the Ski Bus picks up. I think I waited all of seven minutes in the Lodge’s parking lot shelter before a bus going down the mountain showed up.

A front seat on the Ski Bus gets you some nice views….

Heading down the mountain through Big Cottonwood Canyon on the Ski Bus to Salt Lake City Utah (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Heading down the mountain from Solitude through Big Cottonwood Canyon, on the Ski Bus to Salt Lake City, Utah. At the bottom, I jumped back on a TRAX train that brought me within a few blocks of my downtown hotel (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Even though it was only two nights and a day at Solitude, I felt so refreshed and relaxed (even without a visit to their onsite spa.) My husband and I are already talking about going back there, together.

Here is 30 seconds from part of my trail. So quiet and peaceful….

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