Katie and I decided to raise the stakes this winter after I took on alpine skiing with wreckless abandon last season. I began researching Places to stay in and around Park City, Utah. I had some experience snowboarding out there and always thought the city had a nice balance to it; good food, some nightlife, and at the foot of some well groomed slopes. After calling around to hotels just off of main street I quickly realized this town was out of my league, at least when I don’t have a friend’s condo as a place to rest my head. shortly there after I came across Solitude Mountain Resort and was drawn to the name and their style. They weren’t Alta and they weren’t snowbird and more surprisingly they weren’t trying to be anything like either. Fact of the matter, they weren’t really trying much of anything. After asking around all I heard was “No one goes there” & “blahhh, I ski Alta…”. Now I’m not sure if that was intended to be an endorsement but I sure took it as one and quickly inquired about accommodations. Turns out it’s a steal, almost too good to be true. Slope side one bedroom with kitchenette at a price comparable to a motel a drive away from downtown park city. I’m here to ski, after all, and access ability to the slopes is crucial.
We departed 7 Saint Mark’s Place at 4am on our way to JFK. After having out first encounter with “long term parking” services around the airport and an equally chaotic experience through security we made it to out flight just as it began to board. A nap later we touched down in SLC Utah. Amex hooked us up with some ground transportation to solitude where we would be staying for 5 days. The driver was kind enough to stop at Smiths Grocery to let us stock up. (Not for future trips, order ahead). I grab sandwich materials, yogurt, granola, and a 6 pack of Gatorade. Little did I know how treasured that sports drink would become.
We headed east until we hit the entrance to big cottonwood canyon. Signs directed us north up into the canyon towards solitude. Other traffic Was continue east to Little Cottonwood Canyon where Alta and Snowbird are located.
After a 25 minuted drive UP we arrived at the Inn where Chris greeted us in a bad-ass ATV to carry our bags. The hotel, inn, and condos all surround a common square with all the essentials: ice skating rink, general store, pizza shop, dive bar with live music , a pub/casual restaurant/lodge, and a high end dining restaurant with a cocktail bar. We headed up to our room and stocked the kitchenette. I wasn’t feeling 100% but figured it was the fact that I hadn’t had anything to eat all morning and it was now 1:30pm NY time. We headed over to the Grill and I devoured a tomatillo chicken quesadilla. It hit the spot and we decided to hit the slopes for a day-one shake down shortly there after. Conditions were good but our legs were weak. As the hour or so session went on my mental clarity started to fade as well. I was exhausted. We called it quits and headed back to the room. Slowly it started to set in that I was getting crushed by the altitude. I went horizontal and started chugging water but it wasn’t getting much better. Katie took the initiative and dragged me down to the Ski Patrol office where we caught them just before shutdown. My blood was severely oxygen depleted and they hooked me up with a sweet O2 filled face mask. I also got to kick it with Rio, the avalanche dog, who was laughing at me. After 30 min of oxygen I was marginally better but that didn’t last long. Once back in the room I went downhill fast and Katie called for a car to get me to lower altitude. We scurried down from 9,000 ft at solitude to the Airport Hyatt at 4,300 ft. During the ride down through the canyon I could literally feel the air getting thicker. Once at the Hyatt I hit the bed hard and was good to go 12 hours, 6 life saving Gatorades, and 2 gallons of water later. Once back at Solitude Katie got to explore the mountain with James Faraci while I acclimated. The three of us had an easy afternoon on the slopes after lunch.
By day three we were feeling great. We spent the morning working the trees and chutes on the east side of the summit. After a few runs we caught ski patrol pulling back the ropes to the back bowl. Being that we were first skiers down we didn’t do anything too adventurous but it sure was silky all the way down.
After a break for lunch we decided to check out the Nordic Center. In 2002 when Salt Lake City hosted the winter Olympics, Solitude was the chosen site of the cross country skiing events. Left over from those games are a network of CC skiing and snowshoeing trails. We rented some snowshoes and embarked on what would be the beginning of a life long journey together. After a beautiful walk along the trail through the pine laden forest and a healthy dose of procrastination I asked Katie to marry me! And more importantly she said “YES”! Once back at the resort we were both a bit shocked. What now? It was about 2:45pm and we looked at each other and knew there was only thing to do…chase last chair. We grabbed our skis and got some quality runs in. The engagement was our little secret and we spent some precious time together absorbing it all. Once the lifts stopped running we headed to the thirsty squirrel for a frosty beverage before we started making phone calls to friends and family.