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Finding that Backcountry Feeling Inbounds - Solitude

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I had a day to myself at Solitude today. No new snow (but some on the way). Spent a few hours off the lifts and then took the traverse out to the far side of Honeycomb Canyon. I’ve done this traverse many times before but today was overcast with a front approaching and very few people around. No one else was on the traverse. It’s a moderately long slog (traversing, sidestepping, and walking). The views on the traverse are great. Up the canyon are the Honeycomb cliffs and they wrap around to loom above you above as you slog out. I went out past Crystal Point to the resort boundary and the backcountry gate leading to Guild Line. From there I worked my way down able to find 4 or 5 segments of some nice fresh turn sequences. It’s one of those things about Solitude that there are usually such segments lurking somewhere to be found.

With nobody else in sight, overcast skies, a first few flakes of the coming storm falling, and the beautiful views of Honeycomb Canyon I was able to find some of that backcountry feeling that I love. Additionally, this is still inbounds terrain where you can pretty safely (at least more so than any backcountry tour) go alone. (Note that the slog out, steepness, variable conditions, and trees combine to require that a skier have the ability to make turns - whether it’s a jump turn, muscled turn, retraction turn, or whatever - with confidence).

To finish off the day I went up the Sunrise lift and headed out the inbounds gate at the top of the lift (which I had never done as I usually ski that terrain from the top of Evergreen Ridge). I climbed a little ways up Evergreen and then skied down, crossing the Solbright trail, and ended up on the cross country trail back to the resort. The glide through the heavy woods below the Solbright trail was much more like a cross country ski outing than Alpine. The snow was wet, heavy, crusty, etc. but the glide through the dense woods over snow covered logs was a nice way to follow up the Honeycomb run.

For those of you who don’t have opportunity or ambition to tour the backcountry but love the feeling of being out there, always remember that there are sometimes opportunities like these waiting to be explored.
post #2 of 19

Nice!!

Great post. While reading it I was reminded of skiing in the trees after a storm. This year I started hitting the trees on powder days and really have enjoyed it. I'll often stop, eat my lunch and just absorb the stillness. I don't think there is enough silence in the world these days. So I make a point to enjoy it where I find it.
post #3 of 19
What you are describing is Side Country skiing. It can provide much of the experience of true BC skiing without as much work. It also unfortunately, lowers the barrier to entry which allows more people and less experienced skiers into the area. You can take it up a notch by going into an area that requires considerable hiking, say more than half an hour an get the true BC experience. Of course, that also means you are entering prime avalanche country.

Powdr
post #4 of 19
Nice post Si, it is nice to have a little adventure and exploration when skiing as it really adds to the experience.
post #5 of 19
I was out there with some folk from the TGR board a couple weeks ago and our last day went almost exactly as the day you describe. We hit Honeycomb and dropped in somewhere in between No Man's Land and Crystal Point, then did a lap off the top of Sunrise lift. The trees through Buena Vista were amazing, then the long XC trail return (Big Redman I believe) was a great capper to the run.
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
What you are describing is Side Country skiing. It can provide much of the experience of true BC skiing without as much work. It also unfortunately, lowers the barrier to entry which allows more people and less experienced skiers into the area. You can take it up a notch by going into an area that requires considerable hiking, say more than half an hour an get the true BC experience. Of course, that also means you are entering prime avalanche country.

Powdr
Powdr,

You make an important point. A climbing traverse like the one I described with no one else around and a great run down can easily lower one's inhibitions to heading into true bc uncontrolled terrain. Let me emphasise that all the terrain I was on was inbounds controlled terrain. I join you in cautioning people, especially those without any backcountry experience, not to get so caught up in the moment so that they make a bad decision.

However, I will admit I was extremely tempted to head out of bounds at the last gate and down Guild Line to Silver Fork Canyon even though I was sans beacon. Of course being alone the beacon would have only been good for body recovery in the case of an accident. On the other hand, I have enough experience that it would have been an informed decision. The avalanche danger was very low and the most likely problem was getting injured without having anyone around.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gill
I was out there with some folk from the TGR board a couple weeks ago and our last day went almost exactly as the day you describe. We hit Honeycomb and dropped in somewhere in between No Man's Land and Crystal Point, then did a lap off the top of Sunrise lift. The trees through Buena Vista were amazing, then the long XC trail return (Big Redman I believe) was a great capper to the run.
Gill, sounds like I'm in good company in enjoying those routes.
post #8 of 19

Hope to experience the same

Great post. A buddy and I will be in SLC next week and we have been thinking of giving Honeycomb a try. Your description has encouraged us even more and gave us some areas too keep in mind. Just one question, it looks like there are trees/glades on the near side of the canyon, are they skiable or too tight to be any fun.
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skugrud
Great post. A buddy and I will be in SLC next week and we have been thinking of giving Honeycomb a try. Your description has encouraged us even more and gave us some areas too keep in mind. Just one question, it looks like there are trees/glades on the near side of the canyon, are they skiable or too tight to be any fun.

The near side of Honeycomb is fantastic. Just back in from a powder day and got fresh turns in there on my last run. You can access the near side from the gate to right as you get off the Powderhorn lift (Here Be Dragons) or from the Summit chair gate at the ridge entrance. It is a little bit of a slog out on the from the Summit but well worth it. After you've gone out a ways you can head back down towards the base of the Summit lift (to the skiers right) through Cathedral (the big bowl you see while riding up Summit) or you can sidestep up from the entrance to Cathedral up "Beluga" and then down onto Middle Slope (the bottom part of which you can access from the gate to the left as you come off the Honeycomb chair). The alternative is to head down to the left into Honeycomb anywhere (Black Forest) but I would wait until you are at least past the entrance to Cathedral. With all the snow this year the traverse along the ridge line (Eagle/Cathedral ridge?) is very high and really gets you a few extra turns if you traverse far out and stay high. Caution there are some cliffs if you go too far out either beyond Cathedral or the Honeycomb gate so don't get caught in following someone's sucker track too far out. I've gotten cliffed out a couple times out there but fortunately the required jump both times was 10 feet or less into soft snow.
post #10 of 19
My husband and I had some memorable runs in Honeycomb when we visited a few years ago. Wonderful!

More and more resorts are offering this kind of experience. Some that come to mind: Catherine's Area at Alta, Mineral Basin at Snowbird, Eagle East at Marmot Basin, Teocali Bowl at Crested Butte (and really most of their Extreme Limits, since the resort is so remote and uncrowded to begin with), Blue Sky Basin at Vail, Tucker Bowl and Copper Bowl at Copper, Cedar Bowl at Fernie, Feuz Bowl at Kicking Horse. I'm sure there are more, but these are all ones that we've had the chance to experience.

One of the neatest things I've come across so far: BEGINNERS can get a backcountry experience at Snowbird in Mineral Basin. There is an entire beginner area, separate from the more advanced terrain. On a clear day, it's amazing back there. Of course, there's no easy way back down the front side of the mountain, so beginners have to take the tram back down. But all the beginners we talked to just loved the entire experience. It really hooked them on skiing.

Thatsagirl
post #11 of 19
Some others: Mirkwood Basin at Monarch, the Cirque at Winter Park, Kachina Peak at Taos, The waterfall area and Alberta Peak at Wolf Creek
post #12 of 19
Powder Country at Powder Mountain is also good. You can't get lost as it ends up at a road where a shuttle picks you up. Lot of powder back there days after a storm.
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom
Some others: Mirkwood Basin at Monarch, the Cirque at Winter Park, Kachina Peak at Taos, The waterfall area and Alberta Peak at Wolf Creek
Had a chance to climb and ski Kachina Peak after the gate had been closed (cost me a couple of six packs to have ski patrol wait to make their sweep). Definitely one of those runs I always remember.
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
All of the places mentioned are good examples of what I was referring to. BUT...
I think most of them would be hard pressed to match the solitude of Solitude on a weekday a few days after the most recent storm.

Don't mean this as a competition but only to point out that solitude provides a great enhancement for this type of experience.
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Si
All of the places mentioned are good examples of what I was referring to. BUT...
I think most of them would be hard pressed to match the solitude of Solitude on a weekday a few days after the most recent storm.

Don't mean this as a competition but only to point out that solitude provides a great enhancement for this type of experience.
You make a valid point. I think the uncrowded and/or lesser-known resorts would give Solitude a good run for its money, though. Crested Butte immediately comes to mind. I just got back from CB and the "solitude" is immediately apparent. It's certainly as uncrowded as Solitude and even more remote. Marmot Basin, Kicking Horse, Fernie, Monarch and Wolf Creek are others.

But what's also nice is that at the larger, more crowded resorts, you COULD be lucky enough to find a similar wilderness experience. In fact, I wonder if finding it at a more crowded resort might make a greater impression, simply because you don't EXPECT it. I would venture that at less crowded resorts, you expect the experience and that's why you go there in the first place (or at least, that's why my husband and I like the more remote and uncrowded resorts).

Thatsagirl
post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thatsagirl
...But what's also nice is that at the larger, more crowded resorts, you COULD be lucky enough to find a similar wilderness experience. In fact, I wonder if finding it at a more crowded resort might make a greater impression, simply because you don't EXPECT it. I would venture that at less crowded resorts, you expect the experience and that's why you go there in the first place (or at least, that's why my husband and I like the more remote and uncrowded resorts).

Thatsagirl

It's all about the barrier to entry. Large resorts that offer Side/Back Country experiences can be just as 'empty' as the smaller ones. The difference is the effort required to get there. For example, West Twin @ Snowbird, Baldy @ Alta, Cody Bowl @ JH & Pinecone Ridge @ PCMR are all exellent, fairly 'empty' places to ski, but require at least a 30 minute slog up a fairly steep pitch. Therefore there are less people. 'Empty' BTW, is a relative term. To me 'empty' means I didn't see anyone the whole time out.

Powdr
post #17 of 19
There is a wonderful moment at any area on any mountain after the bull wheels stop turning.
Up High and the whole world below. Take a moment, you'll get the feeling!

CalG
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cgrandy
There is a wonderful moment at any area on any mountain after the bull wheels stop turning.
Up High and the whole world below. Take a moment, you'll get the feeling!

CalG
So says the ski patroller...

But don't take too long or those pesky patrollers will hustle you on down the mountain so they can tip back some brews and head home.

Thatsagirl
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
It's all about the barrier to entry. Large resorts that offer Side/Back Country experiences can be just as 'empty' as the smaller ones. The difference is the effort required to get there. For example, West Twin @ Snowbird, Baldy @ Alta, Cody Bowl @ JH & Pinecone Ridge @ PCMR are all exellent, fairly 'empty' places to ski, but require at least a 30 minute slog up a fairly steep pitch. Therefore there are less people. 'Empty' BTW, is a relative term. To me 'empty' means I didn't see anyone the whole time out.

Powdr
Powdr, Cody Bowl @ JH is out of bounds.
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