By Bob Goligoski
God blessed Utah with two remarkable side-by-side canyons — Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood.
Little Cottonwood Canyon is better known as it is the home of Alta and Snowbird. But any skier or snowboarder who ventures into the Salt Lake City area really has to visit Brighton and Solitude — two resort gems up near the top of Big Cottonwood canyon.
Smaller in stature than Alta and Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude share the same Wasatch mountain terrain and are hit with the same light powder storms that regularly dump about 500 inches of fluff every winter. It has been a sensational snow season. By mid-February, Solitude already had racked up 342 inches.
Brighton, with 1,875 feet of vertical, has 66 runs, five terrain parks and four high-speed quad chairlifts. Solitude has 79 runs, three bowls and eight chairlifts spread across 2,047 feet of vertical.
From the top of the lifts at both resorts, there are many avenues to the bottom ranging from double diamond to mellow intermediate runs. We found the grooming impeccable at both resorts.
Half the runs at Solitude are rated novice or intermediate. But the place has plenty of chutes and other gnarly terrain for the skilled skier or rider. With injuries and age behind me, my days of skiing off-piste are over. So I rely on one reviewer who noted after a day at Solitude that “this is some of the most impressive off-piste terrain in the country.”
For a very scenic jaunt, you can ski or ride from the slopes of Solitude down into the terrain at Brighton. Look for the Solbright run off the Summit Express lift at Solitude.
Skiers discovered Brighton in the 1930s. Some ski clubs and individuals started cobbling together surface lifts. There was no owner. But gradually the place found some investors who turned the place into a ski resort.
Solitude was founded in 1957 by uranium miner Robert Barrett. As the yarn goes, he decided to build his own ski resort after he was denied use of the restrooms at Alta which concluded he was not an official guest there.
Each resort has charms and selling points. You can ski under the stars at Brighton six nights a week until 9 p.m. And if you are 10 and younger, two of you can ski and ride free when accompanied by one adult.
Solitude has a nordic center and 20 kilometers of cross-country trail. If you would rather snowshoe, the resort has a 10-kilometer network of snowshoe trails.
Brighton attracts some of the best terrain park amateur artists that I have ever seen. Ride the Majestic chairlift and you have a front row seat to the show-off performers who fly over the berms with an array of mind-blowing tricks.
Over at Solitude, one pleasure stop to catch your breath between runs is the Himalayan Hut in the Roundhouse. Sit back on the sun-splashed deck and enjoy some curry fries, saag paneer and a brew.
Solitude has quite an attractive base village with lodging at the 46-room Inn at Solitude and an array of shops, condos, bars and cafes. There are 10 places to dine on the peak and in the village.
Frequent guests at Brighton camp out in the rustic 20-unit Brighton Lodge by the lifts. The hot tub always fills up by 4.
Most visitors elect to bed down in Salt Lake City, which is usually a 40-50 minute drive to the two resorts. We rode the UTA bus (www.skicity.com) which has some nice connections — and good price deals — between the city and Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird.
Speaking of prices, there are several reduced price options online for lift tickets.
If you are an adult and just walk up mid-week, the ticket is $109 at Solitude and $89 at Brighton.
Brighton Resort: www.brightonresort.com
Solitude Mountain Resort: solitudemountain.com