Back on June 22nd, Solitude Mountain Resort hosted its second annual town hall. The first portion of the town hall covered the historic 2022-23 season, which featured the most snowfall ever, and was Solitude’s longest season. While a certain slide in the presentation caught a lot of people’s attention, many exciting investments could be coming in the next five years. Here’s what was discussed by Amber Broadaway, who is the President and COO of the ski resort, at the meeting.
The meeting started with Amber covering what went right and wrong during the season. Some of the major successes included opening for the season on November 10th, the addition of the terrain parks, the new Solitude app, adding their first Wyssen Tower, the opening of the new Main Street Noodle Bar at the Last Chance Lodge, receiving 816 inches of snowfall and staying open until May 21st.
Some of the things that went wrong included not finding the right place for a coffee shop, the inability to create a local’s race league, struggling to get the Red Wagon food truck operational due to all the snow, not emphasizing their carpool app, not having a functional shuttle service to the Nordic Center, and the inability to open their signature terrain quickly. They aim to improve on these deficiencies next season with a different strategy.
For this summer, Solitude will continue to upgrade its activities. Their summer activities are open on Thursday-Sunday, along with Mondays which are holidays, from 10 am- 6 pm. The adventure center, which opened last summer, has been moved to the Moonbeam base area. In addition, new rental bikes, a bounce house, a new par 3 disc golf course, and a mining sluice have been added. They are aiming to open the new Gravity Logic mountain biking trails before the 2023-24 season, but all the snowfall they received last winter could result in this not happening.
They’ll also be hosting a variety of fun events this summer, some of which are new to the ski resort. On Father’s Day, Solitude hosted its first annual brew fest. One of the new events is the Highland Games Festival, which is a celebration of Celtic music and heritage.
In terms of this offseason, here’s what they are working on: the replacement of the Eagle Express with a six-pack, the first phase of Gravity Logic mountain biking trails, snowmaking system upgrades (set to be completed by the 2024-25 season), adding three Wyssen towers to Fantasy Ridge, renovations to the Inn at Solitude, and more.
Other plans for the 2023-24 season will include the introduction of parking reservations on Friday through Sundays plus holiday periods, offering free parking after 1 pm, installing EV chargers in the parking lot, introducing affordable food options at the Moonbeam base area, moving the coffee shop to the Stonehaus, along with improving their community and charitable initiatives.
In terms of their five-year capital project plans, one of the big reveals was their plan to construct a new learning center. This will be situated between Moonbeam and the Last Chance Lodge. There will be a new snowsports building, which will host their rentals, a new retail space, a boot-up and brown bag area, and a rooftop bar. There would also be a new beginner terrain with surface lifts.
In addition, the current learning area over at Moonbeam will add some new magic carpets. The Same Street, Easy Street, and Little Dolly runs will be regraded to provide a better experience for beginners.
Another major goal is to improve their base area connectivity. Walking between the Moonbeam and the Solitude Village is challenging, which becomes an issue when the lifts closed. There’s a shuttle, but it’s not convenient. Their plans for improved connectivity were not specified. A cabriolet-style gondola would be pretty cool though.
Three lift replacements are planned after the construction of the new learning center area: Link, Sunrise, and Powderhorn. The first replacement planned is for the Link Chairlift, a double chairlift that services the current beginner area. This low-capacity lift has been there since 1988 leading to long lines and a challenging learning process for beginners. They hope for a replacement of Link within the next three years.
The second lift replacement planned is Sunrise. This fixed-grip triple chairlift is a slow ride and doesn’t have a safety bar. While they are finally getting safety bars for this upcoming winter, this lift is nearing the end of its operational lifespan. A higher-capacity lift is likely, but a high-speed chairlift seems far-fetched due to it being short in length. In addition, a high-speed chairlift would make the terrain over at Sunrise track out quickly.
The third lift upgrade possibility is Powderhorn. This slow, fixed-grip quad has a ride time of around nine minutes. Another issue it faces is the lines on powder days, as it becomes a top spot for people coming from the Apex, Eagle, and Moonbeam chairlifts. They are mulling between a high-speed chairlift or a quicker and more modern fixed-grip, but they need to analyze skier density on this terrain before making a final decision.
A lot of locals want this one to happen first, but I’m more reluctant than others due to it being the best powder spot at the ski resort. The lift, which is popular on powder days, will likely get tracked out much quicker if a high-speed chairlift were to take its place.
Interestingly, one of their distant planned projects, a gondola from the Apex base area to the top of Powderhorn, which was included in the five-year plan at the last town hall, was not included in the five-year plan.
One of the reasons why they were considering a gondola is that wedding guests don’t like traveling up and down the chairlifts. In response to these concerns, Solitude has purchased sprinter vans and is working on cleaning up the work road that reaches the venue. No explanation for this decision for the gondola omission was given, so we’ll see if it pops up again in the future.
The other major capital project planned is renovations to the Moonbeam Lodge. It’s a quaint lodge, but it’s small, which is challenging for a ski resort on the rise. Additions that they are considering include an improved bus and drop-off area, a sit-down restaurant, a space for conferences, a new first aid facility at the lodge, and allowing for ADA access.
With these five-year projects, they will need approval from the US Forest Service. In addition, it will be up to the Alterra Mountain Company to prioritize how much is being spent at the resort, as they may prioritize investments at other mountains in their growing portfolio.
Overall, I really enjoy Solitude hosting a town hall each year, and it’s definitely something that more ski resorts should do. It improves transparency between the ski resort and the local community and gives skiers and riders many things to look forward to in the coming years.
You can watch Solitude’s town hall below.
Image/Video Credits: Solitude Mountain Resort