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History of Solitude ski resort

History of Solitude

adapted from Dean Roberts

The Mormon pioneers first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1847. When they first ventured into beautiful Big Cottonwood Canyon, it appeared they were the first to do so in earnest—there was no evidence of Native American settlements in the canyon outside of the occasional hunting foray. It appears that the closest Native American settlement was on the shores of Utah Lake, some 30 miles to the south.


Timber and the Beaver Population

The first activity in Big Cottonwood Canyon was timber harvesting for the construction of homes; mining came soon thereafter. However, the biggest impact on the canyon was not from logging or mining, but rather from the loss of the beaver population. At the time, beaver hats in London were very popular, which led to the elimination of the beaver population. This had a major impact on the structure of the canyon: the activity of the beavers kept the stream meandering through the bogs and meadows of the canyon, keeping things stable and resilient. There were pools, marshes and eddies among the logs and sod. There were also heavier and deeper forests in the place of the gully we see now. Today, the beaver are returning and you can see their busy activity in the summer.


Mining Begins

Mining activity in Big Cottonwood Canyon peaked in the 1870's and 1880's; the first production of silver ore was in Honeycomb and Silver Fork Canyons. At that time, the mining district was called the Mountain Lake District because of Silver Lake and Twin Lakes, which is now a reservoir.

The first mine, Evening Star, was located by Silas Bryan in 1863. By 1875, there were hundreds of mines at or within a stone's throw of present-day Solitude Mountain Resort, with romantic names like Argenta, Davenport, Antelope, Teresa, Wondering Boy, Prince of Wales, Highland Chief, Woodlawn, and Copperking. There was enough timber cut in Big Cottonwood Canyon for use in the mines to build over 40,000 three-bedroom homes. Today, only a few rare spots remain where ancient trees are still alive and standing. Virtually every tree in and around Solitude is second-growth, many planted by Solitude Mountain Resort.

After the 1880's, mining production declined steadily until the Great Depression. The last active mine in the canyon was the Kentucky Utah Mine, which was located under the spot where the Eagle Express chairlift now resides, ceased operations around 1950. The tailings from this mine were used to create the two parking lots at Solitude. At one time, you could travel underground from the Kentucky Utah Mine all the way to Alta. The Silver Fork community now gets its water from that mine, while Solitude gets its water from the Alta Tunnel located in Silver Fork Canyon.

In the early 1900's, tenacious silver miners gave the name Solitude to the geographic area now dominated by Solitude Mountain Resort. The ski area opened in the fall of 1957 with two chair lifts providing access to most of the area now skied on the front side of the mountain.


Robert Barrett and the Birth of Solitude

Robert M. Barrett made his fortune as a Moab uranium miner during the early 1950's, and then moved to Salt Lake City and took up snow skiing. As the story goes, Barrett was one day pursuing his passion at Alta and was denied restroom access—the ski area used sewage tanks and was responsible for transporting waste down the canyon, so restrooms were reserved only for guests. In his disgust, Mr. Barrett declared he would open his own ski area. He proceeded to buy every piece of land available in the canyon adjacent to Alta and started construction in 1956.


Solitude in the Modern Era

The DeSeelhorst family, current owners of the resort, became involved in the late 1970's and immediately set about making significant improvements to the resort:

  • 1982: Summit lift opens, bringing lift-served backcountry skiing to Honeycomb Canyon
  • 1989: Eagle Express lift opens, Utah's first high-speed detachable quad chair lift
  • 2002: Following a long EIS period, the Honeycomb lift opens to the public


The Birth of Solitude Village

One of the greatest developments to happen at Solitude has been the addition of Solitude Village. Master planning began in 1982 and was carefully completed over the course of the next seven years. The new village was to create the intimate look and feel of a European Alpine hideaway while showcasing the mountainous beauty of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Solitude received their approvals to begin building this unique resort village in 1989.

In 1995, the resort opened Creekside Condominiums at Solitude, the first of seven overnight accommodations. The Inn at Solitude followed in 1996, Powderhorn Lodge in 2000, Eagle Springs East in 2001, and Eagle Springs West in 2003.

Owning a Solitude home or condo is an experience unlike any other. Lifestyle Properties is proud to be the most experienced real estate firm at Solitude and in all of Big Cottonwood Canyon and we thrive on helping our clients find their perfect mountain home.

 

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