Are you planning a ski trip to Utah, and you can’t decide between Snowbird and Solitude?
As two of the nearest ski resorts in Utah, this is a common dilemma.
But fear not! I’m familiar with both mountains (based on multiple ski trips to each) and I’m here to share everything you need to know when comparing Solitude and Snowbird.
- Mountain Stats Comparison: Snowbird vs. Solitude
- General Toughts – Snowbird or Solitude?
- Ski Town Atmosphere
- Snow at Snowbird vs. Solitude
- General Terrain Comparison
- Terrain By Ability Level
Mountain Stats Comparison: Snowbird vs. Solitude
|1||Acres||1,200 acres||2,500 acres|
|2||Vertical||2,494 ft.||3,240 ft.|
|3||Snowfall||470 inches||500 inches|
|4||Summit||10,488 ft.||11,000 ft.|
|5||Base||7,994 ft.||7,760 ft.|
General Toughts – Snowbird or Solitude?
Snowbird and Solitude are extremely similar in many ways, but they both still bring their very own character and vibe.
- If you’re looking for a truly world-class destination resort, with some of the most snowfall anywhere and the widest variety of consistently steep terrain, then you’ll probably love Snowbird.
- If you’re looking for a slightly more under-the-radar spot, with a little more laid back vibe but still crazy amounts of snow covering some really awesome terrain, then you should check out Solitude.
In either case, the vibe at both places is all about the awesome skiing and boarding. Let’s take a look!
Both Snowbird and Solitude are located in Utah, less than 40 minutes from Salt Lake City.
But while the two resorts are less than 5 miles apart from each other on the map, this doesn’t tell the whole story.
In reality, Snowbird and Solitude are located in two completely different mountain ridges. Solitude sits in “Big Cottonwood Canyon” while Snowbird sits in “Little Cottonwood Canyon”.
This means despite being just a couple miles from each other, visitors have to drive up and down both canyon roads to travel between the two. This drive takes anywhere from 30 minutes in good weather to well over an hour if there’s morning ski traffic or snowy conditions. (Which is very likely in this part of the country!)
Ease of Access – Big Cottonwood Canyon vs. Little Cottonwood Canyon
Getting to Snowbird and Solitude means the difference between traveling through:
- “BCC” – The Big Cottonwood Canyon road (Solitude)
- “LCC” – The Little Cottonwood Canyon road (Snowbird)
And honestly, neither route is a walk in the park. Both routes offer legitimate mountain driving, in one of the snowiest places on the planet.
The “Big” portion of the Big Cottonwood Canyon name refers to the width between mountains. Although both LCC and BCC are small two lane roads, Solitude’s BCC does offer more space between the road and the sheer mountain walls. Practically, this means the area is less prone to avalanches.
Snowbird’s LCC, by comparison, is one of the most dangerous avalanche roads in the country, with a grand total of 64 different slide zones. The result is that LCC is more likely to close entirely due to avalanches, or at least have a delayed opening while crews mitigate the avalanche risk.
That said, the Utah Department of Transportation does enforce 4×4, Snow Tire, and/or Chain Requirement for both roads whenever the weather is bad. And when these rules are in effect, they station officers at the mouth of the canyon who will turn away any two wheel drive vehicles not obeying the law.
For visitors to either resort, I’d either plan on making the drive when it’s dry and sunny, or otherwise looking into options for a shuttle service or the Utah Ski Bus.
See also: How to Get to Snowbird (Pros and Cons)
Ski Town Atmosphere
Although Snowbird and Solitude are unique in their “ski town” feel compared to most ski resorts, the two are oddly similar to each other.
Both mountain’s locations at the end of a difficult-to-reach canyon mean that development is pretty limited. As a result, both places “ski town” pretty much consists of the mountain, hotels for the mountain, and… not much else.
Between the two, Snowbird is more developed, which makes sense considering it’s considered the more “destination” resort of the two. As a result, Snowbird has more hotels and ski lodges at the base of the mountain, which comes with noticeably more options for resort dining, drinking, and shopping. While Solitude is currently developing more places to stay, the overall village/resort area is much smaller.
As a result, Solitude’s village has much more of a local’s and day-tripper’s vibe, whereas Snowbird is much more popular with out of town visitors.
That said, compared to authentic mountain towns like Park City, Telluride, and Jackson Hole, both Solitude and Snowbird have more of a walled “mountain-resort” vibe. And even compared to many of the other resorts out there (I’m looking at you, Vails and Whistlers or the world) the villages are noticeably sleepier.
Snow at Snowbird vs. Solitude
There’s very few places on planet earth that can hold a candle to Snowbird’s outrageous 500+ inches of average annual snowfall… except for Solitude.
With a similar location and layout, Solitude averages an impressive 400-475 inches of snow per year. Sure, that’s a little less than Snowbird, but when you consider that the average ski resort is lucky to muster 300 inches a year, you realize that both of these spots get incredible snow.
(Both also have that ultra dry powder that Utah proudly claims as “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”)
Simply put, if you’re looking to ski powder, both Snowbird and Solitude are among your best bets in North America.
General Terrain Comparison
Paradoxically, Snowbird and Solitude are both very similar in their terrain and very different.
At first glance, it’s clear that Snowbird is the bigger mountain. It features more vertical, more lifts, and more runs.
And in practice, this is definitely true; Snowbird skies noticeably larger. Its many lifts spread skiers all over the sprawling mountain, and the endless wide open bowls, like Mineral Basin and the Road to Provo area, feel far more massive than they look from the trail map.
Solitude, on the other hand, has a somewhat odd lift setup, with most lifts clustered near the bottom of the mountain, with really just one main lift heading to the summit. Plus, a significant chunk of the resort’s limited acreage includes Honeycomb Canyon, which as amazing at it is, by design it’s a bit of a trek to get to and/or ski repeatedly.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can ski back and forth between both mountain’s neighboring resorts, for the small price of an upgraded lift ticket:
- At Snowbird, you can ski back and forth between Alta.
- At Solitude, you can ski back and forth between Brighton.
In my opinion, this is more of a factor at Solitude, since both Alta and Snowbird are plenty large enough to keep you entertained for days on end. But even on my first visit to Solitude, I found more than enough terrain that I had no desire to leave for Brighton.
Terrain By Ability Level
Since Snowbird and Solitude are basically in the same mountain range, they share similar pitch. Simply put, these are pretty steep mountains, and neither spot has much beginner terrain.
Both places basically have one tiny little beginner area, while the rest of the mountain is steeper blues and above.
I’d argue the one feature where Solitude may have the advantage is long blue and easier black groomers.
Snowbird’s groomers aren’t really its specialty, and many of them are cut in half by catwalks or flat sections. However, the groomers at Solitude of the Eagle Express lift are long, consistent fall line beauties.
Both mountains have plenty of black diamonds, although Snowbird probably has the advantage in sheer variety.
I find Snowbird is consistently steeper than Solitude, which makes for awesome black terrain off every single lift, and often every single run.
Solitude is no slouch for black diamonds either, but it just doesn’t have quite as many of them as Snowbird. I also find that much of Solitude’s advanced runs are given their rating for its off “off-piste” or tree obstacles, whereas many of Snowbird’s black diamonds earn their rating based on steepness alone. Both are awesome, but a notable difference.
Again, I’d say Snowbird has the advantage, with one caveat.
Snowbird has more easy to access expert terrain than just about any mountain in the country. At Snowbird, you can ski right off a lift and pretty quickly find yourself in some wild chutes and steeps.
Solitude also has some awesome expert terrain, but it usually requires a little more work to get to. Case in point is Solitude’s Fantasy Ridge area; this is some of the most extreme in bounds terrain anywhere, but it requires a serious hike, avalanche gear, and even a check in with ski patrol.
Although both resorts are tucked in the Wasatch Mountains, the scenery is slightly different.
Snowbird is all about the dramatic canyon views. On the frontside, you’ll see towering peaks directly in front of the resort’s face, and even small glimpses of Salt Lake City in the distance. On the backside, Mineral Basin opens up to beautiful mountain ranges for as far as the eye can see.
Solitude’s scenery is a little more subdued. It’s still beautiful, but the mountain views are little more rolling and gradual, with less alpine bowls and more evergreen forests. And with Salt Lake City completely tucked away behind the dramatic rock faces of Honeycomb Canyon, the mountain does feel more secluded.
I’m honestly not sure which one I like more.
Between the two mountains, Snowbird is more crowded.
Snowbird is a little more popular with both vacationing skiers and Salt Lake City locals who want to ski the most powder and the steepest terrain. As a result, lift lines and general crowding can build up a little more here, and powder days in particular are absolutely wild, no-holds-barred feeding frenzies.
On the other hand, Solitude’s name is no coincidence. This is a mountain that prides itself on a lack of crowds. I can remember my first trip to Solitude, which I’d taken long after I’d skied Snowbird several times. I arrived at a time that I hoped would help me avoid the morning rush, only to find… one other car in the parking lot.
(That said, locals tell me that Solitude’s recent inclusion on the IKON pass with unlimited visits has resulted in full parking lots and significantly more crowds, although it’s still noticeably quieter than Snowbird.)