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Adventures in Solitude


It’s the holiday I’ve wanted for the last four years. To take Campbell on a father-son ski/ snowboarding trip.

I’m clearly not the only one: We sit behind another dad and his pre-teen on the airplane, off to the Park City area for five days. And we share our shuttle to the resort(s) with (just the) one other dad and his 7-year, playing hooky from the Boston school system to rack up some runs before the snow melts. (They needn’t have rushed.) We thought we were up early: this pair were up at 4am and dad is determined to get a run in before the day is out.

Not us: we’re wiped.

The room with a view

From the ground floor of our Inn

Avalanche season, as we’re warned by locals on the plane. Turns out we’ve just missed the avalanche that knocked an SUV off the road (the occupants survived by kicking the windows out: fortunately one of them was still wearing ski boots) and closed the route into the Canyon for 18 hours.

Solitude is aptly named, at least this late in the season: there’s no noise at night, no party scenes, no traffic (it’s an enclosed, traffic-freevillage) and, best of all, no lift lines.

There is, however, a base of some 14’ of snow.

600” total this year. (That’s 50 full feet of the stuff.)

Do you think they got enough snow this year?

And 19 more inches that arrived just ahead of us.

The Utah-Florida cell-phone conversation with Posie on Friday afternoon that goes something like this:
“We’re surrounded by snow.”
“I’m on the beach.”
“We can see right up the mountain from our room.”
“I’m looking out at the sea.”
“Campbell can’t believe his luck: they’ve got free X-Boxes here.”
“Noel’s been playing with sand for the last two hours.”
“They had 19” of snow yesterday.”
“It’s a perfect sunny day.”
“And they’ve got a swimming pool.”
“Noel’s been in the ocean.”
“There’s even a fitness room.”
“I rented a jogging stroller.”
“I’m so glad we came here.”
“I’m so glad we came here.”
Secret of a good marriage: give each other the space to do what makes you happy.

Jet lag finds Campbell waking on his first holiday morning at 5am. (Well, apparently I wake him by using the bathroom. Wait till you’re married, my son.) He says, “I may be too tired to go snowboarding today.”

Hearing Campbell screaming “Whooo-hooo” as he races down steep, wide unoccupied runs of pure corn for the first time in his life.

The darkest blue sky I’ve ever seen in the middle of the day

On the lift back up, he says “I’m really glad you thought of this holiday, daddy.” And life is good.

Skiing at an altitude of 10,000 feet for the first time since I was 23.

The white-capped Wasatch mountains all around us, especially the near-vertical face of what I think is called Mt. Timapanocas just behind Solitude.

Words fail

The perfect bluebird weather day.

The octogenarian FOG group eating up the sun’s rays at the mid-mountain Roundhouse – especially the member guarding the 1.5 Liter bottle of Bombay Sapphire. Now there’s a drug I wish I had not had to give up.

Campbell has a perfect first morning. No falls, and endless linked turns.

Campbell discovers off-piste. And learns to fall over all over again.

Campbell gets stuck in the off-piste.

After digging himself out, he says that he’s way tired and we should go in now.

On the lift back up, he decides we should do another run off-piste because it’s so much fun.

He falls over all over again.

He decides he’s really tired and we do go in.

He finds the energy to swim in the pool for an hour

The pool slide is closed for the winter

I thank the Lord for Hot Tubs

Table football in the Games Room.

Hearing the Arctic Monkeys ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ while shopping at Solitude’s only store, courtesy of Salt Lake City’s X96 radio station. I’ve also heard it regularly on the rock station out of Burlington, Vermont that we listen to in the Catskills. Arctic Monkeys won’t translate? They’re doing a pretty good job of it so far.

Hearing the devastating – and I mean, mindblowing – Lee Huxley bootleg remix ‘When the Bass Goes Down’ on Chris Coco’s Blue Room show (courtesy of Radio 1’s Listen Again option, the hotel’s free wi-fi and my every-trusty Laptop) while relaxing on my bed Saturday night

Watching the first Austin Powers movie with Campbell in our hotel room. He’s disgusted by all the sexual connotations, which at least means he misses the most brilliant line of the movie I’d ever forgotten: “Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day.”

Heady stuff – with altitude sickness built in

The local pale ale, by the Uinta Brewing Company, is unfortunately flavorless proof that not every microbrewery in America is up to the standard of Keegan’s or Evan’s. This is a double shame, as their brewery is 100% wind-powered.

The hotel’s free computers restrict access to iJamming! for “Drug and alcohol content.”

Sleeping long and hard enough to have real dreams:
1) I’m interviewing Kenny Samson by phone, because he just scored 11 goals in a single match for Crystal Palace. After a while, he says “Come on, I’d much sooner do this interview in person. When can you get down to London: and bring a decent bottle of wine with you, will you?”
2) I meet up with Noel Gallagher who tells me Oasis just bought a PA and invites me to see it. I follow him through the woods, we come to a clearing, and Liam emerges with what looks like an assassin alongside. I wake with a start.

Campbell convinces me to pack the Playstation, and it turns out the hotel games room has three free Xboxes. That’s him taken care off.

The receptionist at the Inn keeps an open bottle of red wine on her counter. Now that’s what I call laid back.

Sunday afternoon skiing and riding in 50-degree temperatures, not a single cloud in the sky, the sun a darker blue than I ever seem to have seen it.

Solitude: aptly named for its lack of crowds, though not for its lack of accompanying mountains

This may be because I’m about 6,000 feet closer to the sun than I ever normally get.

All the sunblock in the world won’t protect you from sun like this.

We forgot to pack the Aloe Vera. And they don’t sell it at the small village store.

I look like a beetroot.

Solitude is on its last week. The Sunshine grill is no longer firing up the grill, the Creekside café is taking items off the menu faster than you can order them, and the Moonbeam lodge has run out of ketchup.

How can you sell French fries to snowboarding pre-teens for $3.50 and not have ketchup?

The staff at the hotel’s posh restaurant (too posh to take Campbell for a meal) perk up when I come in on Sunday afternoon and ask after a glass of wine. Within two minutes, they’ve opened three bottles (two from Idaho), poured me free samples, and the waiter is busy taking notes on my recommended east coast wines. He then pours me an extra large glass of Snake River’s Aussie-tasting Rhône–influenced wine and I sit outside reading SLCs Best of Utah 2006, soaking up more of the sun’s punishing rays on this most perfect of spring days.

The SilverFork Lodge, which picks us up and takes us home from dinner. For free.

Hamming it up after a hard day on the piste

It also serves Château d’Acqueria rosé. They don’t label it as Tavel or Lirac but chances are, that’s what it is.

Oh, and they make a mean vegetable lasagna.

And a pretty good grilled cheese sandwich.

Campbell and I play I-Spy.

I feel like I should be singing “It’s the Best Day Ever” from the SpongebobSquarepants soundtrack.

We’re having such a good time I decide to risk reading my e-mail on Monday morning.

Mistake.

This is where I envy people who are employed, as opposed to self-employed: they can go on holiday and properly forget their work for a week.

I find it hard to do so.

Make that impossible.

I start longing for the days we didn’t have e-mail and people had to work harder to find you.

After trying to tackle work problems both before and after our Monday mountain day, I make a decision: no more e-mail for the week. I use my iJamming! host page to write an auto-responder, close down the mail program and remove it from my list of start-up items.

If you sent me an e-mail since Tuesday morning, believe me, I have not seen it.

Oh, and I really appreciate the lack of calls to the cell phone. Seriously. Thanks: you know who you are.

The sign at the bottom says “No hiking uphill. The trail of skis suggests someone must have been helicoptered in then.

Last day at Solitude we decide to brave the aptly named Corner Chute. Campbell gets down fine. I take a tumble, lose a ski, have to take my other one off and hike up to retrieve the first, and then find it’s too steep a chute for me to get them back on. I hike back down and see my feet sink three-four feet at a time. Campbell is screaming “What’s taking you so long?” Fifteen minutes later, I finally rejoin him. Whew!

Does this mean my son is now a better snowboarder than I am a skier?

We make up for this frustrating morning by taking the two-mile Woodlawn trail, which runs through the valley on the far side of the canyon and has the most phenomenal views. A couple of skiers pass us. But only a couple. The run takes a good half-hour. It also takes us to the last of Solitude’s seven lifts. Which means we’ve collected the set over the course of our three days.

Don’t worry Posie, you know I wouldn’t take Campbell through here.

We say goodbye to Solitude, which SLC’s Best Of Utah 2006 issue names second-best mountain for snowboarding.

The best? Snowbird.

Guess where we’re headed for the rest of the week?

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