Little Cottonwood Canyon gets the majority of international attention, but when you’re planning your next trip to Utah, don’t ignore Big Cottonwood Canyon. This road runs parallel to LCC and offers Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton, two fantastic resorts that will help to make your vacation special. Each mountain features world-class food and amenities, and with a little tailoring from your friends at Ski Utah, we’ll help make your trip special this winter.
One of the best parts of Utah is the ease of access to the mountains and you’ll quickly be reminded of that trait as soon as you land at the Salt Lake City International Airport and see the myriad of spiky peaks encircling the city. Just grab your bag at the carousel, snag a ride and head up the canyon in under 40 minutes to the base of Solitude. It’s really that easy. If you’re going the rental car route, be sure to ask for one that has four-wheel drive and snow tires. The canyons can get treacherous in any kind of weather and you’ll want to be prepared! More on safe canyon travel here.
As you drive up the canyon, don’t forget to look around at the winter wonderland in which you’ve arrived. While I’m sure someone with a lot more geological knowledge can tell you about how this area was created by glacier and stream erosion and other rock mumbo-jumbo, I’m going to point out the legendary rock-climbing routes and vast amount of backcountry ski trailheads on either side. The canyon is a recreator’s dream while remaining untouched and beautiful.
Less than 45 minutes later, you’re at the charming The Inn at Solitude—an old-world ski lodge inspired by Bavarian culture with new world amenities. It’s right at the base of the resort, meaning that there’s outstanding terrain just steps outside of your hotel room. And then as soon as you return, a hot tub, heated outdoor pool and the Solitude Mountain Spa await to refresh your tired legs.
If you’re rolling with a bigger crew on this trip, check out the Powderhorn Lodge right under the iconic clock tower in Solitude’s Village Green. The lodge has one, two and three-bedroom units with fully equipped kitchens and fireplaces, perfect for cozying up with your loved ones after a long day of skiing and riding.
The day is not over yet! Your trip has just begun and we start with a bang around here. Travel just five minutes up the road to Brighton, the other ski and snowboard resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon, which boasts night skiing all winter long. Bundle up (it gets chilly when the sun goes down) and load the lift as the sun is setting to see how the resort transforms under the floodlights. The lifts spin until 9 p.m., so explore the more than 200 open acres and four lifts (and even the terrain park!) until your legs feel properly warmed up for a weekend of skiing.
You’ve worked up an appetite, so travel back down the canyon until you just pass Solitude and you’ll find the Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant—a rustic hotel with great food, drinks and views for days. Normally I’d suggest their patio, but it’ll be dark by the time you get there, so saddle up to the bar and order yourself a Silver Fork Pilsner and a big bowl of lamb bolognese because you earned it with those night skiing laps.
It’s been a long day and at this point, you’ll be itching for bed, but make a quick detour when you get back to your hotel and stop in at the Library Bar inside The Inn at Solitude. It’s the opposite of the usual ski town dive bar and while I have no problem at all with shot skis and PBRs, I love this spot’s classic cocktails and award-winning wine menu. Finish off your day with an Old Fashioned and head off to bed.
Put your boots on in your room, step out your hotel door and you’ll be right at the foot of the Apex Lift at Solitude—a short ride away from the famed Summit Lift, which accesses some of the coolest terrain in Big Cottonwood. But before you head up to the famed Cathedral Cirque and Honeycomb, warm up over on Powderhorn lift and Eagle Express, where you can lap some high-speed groomers and mellow trees to get your legs ready for the day.
Now that you’re aptly warmed up and the ski patrol has had time to make sure conditions are safe, head out of the open gate toward Honeycomb and play in the soft fluffy stuff. The conditions have been excellent this season.
After a few laps off Summit, hunger is ramping up for the whole crowd. Usual ski resort fare features the ever-delicious burgers and fries, but swing into the Roundhouse lodge at Solitude’s mid-mountain for something a little different. This restaurant is Himalayan-inspired and so while you can dive into a plate of fries here, we encourage you to try the curry fries and they are delicious.
One of the coolest things about the Wasatch is how close the mountains are to each other, and it gets even cooler when you can easily ski in between them. Celebrate that interconnectedness by jaunting from Solitude over to Brighton via the SolBright trail. Once on the Brighton side, explore what you couldn’t when night skiing. I recommend heading far looker’s left up to Great Western, where there are chutes, tree skiing and big open groomers. It’ll check every big mountain skiing box you’re looking for on your BCC trip.
Make your way back to Solitude when your legs start to feel shaky and hit the Thirsty Squirrel—a time-honored watering hole frequented by Solitude locals and tourists alike. The beer list is solid and full of excellent local choices like Squatters Brew Pub Hop Rising, which pairs swimmingly with a big plate of nachos after a long day on the hill.
After a relaxing soak in the hot tub at your hotel, it’s time for dinner. And luckily, one of BCC’s best restaurants is just downstairs: St. Bernard's. Inspired by the mountains that surround it, St. Bernard's features food fit for refueling after a long day of skiing, including hearty stews, steaks and big glasses of red wine. Indulge.
While some of your party travels back to Brighton to continue shredding, it’s time to see what your lungs can do at 9,000 feet above sea level. Solitude features a gorgeous array of cross country trails and the Solitude Nordic Center is just a short shuttle ride from your hotel. Rent a set of skate skis, meet up with your lesson instructor and get ready to sweat out that steak from last night while admiring some of the most beautiful views in the Wasatch throughout their more than 20 kilometers of trails. A day of cross country skiing, including rentals and a lesson is a very reasonable price of $66. If cross country skiing sounds intimidating (it’s not! I’m terrible and it’s so fun), Solitude also offers snowshoe tours.
The vacation time bomb is slowly ticking down, but you have time for one last drink and you definitely earned it after burning one million calories cross country skiing. Meet the rest of your party at Molly Greens—a slopeside A-frame on Brighton that features a cozy fireplace, stunning ski resort views and warm whiskey drinks. It’s hard to go wrong with a classic Irish Coffee, but Molly Greens also offers Molly’s Milk, which includes brandy, Kahlua, hot coffee, whipped cream and a cinnamon stick.
You did it! You’ve packed it in over the last 48 hours with downhill riding, cross country skiing, drinking, eating and hot tubbing. I’m impressed. The last thing you have to do is drive the easy 45 minutes down Big Cottonwood Canyon back to the airport and start planning your next trip. See you again soon.
For 48 hour guides to other locations take a peek at the following stories:
48 hours in Little Cottonwood Canyon
48 hours in Ogden
48 hours in Park City