As far as Colorado ski resorts go, SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch doesn’t give up its biggest virtues upon first glance. Initially, you might not see what makes SolVista such a big deal, because the things that make SolVista a big deal are… small.
Indeed, some of the ski area’s biggest fans are less than three feet tall. This is a kids’ Mecca, and truly offers something different for families. So I’m letting my new family at SolVista adopt me for the weekend.
Until the kids get out of SolVista’s Ski School, I’m heading out to make some turns with Dan, a longtime resident of the Winter Park Valley, Who is playing hookey from his role as Director of SolVista’s Ski & Ride School to show me around the mountain. As excellent a skier as a tour guide, Dan quickly sniffs out some soft turns for our little posse.
SolVista is a lot bigger than it looks from the base area, with mellow slopes, groomers, and terrain parks on one side, and the steeps and trees on the other.
The mountain is somewhat funnel-shaped, so whether you’re making laps in the terrain park or the powder, everyone’s channeled back together at the base area – you can’t get lost. Many of the parents I meet on the chairlift tell me they’ve turned their kids loose for the day, so they’re unsupervised and free to adventure for themselves. And the kids are on their own too.
At day’s end, the fire pit at the base area is erupts in to sugar-fueled mayhem. Ski days at SolVista wrap up with a ‘smores buffet – think of it as a dinner bell of sorts. It creates a natural family gathering point at the end of the day, but it serves another purpose as well: fueling up for a few hours of tubing and night skiing.
The slopes light up as my band of ‘smores-addled skiers make their way to the chairlift. Being a recovering Midwesterner, I still have a soft spot for night skiing – there’s something slightly mysterious and totally fun about skiing a night. The views disappear and attention focuses on the snow, your friends, and the task at hand.
Perhaps the reason night skiing is so much fun is that there’s an element of mystery. You can’t see what’s over the next knoll, and the suspense is exciting. Night skiing is just like SolVista in a lot of ways – there’s a lot more than meets the eye, and that’s what makes it so fun.
-John Trousdale, Mountain Correspondent, Colorado Ski Country USA