I heard about the great skiing to be found at Brian Head, in the southern part of Utah and was very interested in paying them a visit. The best way to get there is to fly into Las Vegas and then drive approximately three hours to Brian Head. They are located about a half hour from the interstate and very easy to get to. You can put together a really great trip starting and/or ending with a little gambling and a Las Vegas show. I think this kind of trip can offer skiers much more than your standard ski vacation. Sin City pleasures mixed with champaign powder skiing sounds like a winning combo to this ski bum.
I had a suite reserved at Cedar Breaks Lodge & Spa which is only minutes from the ski area. This full-service hotel, has three buildings and over 100 rooms, ranging from studios to 2 and 3-bedroom suites. My suite was very comfortable with a large bedroom, full kitchen, whirlpool tub, coffee maker, microwave, cable TV in the livingroom and one in the bedroom, and other amenities, including underground parking. Lodge amenities included an indoor heated pool, hot tubs, exercise room, steam room, sauna, day spa, three restaurants, private club (bar) and gift shop. I sampled breakfast and dinner and can attest to the high quality of the cuisine. This moderately priced lodge was more like a big city hotel complex than a ski lodge. It seemed fairly new and very nice.
Brian Head has two base areas, Navajo for beginners and Brian Head Peak for intermediated and experts. From the base lodge Brian Head looks small but don’t let that fool you. The stepped nature of the terrain hides the view of the peak and you can only see about half the mountain from the bottom.
The Navajo Lodge and Learning Center is an entire facility and mountain dedicated to kids and newcomers to winter sports. It features two chairlifts, a surface lift, a beginner terrain park, and ten beginner runs. The resort’s renowned Kids Camp is for children 12 and under, and provides state-licensed day care and affordable, fun packages for kids 3-12 years of age.
When I got there, I was given a guided tour of the mountain by Bob Whitelaw from the Marketing Department. He was a local who had skied there most of his life before becoming a staff member. He knew the mountain and was a good skier to boot.
The view of the red cliffs from the top of the mountain are spectacular and even more breath-taking close up. Brian Head is nicely laid out with over 50 trails, 6 chair lifts, 1,320′ vertical and 1,707′ if you take a cat up to the peak. Their longest run is a 1.5 mile expert slope called Giant Steps which has some really steep sections that are gnarly when icy or bumped up. This slope was by favorite run and I made numerous trips down the hill showing off under the chair. I really enjoyed doing the bumps on Giant Steps, Engens and the other expert trails. There was never any wait at the chairs and the lift attendants and other staff were all really friendly.
Conditions changed every day. The first day was sunny and I hit all the advanced trails on the mountain. The next day it clouded up at the end of the day and a dense fog set in. On the following day, I woke to about five inches of new powder and had fun in the “freshies”on the Plunge, an expert trail under Chair 7. I got off the groomed snow and enjoyed myself making turns in the powder on where I could view my turns from the chair. There were a lot of places where I could clearly see my tracks on expert trails like The Wave and Lookout. According to the marks I left in the snow, I’m making nice round turns that looked pretty as I viewed them from my vantage-point on the chair lift.
Although the number of trees at this altitude (over 10,000′) are sparse, they do provide some treed skiing that I was able to take advantage of in the fresh snow. I was told that they get a lot of powder at Brian Head during the winter and average over 400” of snowfall every year. When Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, their snowmaking system can blow snow over 170 acres of trails. They rate 35% of their trails as beginner, 40% intermediate and 25% advanced. They have four terrain parks, one novice park, two intermediate parks, and one expert park. All parks l have various sized tabletops, hips and spines and are fun for riders and skiers. They also have a halfpipe. They offer night skiing and riding at the Pioneer chairlift, and snow tubing at the snow tube park. Brian Head is a family-oriented ski area that has a homy feel. It draws a lot of locals and skiers from Nevada, Arizona and California.
The last day I was there it was a typical cold winter day with snow showers, more like a day in January than the day before Easter and it was a little foggy on top. I spent much of the morning skiing Chair 3 which did not go all the way to the top, sampling some of the easier trails on that part of the mountain and carving up the foot-deep powder I found under that chair. I used Chair 3 to explore a part of the mountain I had neglected thus far.
I took a couple of runs down the trails serviced by Chair 5 and enjoyed a wild ride down black diamond Wild Ride and Straight Up.
They had scheduled a Pond Skimming event in the afternoon, so after lunch, I picked up my camera and took a few photos. The weather was not being cooperative but the contestants didn’t seem to mind. There were a lot of skiers and riders who made it all the way across the man-made pond and some of the more daring took a little air going into the pond and some took air as they exited. There were a few costumes. One contestant was dressed as the Easter Bunny and one had a beaver costume. A very brave girl even did the event in a bikini top and must have froze after she plunged into the cold water BUT she saved the beer. She didn’t seem to mind as she climbed back up the hill soaking wet from her dip in the pond. All in all, the contestants had fun and the crowd enjoyed the spectacle.
Brian Head is a nice mountain that can challenge all but the most expert skiers and even some extreme skiers. Beginners have their own mountain (Navaho) where they don’t have to deal with experts zooming down the slopes. Intermediates had a wide range of trails to choose from and expert skiers will have fun at Brian Head, as well. For the really daring expert, there is cat skiing that will take you to the very peak where you can jump off cornices and take some really BIG air. All that is lacking for the expert skier is a variety of long, very steep slopes. Devo’s Pitch is REALLY steep but fairly short. There are no big bowls but there is enough challenging terrain to keep any skier happy for a couple of days.
I had a blast skiing at Brian Head and I am sure you will too. If you combine your ski trip with a stop over in Las Vegas you can have a really exceptional vacation. Resort guests who don’t ski can ride one of the region’s best Snow Tubing Parks. Additional activities available to visitors include snowmobiling, a full-service Day Spa, horse-drawn sleigh rides, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, not to mention some of the greatest scenery in the West. There are lots of natural wonders with an easy drive that include National Parks, Indian pictographs, and tableaus that can only be seen in cowboy movies.