Brian Head....Utah's best kept southern gem!
Brian Head has a slogan of "Affordable Altitude." That is the truth! Brian Head offers everything that the "big" resorts do with nearly 1/2 the price and crowds. We took a weekend to really check it out and I have to say, the family loved it! It is about 3 1/2-4 hours drive from Salt Lake City, 3 hours from Las Vegas. We met a lot of people that had come from Vegas and California. If you are planning a trip to Utah, why not head south on one of your trips. You can combine a ski vacation at Brian Head and then head to Zion for some hiking. It is the best of both worlds.
Brian Head is the highest resort in Utah. When you think southern Utah, you don't think snow and elevation, but this resorts base sits at 9600' and tops out at 10,900'. That also means a very long ski season. From mid November to mid April....yes, southern Utah and a season snowfall on average over 350". And....a full day adult lift ticket is $49! Yea, when is the last time you saw that price?
We arrived on a Friday evening and got set up at the Doubltree Hilton. It is about 1 mile from the base of the resort. They run shuttles during the day to the resort if you don't have a car. There are many private condos/cabins you can rent or a few hotels. Brian Head is it's own little town up there at 9600' with a little grocery store, post office and restaurants. A word of warning...9600' is very high and a change if you're coming from sea level. You climb quickly from your exit off I-15. Drink plenty of water (probably non alcoholic beverages at least your first night) and get plenty of rest. We were not impacted, but the air is a little thinner and it is an adjustment sleeping at that elevation. For my kids, swimming is a big thing! The Doubletree had a nice indoor pool area with a waterfall and an indoor and outdoor hot tub. There is also a Spa if you are so inclined. When traveling with kids, it's all about comfort and ease. I don't need all the bells and whistles. The rooms were very cozy with rustic decor, comfy beds, a fridge, microwave and coffee maker. After all, us Moms travel with tons of food and drinks since kids are hungry all the time! There is also a very nice steakhouse or we chose the Lift Lounge and Patio which was a kid friendly bar down the hall that offers live music on the weekends. I guess it really is the relaxed family friendly attitude we just loved.
One word of warning....never invite me on a vacation! I tend to bring some wild weather with me. On Saturday we headed out to ski and it was a bit windy and cold. By afternoon, it settled down and we had such a great day! Brian Head is made up of 2 mountains. If you want to teach your kids (or better yet, don't try that, go to the Ski School) Navajo Mountain doesn't get any better!
It is wide and cruisy and so great for kids to practice their big turns and at times, you may be the only person on that run!!!
We didn't do the Ski School, but there are so many different programs including a Wee Ski program offered on weekends where it is all about just getting the kids out at 3 years old on the snow, having fun, doing the day care and Moms and Dads can enjoy their day. We were able to ski a lot of the terrain since now Bren on his snowboard and Emily on her skis are really better than me. Brian Head Peak is made up of more challenging terrain with blue/black runs...but, if your kids are pretty good, they should be able to tackle much of this terrain with no problem. The runs are so wide open and the views are amazing! Much of southern Utah is made up of red rock. At the top of the Giant Steps lift you can see Cedar Breaks National Monument in the distance which is a beautiful red rocks area that does afford a quick side trip when in the area. The 2 mountains are connected by a small bridge you ski over.
Bren also liked the tiny terrain park that was set up alongside the Pioneer beginner lift. It had just big enough jumps and boxes to challenge the little guys.
There is a larger terain park off the Wildflower lift with giant jumps. We went "over" them as well. Night skiing and night tubing are offered at certain times through the season as well. At the base of the Giant Steps Lodge is the bag jump. It is an huge inflatable bag you can jump into on your board or skis and practice your techniques. Let's say, we didn't try that, but looks awesome!
After tackling the mountain all day with a stop for pizza at the Navajo Lodge, we called it a day. Remember, Brian Head has no lift lines! I think there were maybe 2-3 groups during a "rush" time at any one lift. So, you get a lot of runs in Time to swim and off to bed. Sunday brought us to the tubing hill. We haven't tubed in 2 years, so Bren had no idea. OK, $15 for 2 hours of tubing! Yes, you read that right! We got there at 10 AM when they opened and for the first hour, there was only 2 others on the hill! If you like fast, this tube hill is for you!! I always make my kids wear helmets-would recommend- and they just zipped down by themselves. They loved it!!! After 2 hours, I was good. I think they would have gone again, again,again. If you've never gone, there is a lift where you sit in the tube and it pulls you up the hill. There are 6 lanes and we did a lot of racing. A blue bird day with no ski lift lines again. First chair, had one guy on the whole lift!
This leads me to a little history and what is to come. The Fremont Indians discovered the area back in the 1800's and it became a resort in the 1960's. We had a chance to meet new the owner-Jon. Who meets the owner of a ski resort? Yep, Brian Head. We chatted with him about plans for the future.
1. No changes to the family friendly relaxed atmosphere!!!
2. A new terrain park planner has come in to build and improve the terrain parks for winter and to work on mountain bike trails and maybe bike terrain park! Brian Head is beautiful in the summer and hiking and biking is off the charts.
3. Live entertainment and more activities during the summer.
If you need me to list reasons to visit Brian Head:
1. Affordable lift tickets, affordable lodging, affordable lessons, affordable tubing.
2. Laid back, family feel.
3. Family friendly terrain and great for learning.
4. No lift lines.
5. Fabulous views.