words by Melissa Fields
While sliding on snow and red rock desert may seem two entirely disparate notions, that is indeed what you’ll find along this dreamy southern Utah ski road trip itinerary with stops at Brian Head, Eagle Point and Bryce Canyon National Park. Be sure to pack your cross-country skis in with your downhill skis or snowboard for this sojourn; at Bryce, you’ll have ski-in/ski-out access to more than 30 km of groomed track for both classic and skate Nordic skiing.
Hit the Road
First stop: Brian Head. The drive from Las Vegas to Brian Head Ski Resort is a mere three hours, meaning that with an early start you can easily be on the slopes by lunchtime. To get there, head north on Interstate 15 for 190 miles to Parowan. Exit the freeway onto Highway 143 and drive 10 miles to the town of Brian Head. Next stop: Bryce Canyon National Park. The route continues east along 143 into Southern Utah’s uber-picturesque Cedar Breaks National Monument, Dixie National Forest and the cute town of Panguitch. From there, take Highway 89 south to Scenic Byway 12, which winds through some of the prettiest country on the planet before you eventually arrive at Bryce Canyon National Park. Last stop: Eagle Point. The 91-mile route from Bryce to Eagle Point backtracks north along Highway 12 and 89 through Panguitch. Then take Highway 20 west to I-15 north. Drive 14 miles to the Beaver exit. Follow the signs to Highway 153/Beaver Canyon Scenic Byway to Eagle Point.
Spend your first few nights at Brian Head’s main base lodge, Giant Steps, by booking through Brian Head Condo Reservations. Or choose from several more slopeside condos and private homes through Alpine Lodging & Condo Rentals or Georg’s Ski Shop & Lodging. Other options are located just a half-mile from Brian Head, and on the free shuttle route, include Best Western Premier Hotel & Spa or the Cedar Breaks Lodge. At Bryce Canyon, stay at Ruby's Inn, a hotel perched on the edge of Bryce Canyon National Park. At Eagle Point, choose from the beautiful new and modern Canyonside Collection condos, the Eagle Point Village Condos or private vacation homes. A down-mountain option (18 miles from Eagle Point in Beaver.) is the Best Western Paradise Inn.
Ski & Ride
At 9,600 feet above sea level, Brian Head Ski Resort lays claim to operating Utah’s highest ski resort base area and 360 inches of snowfall per year, on average—slightly more than Park City. Brian Head’s fabulous snow, combined with its spectacular views of Cedar Breaks National Monument, almost nonexistent crowds and fun, not-too-intimidating terrain make skiing or riding will make you feel like you’re getting in on one of winter’s best-kept secrets. At Ruby’s Inn’s Winter Activity Center you can rent cross-country skis and grab a map to their 30 km groomed trail system. The Ruby’s Inn Winterfest, chockful of winter activities from free Nordic skiing clinics to hot air ballooning, is held annually during President’s Day weekend. Eagle Point, located high in the Tushar Mountains, receives 350 inches of snow annually and is even less crowded than Brian Head. What’s more, Eagle Point is closed to the public Monday through Thursday making almost every Friday a guaranteed powder day!
Passes & Tickets
The Power Pass offers unlimited access to Brian Head and seven other mountain resorts across the Western U.S. Eagle Point is a member of the Indy Pass collective of independent resorts, allowing two days of skiing at 80 ski and snowboard resorts across the U.S. and in Japan, including Utah’s Beaver Mountain and Powder Mountain. Day tickets at both Brian Head (which is also open for night skiing) and Eagle Point vary based on the time of the season and day purchased, but rarely exceed $80.
In the town of Brian Head, grab your morning joe at Mountain Peak Café, where they also make yummy sandwiches ideal for stashing in your pack or jacket pocket. For dinner, belly up to a fresh pie at Pizanos Pizzeria or warm up with some Thai fare at Sook Jai. On Saturday nights the place to be at Brian Head is the Last Chair Grill & Brews (third floor, Giant Steps Lodge) for BBQ, beer and live music. Dining at Ruby’s Inn is limited in the winter to the Cowboy’s Buffet & Steak Room, though all hotel stays include breakfast and you’ll find a decently stocked grocery store on-site. At Eagle Point, the Canyonside Bar & Grill serves breakfast, lunch, après and dinner and the Skyline Lodge cafeteria is open for breakfast and lunch. Down the mountain from Eagle Point in Beaver, The Creamery serves fantastic, locally made ice cream and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches.
Bring a cooler and folding chairs for tailgating as the après-ski opportunities in this neck of the woods are somewhat limited. You can, however, sip a cool microbrew or cocktail on Last Chair Grill and Brews’ sunny patio at Brian Head. And Eagle Point’s Canyonside Bar and Grill is open on the weekends until 1 a.m.
Along with stellar skiing and riding, the plethora of off-slope adventures at Brian Head includes snow tubing, Thunder Mountain snowmobile tours; snowshoeing in Dixie National Forest or along Brian Head’s Town Trails; ice skating at the Brian Head Ice Skating Rink; or snowshoeing, hiking or stargazing in the nearby (10 minutes away) Cedar Breaks National Monument—an official International Dark Sky Park. With Eagle Point’s Sunset Snowcat Excursion, you can ride to the top of the mountain in heated comfort to roast s’mores and watch the sun go down at the end of the day. Curious about those private mountain resort experiences you’ve heard about? The entire mountain at Eagle Point is open for private group booking Monday through Thursday via the resort’s As You Wish program. Other things to do outside of the resort boundaries include guided backcountry ski tours with Tucker High Adventure Tours.
On your return trip south, consider leaving a day or two for exploration or relaxation in St. George. There the desert-fueled pastimes include hiking Snow Canyon State Park, mountain biking Gooseberry Mesa and multiple rock climbing and bouldering areas include the Prophesy Wall, Black Rocks, Moe’s Valley and one of the country’s only private climbing areas; the Veyo Pool & Crawdad Canyon Resort. St. George is also famous for its spas! We recommend booking a few days at the Red Mountain Resort & Spa—you deserve it!
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