Thirteen resorts into our 14-resorts-in-7-days ski adventure, one thing had become very clear: There is no single ski area that is remotely like any other in this state.
To be certain, there is some overlap — the off-piste offerings at Solitude and Snowbird. The magnificent lodges at Snowbasin and Deer Valley. The laid-back-on-the-lift, hard-core-on-the-slopes cultures of Alta and Power Mountain. But you can’t “get” a Solitude experience at Snowbird, nor does it work the other way around. You haven’t tasted the high life at Snowbasin if you’ve only après-skied at Deer Valley, and vice versa. You haven’t laid it out at Alta if you’ve only crushed Powder Mountain, and on and one it goes.
If there’s one resort that is most different than all the others, though, it’s the one that J.J., Swede and I chose to complete our journey.
Brian Head is simply different.
It’s not just that skiing among the red rocks of Southern Utah is such a surreal experience, although it is. It’s not just that the clientele, by virtue of this resort’s proximity to Las Vegas, is a little more sinner and a little less saint, although that’s part of it, too. It’s not just that there are several universities within a morning’s drive of this place, although that certainly plays a role.
If there’s a resort that feels like perpetual party and a true escape from reality — a place that seems like it might just be accessible by a hot tub time machine — it’s Brian Head.
Lest I forget here: The skiing is top-notch. And with most of the beginner and intermediate terrain coming off Navajo Mountain, and packed into the center of Brian Head Mountain, it’s not hard to find a line to tuck into without fear of plowing over a little grommet. Skier’s right, and then right some more, off Roulette lift, we found the aptly-named Wild Ride, and we might as well have been on the moon, for there was no one in sight and plenty of tracks left to be forged in two-day-later snow.
But yes, after seven days on the road, we were looking to celebrate. And we did. And we weren’t alone. On Saturday nights, Brian Head owner John Grissinger serves up his Kansas City-style barbeque. And the beer at the Last Chain Saloon, packed with fellow revelers, flows like snow from the Utah heavens. And the lit slopes, under internationally certified dark skies, beckon for another run. And more drinks await at the Grand Lodge, where just about every Brian staffer seems to head after work.
You can find a party at any of Utah’s resorts. And if you can’t you’re just not being friendly enough. But, with apologies to Coolio, there ain’t no party like a Brian Head party.
And that was the perfect way to complete a perfect week.
Matthew D. LaPlante skied or snowboarded at all of Utah’s 14 ski resorts—in seven days—with fellow powderhounds Jared “JJ” Jones and Erik “Swede” Price. Follow their trip on Twitter: @SkiAllOfUtah.