Reviewed by Adam Clark
Dec 04, 2008
Even on the biggest dump days the place is peaceful: Lift lines barely push four minutes, and locals take leisurely dips into untracked shots all day.
Tucked in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon on the road to Alta, Snowbird is known for hanging bowls, 50-foot cliffs, and over-the-head powder.
With 3,700 acres spread across eight distinct peaks, The Canyons is Utah’s largest individual resort. (Only Snowbird/Alta is bigger.)
Established in 1936 by the Wasatch Mountain Club, Brighton is one of the oldest, cheapest, most downhome resorts in Utah. On weekends, when the shred monkeys from Salt Lake City go ninja on Alta, slacker families mosey up Big Cottonwood Canyon and lay trenches down Brighton’s rock-, cliff-, and tree-peppered slopes. Get there early, while the little ’uns are still snarfing Smokie Big Bites at the7-Eleven at the mouth the canyon. And when you’re done attacking the steeps, head out one of six gates into another 2,000 acres of snow so light they made a license plate about it.
Powder Day: Line up at 9 a.m., when the Great Western Express starts spinning. Turn right off the lift and scream down the Western Trail cat track for 50 feet. Instant satisfaction awaits at Rein’s Run, a 1,500-foot-long bowl with ribbons of 50-degree powder.
Three Days Later: Cruise up the Crest lift, turn left, and burn down Pacific Highway for 300 feet. Stay left to hit Wren Hollow for 25-degree glades that have an airy 20 feet between trees. Stay skier’s left of the boundary line, and keep and eye out for 200-foot, 30-degree pitches.
Backcountry Access: Head straight off the Crest lift to the Pioneer Ridge gate, and melt some back fat on the 20-minute hike south of the resort. Take V Trees for 800 feet of glade bashing at a pulse-tripping 35 degrees. Shoot out of the timber and open it up for another 300 feet before following the fall line down the gully and back to Wren Hollow. Check avalanche.org before you head out.
Weather: Perched at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton collects lake-effect snow off the Great Salt Lake. Big storms unleash up to two inches an hour and can hammer for five days straight. If you like sun, try to keep your legs fresh for afternoon honey holes that open up after 3 p.m.
Après: Molly Green’s is your only choice at the base of Crest and Majestic chairs. Order a sixer of low-octane (3.2) Utah beer and chow on a $13 pizza in a toasty A-frame stuffed with knuckle draggers.
Fuel: The Alpine Rose, at the base, has above-average cafeteria food like burgers and soup, and an oversize sundeck.
Up All Night: Find your way to the Hogs Wallow at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Packed with locals on weekends, the party mellows midweek with pool and jukebox tunes.
Digs: Brighton Lodge has a mere 22 rooms slopeside but there’s a large outdoor Jacuzzi and complimentary continental breakfast. Book a bunk bed for $100 per person (brightonresort.com). —Adam Clark