First Timer’s Guide to Brian Head Resort, UT

Lucy Ferneyhough | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
brian head resort, utah hidden gem
Brian Head Resort boasts one of the best views of the surrounding national parks – Credit: Brian Head Resort

Hidden in plain sight halfway between Las Vegas, NV and Salt Lake City, UT lies one of the best-kept secrets of the Utah skiing world: Brian Head Resort, nestled on the edge of  Southern Utah’s Dixie National Forest. Home to The Greatest Snow on Earth® (think deep, consistent, and fluffy, with just the right density to give the illusion that you’re floating), Utah’s reputation as one of the most revered skiing destinations in the country has led the state to welcome over 5 million skiers and riders to its resorts per season in recent years, leaving only a handful of spots undiscovered and uncrowded. Luckily, Brian Head Resort is one of the few that have still managed to keep lift lines short and tickets affordable, making them a great way to experience the magic of Utah skiing without having to navigate the drawbacks of tourist-frequented mega-resorts.

Thanks to its dual-peak layout over Navajo Mountain and Giant Steps Mountain, Brian Head provides an even spread of different levels of terrain, so everyone from families to beginners to experts will feel at home. Brian Head is also known for providing a spectacular view of the red rock hoodoos sprinkled with snow in the neighboring National Parks, and even all the way into Great Basin National Park, NV on a clear day!

Brian Head Resort, UT
Fresh lines in The Greatest Snow on Earth® – Credit: Mike Saemisch

Brian Head Resort in Numbers

  • Base Elevation: 9,600 ft
  • Summit Elevation (Giant Steps Peak): 10,970 ft
  • Vertical Drop: Lift-Served = 1,320 ft / Hikeable = 1,548 ft
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 308” (ZRankings True Snow measure)
  • Terrain: 71 runs, 650+ acres
  • Two Terrain Parks: Giant Steps Bypass Park (12 features, beginner to intermediate) and Navajo Progressive Park (6+ features, beginner)
  • Difficulty: 30% Green (easiest), 35% Blue (more difficult), 35% Black (most difficult)
  • Lifts: 2 high-speed quad chairlifts, 6 fixed-grip chairlifts, 3 surface lifts
  • Tubing Hills: Navajo Tube Hill (75 ft vertical drop, 550 ft slope length), Giant Steps Tube Hill (100 ft vertical drop, 600 ft slope length)
Brian Head Resort powder dumps
Powder days at Brian Head! – Credit: Brian Head Resort

How to get to Brian Head

The nearest airport to Brian Head is in Cedar City, UT, located 35 minutes away by car. You can fly directly into Cedar City from Las Vegas, NV or Salt Lake City, UT, both of which are major international airports, or drive directly from Las Vegas in only 3 hours and Salt Lake City in under 4 hours. As an added bonus, you’re guaranteed a traffic-free and stress-free commute since many tourists will be heading north towards the Wasatch Mountain Range.

It’s also good to know that the Brian Head Express Shuttle Service offers a round-trip ski shuttle from Cedar City or Parowan to Brian Head for only $30. And if you’re staying in the town of Brian Head you have it even easier, since Brian Head Resort provides a free shuttle between the resort and town!

Skiing at Brian Head Resort
Credit: Brian Head Resort

Where to Stay

Despite being a smaller resort, Brian Head has a great variety of lodging options, ranging from being right on the hill to trying out one of the hotels in nearby Cedar City.

  • If you want to be close to the slopes, Georg’s Ski Shop & Lodging rents out condos with ski-in/ski-out access, and you get a 20% discount on any rentals from Georg’s during your stay (blackout dates apply).
  • For a great deal in Cedar City, the Abbey Inn offers a 15% discount on any of their hotel rooms if you show your Brian Head Resort lift ticket or season pass at check-in.
  • Finally, if you want to stay at the Brian Head Lodge only 0.5 miles from Navajo Ski Lodge for FREE, then make sure to check out the Free Lodging Lift ticket, which gets you a free night in a double queen standard room for the night before your ticket is valid, breakfast included (blackout dates apply)!

Whether you stay on the hill or not, Brian Head offers complimentary ski and snowboard equipment storage for any gear rented from either of their rental shops, so you’ll have an easy and convenient start to your morning and not have to transport everything to the hill.

More lodging options:

Lodging at Brian Head Resort
Lots of options for accommodations right on the hill – Credit: Brian Head Resort

Dining

You have lots of options for food in the Brian Head area, both on the slopes and off, so here are some of our top picks to give you a few ideas!

On the hill:

  • Last Chair Saloon Bar & Grill – Located on the 3rd floor of Giant Steps Lodge 3rd, this is a great spot for lunch or dinner. Last Chair has live music most Saturdays, so be sure to check it out and try their locally brewed Brian Head Lager while you’re at it!
  • Giant Steps Cafe – Located on the 2nd floor of Giant Steps, offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with options to eat in or take food to go.
  • Lift Bar – For a fancier dinner, try out Lift Bar’s patio in the Brian Head Lodge, just down the road from Giant Steps Lift.
  • Navajo Cafe – Located on the main floor of Navajo Lodge, perfect for a morning snack or bite of lunch.
  • Navajo Corner – Located on the 2nd floor of Navajo Lodge, Navajo corner offers more specialty items like breakfast sandwiches, specialty coffees, deli sandwiches, draft beer, and more.

In the town of Brian Head:

  • Sook Jai Thai Cuisine – One of the most popular local spots, definitely not to be missed.
  • Pizano’s Pizzeria – Another classic, perfect for a delicious dinner after a long day of enjoying the snow.
  • Korner Cafe and Mountain Peak Coffee – Don’t forget about breakfast!
  • Apple Annie’s Country Store – For essentials or groceries, and if you want to meet the friendly neighborhood deer Thunder who can often be found greeting guests on the porch steps.
  • If you need to pick up anything in town, the Brian Head General Store has you covered for most basic goods like toothbrushes, snacks, drinks, etc.

Cedar City:

  • Centro Woodfired Pizzeria – Very popular so you may want to make a reservation.
  • The All-American Diner
  • Mandarin (Chinese)
  • Bristlecone (Cafe & Yoga Studio) – Locally roasted coffee, fresh hand pressed juices, delicious food, and yoga, Bristlecone has it all!
  • Hermie’s Drive-in
  • IG Winery & Tasting Room – If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to enjoy some great locally made wine then IG Winery is a must!
  • For any bigger grocery runs, the Super Walmart in Cedar City is sure to have everything you need.
Where to eat at Brian Head
Credit: Brian Head Resort

Lift Tickets

Tickets can be purchased online, or on the hill at Navajo Lodge or Giant Steps Lodge. If purchased in advance, one-day passes can be as low as $29, and can even additionally be coupled with promotions like store credit or discounts on any merchandise available on the hill.

Additional ticket deals available include:

  • The Power Pass: Includes access to Brian Head and other mountains like Snowbowl, Purgatory, and more. Available for unlimited season access, select season access, or 4-day access. No blackout dates and no advance reservations are required to ski. Free for children under the age of 12 and seniors over the age of 75.
  • Value Passes: Unlimited access to Brian Head, with the exception of some blackout dates in peak season. Worth it if you plan to ski 6+ days in the season.
  • My Weekday Pass: Unlimited access to Brian Head on 1-5 weekdays (Mon-Fri) of your choice for the whole season (blackout dates apply).
  • Corduroy Cash: Mid-week lift tickets (Mon-Thurs) come with a $10 mountain credit and 10% off rentals (blackout dates apply).
  • World’s Best Spring Break: Beginning March 1, 2022, all lift tickets come with a $10 dollar credit, $25 rentals (normally $35+), and a $100 afternoon adult group lesson (normally $135+) (blackout dates apply March 10-19).
  • Reduced lift tickets and season passes are also available for night skiing only.
Chairlift passes Brian Head Resort
Take advantage of the savings when you’re buying your Brian Head tickets! – Credit: Brian Head Resort

Terrain Recommendations

Beginner: In general, Navajo has easier terrain than Giant Steps so start your day on the Pioneer chair on Navajo Mountain, and move on to the smooth slopes of Sugarloaf and Sun Dog to also enjoy beautiful views of Brian Head Peak.

Intermediate: Once you’re ready to try out Giant Steps Mountain, you can either take the free ski shuttle across to the base of Giant Steps or cross via the skier bridge from Wildflower lift (Navajo) to Alpen Glow lift (Giant Steps). Giant Steps Express provides access to many enjoyable long intermediate runs that are also especially good on powder days, so be sure to head there early to score great fresh tracks.

Skiing
Make sure you enjoy both peaks of Brian Head! – Credit: Brian Head Resort

Advanced: In addition to intermediate terrain, Giant Steps Express can also take you to some of the most advanced terrain on the mountain, particularly via going up Roulette lift or The Dunes. If you want to say that you’ve skied Brian Head’s steepest pitch, head up The Dunes and hit Engens, it’s a steep, wide-open run that’s especially perfect on a powder day. Finally, the ultimate power move is hitting Georg’s Rock Run, off of Giant Steps Express. This run was named after one of the most iconic original Brian Head ski instructors, Georg Hartlmaier, and it contains a mandatory air obstacle in the form of a rock outcropping that you must hit in order to get down. Georg’s Rock Run is not for everyone, but if you’re up for it you’re guaranteed to hit a sweet line.

Night Skiing: Night skiing is a classic activity for Brian Head Resort, thanks in part to the beauty of the Utah night sky (more on stargazing below). Offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and additional days throughout peak season, it’s the type of thing everyone needs to try at least once in their life.

Brian Head Resort
Night skiing is always a magical experience – Credit: Brian Head Resort

Tubing

One of Brian Head Resort’s most loved attractions is the tubing hills on each mountain. Whether you have kids or not, this is a great way to spend an afternoon, or even go for some night tubing under the stars if you’re in Brian Head on a Saturday night!

 

Other Winter Activities

In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Brian Head’s proximity to Cedar Breaks National Monument and Dixie National Forest makes it the perfect place for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Cross-country trails can take you right from Brian Head Resort to the National Monument, where you’ll then have the option to go on a guided snowshoe walk around the area as well.

Another staple activity in Brian Head is snowmobiling, and the community is well set up to support your snowmobiling adventure, whether it’s your first or if you’re a seasoned pro! Snowmobiles can be rented from Brian Head Powersports for you to take out on the trails independently (see trail map here), or Thunder Mtn. Motorsports also offer guided tours if you’d prefer to be shown the ropes by a local first.

tubing Utah
Tubing is one of Brian Head’s most loved attractions! – Credit: Brian Head Resort

For something slightly less high speed, there’s always sledding (there’s a hill on Vaseels Road by Evergreen Condos), ice skating, and sleigh rides, or even just enjoying a spa day at Noorish Spa (in the Brian Head Lodge).

If you want to venture further into the surrounding area, ice fishing at Panguitch Lake or taking a day trip to nearby Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park are all well worth your time. Lastly, if you’re able to stay out after dark for one of your nights in Brian Head, this region of Utah boasts some of the best stargazing you’ll ever experience thanks to the high altitude and low light pollution.

Brian Head Resort
Credit: Brian Head Resort

Health and Safety Tips

Since you’re at the highest base altitude of any resort in Utah at 9,600 ft (and you’re only going up from there!), being aware of how high altitudes can affect your health is crucial. The most important way to prevent altitude sickness while enjoying your trip is to stay hydrated by drinking water consistently throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Cool air at high altitudes can suppress feelings of dehydration, so make sure to take lots of breaks for water and to recharge the stamina that the altitude can zap from you.

Sunscreen is your other crucial health and safety tool when skiing at Brian Head. The resort typically gets the most sun of any resort in Utah, and much of the hill is open groomers that make for beautiful views but little sun protection, so be diligent about applying your sunscreen in the morning and reapplying at lunch.

Escape crowds at Brian Head Resort
Fun for all ages! – Credit: Brian Head Resort

When to Visit

This year Brian Head Resort made the news for opening their ski season on November 4th, the earliest opening day in Brian Head history and one of all Utah’s top five earliest. February typically is the month with the overall best snow quality, but the ski season lasts into April, so there’s plenty of time to make your way out to this locally-loved classic and you’re certain to find some fun spots to enjoy!


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