Brighton is one of the oldest ski areas in the United States, but stands the test of time with top-notch terrain and affordability.
In a state known for having the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” Brighton’s no-frills atmosphere does not disappoint. Offering anything from beginner trails to chutes, bowls, cliffs, big jumps, long rails, half pipes, and more, Brighton truly checks every box off the list of terrain variety. Brighton is one of the oldest resorts in the United States but manages to stay current with high-speed lift access, extremely easy backcountry access, affordable lift tickets, and the blessing of terrain often coated in perfect, abundant snowfall.
Brighton Ski Resort opened in 1939 as the first ski resort in the state of Utah. Almost 80 years later, skiers and riders still flock to its slopes on spring days, powder mornings, and all days in between. High-speed quads accessing world-class terrain keep this resort current and enjoyable for all guests. Brighton is also one of the few resorts to offer extensive night skiing—over 200 acres—in a part of the United States not known for resort skiing after 4pm. That, on top of weekly specials on already-affordable lift tickets makes this resort a local favorite.
One of the early adopters of the sport of snowboarding, many riders come to Brighton to ride one of six terrain parks that are constructed each year on the slopes. The main terrain park is located under the night skiing lights, so visitors can work on progressing their skills well passed dusk throughout the season.
Brighton does not offer the frills that Park City resorts and nearby Solitude and Snowbird may, but the locals prefer it that way. It’s just the mountain, abundant snowfall, exceptional terrain, and smiles. Après ski isn’t at an expensive bar, but rather the tailgate-style parking lot variety that can seem rudimentary but often draws resort guests in with charm and the friendliness of those who frequent the mountain’s slopes. It’s hard not to enjoy the rustic nature of an old ski resort only forty minutes from downtown Salt Lake.
+ Easy access to some of the best backcountry terrain in the United States complete with available single-ride lift ticket options.
+ Consistently receives high annual snowfall and extremely dry powder snow.
+ Laid-back atmosphere caters to locals and skiers not looking to break the bank.
– Little resort amenities at the base for those looking to stay and enjoy near-mountain nightlife.
– In-bounds terrain acreage considered small when compared to most other mountains in the immediate surrounding area.
Updated for Winter 2016-2017 – Roger Tufts
While not the biggest mountain by acreage of all the options near Salt Lake City, Brighton is often not crowded and can give skiers and riders the best bang for their buck. Lift tickets are extremely affordable, and the mountain often runs weekly specials to help guests save even more money. Combine that with high-speed lifts all over the resort to maximize daily run totals and you can understand why so many locals call this place home.
Brighton is generally split into three main areas, with terrain ranging from beginner runs in the center to expert runs on the peripheral parts of the layout. At looker’s left, the Great Western Lift serves intermediate and advanced terrain off of a ridge extending down from Mt. Clayton. At looker’s right, the Millicent lift leaves the edge of the parking lot to give excellent backcountry access and a quick ride to more intermediate and advanced runs. The center of the resort offers terrain for all ability levels off of the Majestic, Crest Express, and Snake Creek Express lifts.
For those looking to air it out, the center of the resort is where you will find most of the six terrain parks typically set up at Brighton. On good snow years, there is also a massive half pipe set up under the Majestic lift. Besides the various terrain park offerings, natural rock jumps and cliffs abound throughout the advanced and expert runs all over the resort that playful skiers and riders are sure to enjoy.
Brighton is one of the more picturesque ski resorts around, as each lift brings resort guests to lookouts with jetliner views of the surrounding Utah peaks. Another often-overlooked feature of Brighton is its proximity to Solitude Resort. There is a connector trail off the Millicent lift that allows skiers and riders direct access to the slopes of the other mountain, and passes typically allow lift access at both resorts. What’s not to love about skiing excellent terrain surrounded by breathtaking views and direct access to another world-class resort?
Beginners may be delighted to know that Brighton does not restrict their trail access to lower mountain areas. Green-rated trails exists off both the Majestic and Snake Creek Express lifts, providing beginner skiers and riders access to runs above 10,000ft of elevation and the views that come with it. Sunshine is the main run off the Snake Creek Express, while Majestic provides access to beginner terrain park areas. All green rated trails also exist within the night-skiing zone, so beginners can ski late into the evening to improve their skills!
Intermediate skiers at Brighton are sure to have a wonderful day. Unlike beginners, intermediates have access to blue-rated runs off all five major lifts at the resort that wind around steep bowls and gladed runs in case pushing the skill level is in the cards.
Western Trail, Pioneer, and Thor are great runs off the Great Western and Snake Creek Express lifts that intermediates can lap all day without boredom. Western Trail in particular grants skiers and riders ample opportunity to stop and enjoy their surroundings, as photograph-worthy views are seemingly in every direction as you descend. On the other side of the mountain, Backbone and Easy Out are a great run down from the top of the Milly lift that look straight down Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Brighton does offer plenty of black- and double black-diamond rated terrain to keep experts busy. Terrain off both the Great Western and Millicent high-speed quad lifts can be lapped all day with little traversing or effort into steep chutes and tree runs. One cool part of most advanced terrain at Brighton is the abundance of natural features presented by huge boulders covered in snow that can be playful for those looking to catch some air.
The slight shortcoming in expert terrain comes when high-level skiers are looking to ski other parts of the mountain. These areas can get tracked out quickly on crowded powder days due to their proximity to main lifts, and the center of the resort simply doesn’t provide the steep, challenging runs that the peripheral areas do.
True expert skiing lies just beyond the resort boundaries in a world renown part of the Wasatch National Forest. Backcountry access gates near the top of both the Great Western and Millicent lifts can put experts into extremely challenging zones in a hurry. Still, if you are looking to stay inside the ropes, a little traversing can go a long way to find an in-bounds backcountry experience. Traversing skiers’ right from the Milly lift will present a large zone filled with skinny chutes and big cliffs.
Utah is known for its extensive backcountry zones, a high number of locals skinning into extremely challenging and often dangerous areas, and world-class lines located just a short drive from downtown. Brighton is ideally located to open the door to these wonderful zones. The Utah Avalanche Center is one of the world’s leading avalanche awareness organizations, providing an excellent resource to those looking to broaden their horizons and branch out into the wild of the Wasatch Range.
Looker’s left of the Great Western Lift is the Hidden Canyon backcountry zone that pops skiers and riders out back near the access road. This area can be a prime powder stash after a storm, as it takes days to get tracked out despite easy access. Still, the true diamond in the rough near Brighton is the terrain off the Millicent lift.
Entering the backcountry zone behind the top of Mt. Millicent is like entering Disneyworld for backcountry skiers. This area extends all the way to the backside of Alta and Snowbird resorts on the other side of the ridge, at the back of Little Cottonwood Canyon. In this area also lies the Wolverine Cirque, a massive bowl with dozens of extremely steep chutes to test the nerves of Utah’s best. In a state known for developing professional ski talent, this area does not mess around.
Notice: The above text is for informational purposes only. Ultimate-Ski.com does not in any way recommend or endorse skiing beyond resort boundaries. Backcountry skiing is inherently dangerous and should be undertaken only by those with a full appreciation of the risks; severe injury or death may occur. Persons proceeding beyond resort boundaries should be prepared for avalanche danger, weather changes, terrain hazards and be equipped and trainsed for self-rescue. If you require assistance you may be charged for your rescue. Proceed at your own risk.
While the on-mountain restaurant food is nothing groundbreaking, cooked-to-order food that doesn’t break the bank is a refreshing change in today’s ski resort scene. In an activity that is expensive in its own right that often pits resort guests against the prospect of $15-$20 burgers, resort guests’ wallets will be pleased to know that you can eat a solid meal for under $10. Dining options exist at the base lodge and in the Millicent base area building, and each offers a select number of local Utah beers to wash down your lunch.
Brighton does not have a large base village for resort guests to stay, dine, and party. Instead, the parking lot often serves as the gathering for guests and locals to mingle and enjoy one another’s company. Locals typically bring grills and extra food up the canyon with them, and lawn chairs are normally set up alongside the traverse from the center mountain area towards the Millicent lift. In keeping with the tradition of the mountain, this is a no-frills zone where everything is shared, from beers, to food, to powder stashes.
Your best best for a true alpine village can be found at neighboring Solitude's village.
The Brighton base area does not provide a variety of dining options. While the Big Cottonwood Canyon road is quite rustic and skinny, there are a few dining options along the route up to Brighton from Salt Lake City. The Silver Fork Lodge is a local and snow cat driver favorite, where nobody leaves hungry. Otherwise, there are a number of excellent food options just at the base of the road in Cottonwood Heights. The Porcupine Pub and Grill is another excellent option only 20 minutes from the resort, but from here visitors can find nearly any type of food with only a short drive.
If drinks are in order, remember how Utah state liquor laws work. 4% ABV beers are sold at most convenience stores, gas stations, and bars, but if you want anything stronger you will need to find it in a state liquor store or restaurant with an often illusive liquor license.
As the base area lies at the back of the Big Cottonwood Canyon road, there isn’t anything else to go to Brighton for other than snowsports. Snowshoeing is possible in the surrounding areas, though the mountain trails can often get steep in a hurry and the mountain does not offer guided hiking, snowshoeing, or backcountry trips. Other operations in the area can provide guided backcountry snowmobiling excursions, but all will be booked through a third party organization. This area may not offer much else, but if you have traveled a long way to ski or ride the "Best snow on Earth," you will not leave disappointed.