We traveled to Brian Head, Utah, with a panel of experts to test four snow-capable vehicles, including a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, a Ford F-150 pickup, a Subaru Outback wagon and an all-electric Tesla Model X crossover.
We picked Brian Head because depending on weather, it’s about a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, very typical of what weekend skiers face driving from an urban center to a regional resort. Our route would offer a range of driving conditions, from freeways to narrow mountain roads. Once we left Nevada, the route also promised a scenic drive through river-carved canyons leading into high-elevation meadows. While it couldn’t be planned, we encountered a snow storm during the drive which added some rigor to our evaluations.
Brian Head Resort is a well known park in Nevada and southern Utah for offering good value and excellent Utah-level snow — light and dry.
Below are the details about the town, the lodging and the resort.
Brian Head, Utah
Brian Head, Utah, is a mountain town about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City. Brian Head’s elevation is 9,800 feet, making it the highest-elevation town in Utah and among the highest in the U.S. The population hovers at around 100 residents.
The closest major airport is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The drive from Las Vegas is about 215 miles and crosses through parts of Nevada, Arizona and Utah. A regional airport in Cedar City, Utah, is less than an hour away.
Brian Head Resort
The Brian Head Resort offers two connected mountains, Navajo and Giant Steps. Navajo’s peak elevation is 10,575 feet and features beginner and intermediate terrain accessible by three chairlifts. Giant Steps is a bit higher at 11,307 feet, has five lifts with more advanced runs for intermediate- and expert-level riders.
Altogether there are more than 650 acres of terrain and 71 runs. The park has about a 30-30-30 split of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs. Annually the park gets an average of 360 inches of snow.
The foot of Giant Steps mountain has two main lifts. The Giant Steps Express offers the best variety. It’s a high-speed quad that stretches almost 5,000 feet up the mountain and drops riders at the top where there is a heathy smattering of black diamond (the most difficult) and blue square (difficult) runs. A handful of black diamonds also run down the back side of the mountain.
Each side of the mountain has its own dining facility. Navajo has a café located on the main floor of its lodge. There is plenty of seating for families, and the menu includes bar-type items like burgers, pizza and chicken fingers. The Giant Steps Café on the second floor has similar food offerings, as well as several bonfire pits and outside seating. The Last Chair Saloon is located on the third floor of the Giant Steps lodge.
The resort offers ski school, both private- and semi-private lessons and has a kids’ camp program for different levels of group snow instruction. Gear rental is available. Adult weekday lift tickets are $38 and $59. Prices go up over holiday periods.
Cedar Breaks Lodge & Spa
Our hotel choice, the Cedar Breaks Lodge & Spa is operated by Diamond Resorts International and provides access to outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, biking and hunting. There also is a full-service spa that offers massage, body treatments and other indulgences like aromatherapy.
There are two places to eat on site, The Café and The Restaurant. The hours of The Café are limited — 8 a.m. to noon — and it serves coffee, baked goods and grab-and-go salads and sandwiches. The Restaurant is only open for breakfast from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and for dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. There is a full bar inside The Restaurant, but it closes early with the restaurant. Neither food operation provides room service. While some high-end ski lodge-style hotels have fine dining, you won't find that here. Entrees are solid but unimaginative. The bar closes down before 10 p.m., surprisingly early for a ski resort lodge.
Another nearby hotel — The Grand Lodge — has a warmer, more inviting atmosphere and nicer décor.