Brighton and Solitude get jump on other Utah ski resorts

Brian Head and Alta have also opened; Park City plans to open the canyons area by Sunday

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alec Eyckeler, Alex Gilbreath, Charley Bradley and Henry Poppe, from left, are lined up for the first chair and will receive the opening banner at Solitude Mountain Resort when their winter season finally starts on Tuesday, November 23rd ., 2021.

Warnings sounded. Emails were forwarded. Text chains formed. Employees suddenly fell ill.

Hundreds of skiers and snowboarders stood in line for the Brighton Resort’s Majestic Lift at 2 p.m. on a Monday – just four hours after the resort announced that Utah’s ski season would start punctually at noon.

Brighton has always been the first ski resort in the state to open and sometimes only takes hours to claim the title. That was the case again on Monday. It barely displaced its neighbor in Big Cottonwood Canyon, the Solitude Resort, which, as announced, began operations on Tuesday at 9 a.m.

“I think there is a bit of bragging rights,” said Brighton’s spokesman Jared Winkler. Also, he added, the resort management saw no reason to wait once they realized the slopes were ready.

“It was like, ‘Why sit on it when you can slide on it?'”

And after unusually warm temperatures had already postponed the start of the season in Utah, which was originally supposed to start on November 19, skiers and riders came out of the beams a few hours earlier than expected to take their first turns.

“I really wanted out,” said Bryce Atagi, a 30-year-old snowboarder from Salt Lake City.

Atagi found out about Brighton’s early opening when he called the resort to see if he could collect his passport and the clerk on the other end surprised him by saying he could do a few laps too. So what should Atagi do? He owns his own business so he gave himself permission to take the afternoon off. He said he plans to return to Brighton for a full day on Tuesday.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Stefanie Schulz hands Alex Gilbreath, center, and Charley Bradley the first free donut of the day as they line up for the first chair at Solitude Mountain Resort for the opening day on Tuesday, November 23rd . 2021.

Daniel Compain from Riverton and his 7-year-old son Mateo also planned to get as much snow time out of the weekend as possible.

This will be the Compains’ first season in Utah. Mateo started studying at Flagstaff, where they moved a year ago when he was 18 months old. Even so, they are not newcomers to the opening day. They arrived at Solitude at 6am on Tuesday and enjoyed breakfast by the tailgate before the Moonbeam Express and Link chairlifts began to spin. Then they ended their day around 12.30 p.m. to save their energy and do the same on Wednesday for the expected opening of the Alta ski area.

“The ski culture is the same everywhere, so there is a lot in common,” says Daniel Compain. “Even on the opening day, even if it’s artificial snow, it’s skiing. You know, it’s like, ‘Let’s go. It’s time to leave.'”

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And people went by the hundreds. With both Bright and Solitude having limited rides and with many people free on vacation, including most of the state’s university students, waiting times on the lift line varied between 10 and 25 minutes. Solitude said it had a two foot base and Brighton’s Winklers said the base at this resort is anywhere from 5 inches to 2 feet depending on where the snow cannons were oriented. Despite the shallow snow depth, not many rocks and branches had broken through at either resort by Tuesday afternoon.

Brian Head Resort near Cedar City joined Alta when it opened on Wednesday, so fearful snow seekers can spread a little more. And Park City Mountain Resort announced Tuesday that it intends to keep portions of Canyon Village active by Sunday. The Cabriolet and Red Pine gondolas, as well as the Saddleback and High Meadow Lifts, are expected to operate.

Park City, Solitude and Brian Head all originally expected to open on November 19th, but didn’t have enough snow.

Snowbird should be up next on December 1st. It has two inches of snow Tuesday night and still plans to keep the lifts operating through Wednesday if conditions allow. It has chosen “Birdstock” as the opening theme for the resort’s 50th season, said spokeswoman Sarah Sherman. Representatives from Nordic Valley (December 3rd) and Deer Valley (December 4th) said they should be operational until the end of next weekend.

The National Weather Service has predicted that November will still end in the low 50s with temperatures around Salt Lake City. Park City and Ogden won’t be much cooler, with Park City Sunday expected to be 51 degrees and no cooler than 30 degrees. That’s on the warm side for snowmaking, which is best at temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees.

The good news for skiers and snowboarders, however, is that the warming trend is unlikely to end in the Cottonwood Canyons. Over the course of the week, the NWS predicts highs in the mid-30s and lows between 24-27 degrees.

(Julie Jag | The Salt Lake Tribune) Wayne and Denise Paisley of West Jordan all beam after spending the day on the Majestic Lift at the Brighton Resort on Monday, November 22, 2021, Utah opens for the 2021-22 snow season .

“Even if it gets warm, I think it will stay that way,” said Winkler, brushing aside any speculation that Brighton’s opening on Monday might be temporary.

That’s a sweet relief for the snowboarders and skiers who have been wanting to hit the slopes since the end of the season last April (or July for those who ski on Snowbird). The start on Monday is considered to be one of the youngest in the history of the resort. It comes just one calendar day before last season kicks off, which also happened on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Denise and Wayne Paisley, 45 and 44 years old, were so excited to get on the lifts that they showed up two hours before the official start. The West Jordan couple actually planned to drive in the “Bone Zone”, a guerrilla walking park that was being built on a hill near Brighton. However, when they learned the lifts were operating, they drove around the resort until their legs gave out.

Even better than the first turns, they said, was seeing all of their snow friends who they wouldn’t recognize without glasses. Those who found a way to take the first turns of the season on a Monday afternoon.

“Honestly, this morning felt like a big family get-together,” said Wayne Paisley. “As soon as we got to the top, we saw one person after the other, only smiling faces.”

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