3/22/2018: Brighton — the sleepy beauty, rain or shine


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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Lower Hudson Valley

    3/22/2018: Brighton — the sleepy beauty, rain or shine

    Not skiing the slush of the Cats or the ice of Gore leaves me with a bit of spare time to catch up on my trip report of the 2nd half of my trip out west last month.

    As part of the MAX line up, Brighton and Solitude make for a decent pair for a week long trip. Quick flight to SLC and cheap lodging in the city. Ski bus or inexpensive rental car gets one up the hill easily.

    In the shadow of Alta/Bird, these two are often overlooked by most except a small minority. But with the MAX pass, those who know were quick to reacquaint themselves to these hidden gems.

    I've been to Solitude a couple times in the past few years. So I made a point of checking out Brighton on this trip. It did not disappoint.

    Day 1: Thursday, Rain/sleet. Only the hard core eastern visitors need apply.

    My schedule was such this was my travel day -- coming back from Big Sky. It's a 6+ hr drive, which I broke up into 2 segments, with a stop at some random place to crash for the night along the way. This allowed me to ski till lift closing at Big Sky without missing much skiing during my travel day. An early start would have easily got me to the Big Cottonwood canyons not much after first chair.

    But the forecast called for rain in the base of both Brighton and Solitude in the morning anyway. The upper mountain MAY be below freezing point latter part of the day. So, there's no hurry in the morning. Who wants to ski in the rain at Utah anyway?

    Brighton has a higher base and top lifts. So I decided this would be a Brighton day, if I ski.

    Driving up the Big Cottonwood Canyon, it was pissing down rain. As I pulled into Brighton's parking lot, the rain turned into snow flakes! Wow!

    But that's more an illusion. The snow flake only lasted about 5 minutes. It turned back into rain drops as I finished gathering up my crap from the car and started walking towards the lodge.

    Making conversation, I asked the woman at the ticket office how's the condition. She took me seriously and went to ask her colleagues who had been up the mountain recently. The advice was "go high". More specifically, she suggest Snake River chair would be the highest that day (Great Western was not running that day). Well, that's what I had in mind anyway. Good to have a confirmation.

    In the lodge, there were some very wet people coming in, changing back into street wear, leaving...hmmm...

    After changing into my more eastern oriented, battle hardened water proof ski wear, I marched towards the exit of the lodge. I saw a lone mechanic working on skis in the shop right by the door, I smile and made eye contact. He waved, "enjoy your day".

    Well, I had one more important question, might as well ask this friendly fella. "which is the better lift to get me to the upper mountain the fastest?" "Don't bother with the Mejestic, go around it and take Crest Express, you'll be up 3 minutes shorter". "Wow, Thanks!" 3 minutes is a long time NOT sitting in the rain. So I skated around the Majestic lift and hopped onto the Crest Express.

    Rain was still pissing down. It looked extra slushy. But I had more days on my pass than I have days in Salt Lake. So I was going to "test" the condition up top. There's not much to lose even if I quit after 1 run, if condition were that bad.

    Top of Crest was a mixed of very wet snow and something resembling rain drop. No reason to linger on. Just head towards the Snake River Express and hope to get higher.

    Once on the Snake River chair, the snow became more well defined flakes. Still very wet though. And the worst was it immediately melts the moment it hits my clothes. Because *I* was above freezing temperature! So it's just like it was rain drops as far as my staying dry goes. Though the difference on the ground makes up for it. The flakes lands on cold snow on the ground and stay snow!

    The make a long story short, the skiing was actually quite good. There were very few people skiing. So it's ski on right away every time. Empty runs too.

    But there's no way to keep ALL the water out no matter how good my hi-tech gears are. Somehow, I got wet, then got cold. It took about 2 hours (one hour for water to somehow find their way inside to reach my skin, I was wearing some fancy technical base layer which wicks moisture away from the skin, that worked the 2nd hour, till every layer were soaking wet, my core start to feel the chill).

    Since it was my travel day, I had EVERY piece of clothing in the car with me. So I made the executive decision to go down to the bottom to change into my 2nd set of clothing, inside out. That felt good to have dry base layer next to my now warmed up skin.

    Back out to the Crest Express. The gate wouldn't open. What the f*ck? It was later in the afternoon and very few people were still skiing. The liftie simply opened the gate for me. That's the kind of place Brighton is. Thank you, all the friendly helpful folks who work there.

    I have clothing to stay dry for another 2 hours. But 4 o'clock came, the upper mountain lifts are now closed. I had to ski down to the one and only lift that will continue to spin (Brighton has night skiing during the week). Then I heard the news. They're cancelling night skiing that day. Not because it's raining, mind you. But because it was starting to get rather windy. No wonder I was cold earlier, it's the wind. Wet and wind don't mix well.

    So, I out last the lift on a rainy day! Haha!!

    (Most of the folks on the mountain that day were out of town visitors, who probably already paid for the lift tickets, and having nothing else better to do anyway. Further, for us easterners, rain and sleet is just another day on the mountain. The more jaded locals all stayed home. )

    Forecast was for the precipitation to turn to all snow. The cold wind was a clear indication of the falling temperature. So I wasn’t too heartbroken by the cancellation of night skiing: whatever fallen after 4 will be there the next morning!

    Last edited by abc; Feb 6, 2019 at 10:12 PM.

  2. #2
    You are so hardcore. I love it.

    I skied in the rain one day at Snowbasin, UT in 2017, believe it was around April 1. It's a bit of a shock to encounter rain out there, but as you say, coming from the East, it's something we deal with frequently. Fortunately, it was a day when the upper half of mtn got snow (about 4"), while rain pissed on lower mtn. We rode gondola all day to help and it was soggy, but endurable and we had quite a bit fun on upper mtn that kept us motivated.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Lower Hudson Valley
    I used to be a fair weather skier. Then one day 2-3 years back, I got dragged out onto the slope in a steady drizzle, on creamy snow. I’ve since looked at rainy forecast with a very different eyes.
    Last edited by abc; Feb 6, 2019 at 10:08 PM.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Lower Hudson Valley

    2: Friday, Powder day!

    I set the alarm for 7am. I actually woke up before the alarm. Checked the snow report. Was mega disappointed that only 4" since the lift stopped.

    Though if counting the day time accumulation, there were 8", which wasn't too shabby. On the other hand, I knew half of the mountain got rain & sleet for the first 4", which was compacted by skiers into refrozen ice sheet. The 2nd 4" wouldn't have been enough to soften the frozen layer beneath. So my resolve for 1st chair waned. I rolled over and went back to slumber. Big mistake.

    While having my last bite of my leisurely breakfast, I looked a bit closer at the lift status. The Great Western, which wasn't running on Thursday, was scheduled to open! That's all 8" of mostly snow, with no frozen crap beneath. Ooops! Should have seen that earlier! Hurry to finish my lazy breakfast and dash out the door. Unfortunately, the weekday morning rush hour traffic made that a slow progress. So I only got to the mountain around 9:30.

    One couldn't see the Great Western chair from the lodge. Nor did I realize there's a "shortcut" to that chair by simply parking at that end of the parking lot and walk up the snow bank. So instead, I did the slow and round about musical chair of Crest up then ski down to the Great Western. On the other hand, the edge of the groomers weren't touched yet. Being a weekday, and "only" 8" of wet heavy snow. The locals weren't impressed. No crowds, no lines.

    Lapping up the powder at the edge of the run on the way, I got to the Great Western chair. Once up top, I could see a lot of people had beat me to it. The only option is go where others are less likely to go, far out to the end of the ridge. I was rewarded with pockets of untouched powder, some decent depth. But as the powder were wet, the 8" ended up compressing into more like 5-6" at most. Not too shabby though. Nice and smooth.

    I stayed on that chair for a long time. As there were so many pockets of powders yet unskied by others. I also noticed a lot of people were going out the gate. I could see them occasionally through the trees on the OTHER side of the rope. I was intrigued though not motivated to join them. Later, I found out, through conversation with others on the chair, the other side of the rope was more glades, ending with a cat track back to the Great Western.

    With my focusing on the Great Western, I didn't go over to Milly till after lunch. The sun also came out in the afternoon. So I could see the terrain (Milly was more open, the trees were more sparse). I took a few runs on it. Didn't quite find good snow. With the cloud lifting and sun in full glory, I switched to "tourist mode", riding chairs to the top of every peak and snapping photos on each. If I were to believe the forecast, that would be the only day with clear sky. I may not have another opportunity to SEE the surrounding mountains.

    Top of Snakeriver chair:


    Backside of Snakeriver chair (looking outside area boundary):


    Top of Great Western:



    Last edited by abc; Apr 15, 2018 at 2:05 PM.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Lower Hudson Valley

    Day 3, Saturday.

    Today, I spend skiing Solitude with my friend from Park City. It's a Saturday, we were warned Brighton can get crowded on a Saturday. So we choose to avoid it. Condition weren't great. Mostly scratchy groomers and bumps underneath the thin layer of freshly groomed loose snow, which got skied off in about an hour or so once a run is open.

    (Honeycomb Canyon open late, as usual. That works out fine to give us some freshies part way through the day).

    Day 4, Sunday.

    More scratchy groomers and the hunt for softie in the trees.

    Brighton shines when it comes to terrain variety. There're a lot of glades, some easy, some not. There's something for every skill level. I mean, A LOT of those “something” for each level! The mountain skis big. There're also open bowl skiing, again various steepness and tightness.

    On a Sunday 2 days following a rain/sleet/powder cycle, the hunt for soft snow became a sport in itself! While I did find some good snow.I also found a lot of marginal conditions. The forecast was for late day snow, but it didn't materialize by lift closing time.

    I went to bed not expecting much for the next day. It's also my last day at Utah. My flight leaves the airport at 5:30pm. So I need to be off the mountain no later than 3, preferably by 2 if I don't want any heart attacks.

    Day 5: Last powder harvest.

    I was unusually organized this morning. Out of the motel at the time I planned, including taking into account the weekday rush hour traffic delays. So I was at the mountain a little before 9. Oh yes, I learned another 2-4" had fallen overnight, which hugely motivated my morning ritual! 😊

    I thought I've skied all over the mountain the last few days, but actually I didn't. I completely missed the section on the right of Snake River chair, which LOOKS like it's out of bounds, with a gate looking entrance. For reason that's not too clear to me, I didn't seen anyone taking a right after the lift towards it.

    Anyway, I only had about 4 hours. So I went for the familiar, the Great Western. That turned out to be not that great. Much of the open runs had a scratchy layer beneath. The trees were a mixed bag, depending on the exact angle of the sun. Snake River was actually better. The low angle trees had retained the new powder better than the steeper runs. So I played there for a while, before moving over to Milly when the sun finally came out. What a pleasant surprise Milly was!!!

    Well, some specific lines, that is. I lucked out on my first run down, next to the lift, facing directly north. The snow was soft, creamy and deep. Why no one harvested those right under the lift all morning was beyond me. But move 10 yards either way, the sun baked layer beneath poke its head up. That, was my final clue: I had to find lines that faces precisely north to avoid the sun baked underlayer. I later realized the right side of Snake River chair also faces directly north. Should have great condition there too, had I known to have gone there! Regardless, I happily found a few variation of such lines in Milly for the next hour or so and thoroughly enjoyed myself. At which point I was pushing against my scheduled departure time of 2pm.

    The sun was full on, the mountain looked soooo beautiful with its white coat under the blue sky. But I have to leave all this behind because I have a plane to catch...

    Till next time, my sleeping beauty.

  6. #6
    I have very few ski days in BCC, but from my small sample I liked Brighton better than Solitude. Both are quite beautiful on a clear day. Was that Brighton day your last ski day of the season? Because I live in VA I often know when my last ski day is and sometime during that last day I get reflective, sometimes emotional, knowing the feeling and beauty have to last me about nine months until the next season

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Lower Hudson Valley
    Quote Originally Posted by jimk View Post
    Was that Brighton day your last ski day of the season? Because I live in VA I often know when my last ski day is and sometime during that last day I get reflective, sometimes emotional, knowing the feeling and beauty have to last me about nine months until the next season
    No, it wasn't my last ski day of the season.

    I'm more fortunate that I live a bit further north of you. The Cats were still going strong when I came back from Brighton. So I put in a couple days there.

    In fact, I'm not sure I've skied my last day of this season yet. With K, Loaf both typically opening till May, I may still have a few more day left before I hang up my boots.

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