Southern Utah’s Brian Head Resort Announces Later Opening Day for 2023-24 Ski Season

by Simon Naylor | Published: September 4th, 2023 |  Ski News

Brian Head Resort in southern Utah has announced its opening day for the upcoming 2023-24 ski and snowboard season will be November 10, earlier than most other resorts in North America.

The high-elevation resort, located in the town of Brian Head, Utah, made the announcement via Instagram on August 30. "Who's ready for the 23/24 ski season?" the post asked. "Scheduled opening day is November 10th!"

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An opening in early November is unusually early for most ski resorts in the western United States and Canada, which tend to open in late November or early December. However, Brian Head has a history of beating its competitors to opening day thanks to its high base elevation of 9,600 feet above sea level and advanced snowmaking capabilities.

Brian Head Opening Even Earlier Than Usual

Not only is Brian Head opening before most other resorts, but its November 10 target is earlier than its usual start date. Last year, the resort opened on November 4, which was its earliest opening day ever. The year before, it opened on November 20. So the November 10 date for 2023-24 would be one of Brian Head's earliest starts in recent memory.

Of course, opening dates are always dependent on weather and snow conditions. Brian Head acknowledged that its November 10 date is a "scheduled" opening rather than a guarantee. Resorts can make snow open when natural snow is scarce, but temperatures also need to be cold enough for efficient snowmaking.

Excellent Snowfall Last Season

Fortunately, the odds look good for Brian Head to open close to its target date this year. Last ski season, the resort received over 400 inches of natural snowfall, its highest total in 10 years. It also had one of its longest ski seasons ever, staying open from early November into mid-May.

The abundant snowfall allowed Brian Head to expand its open terrain over the course of the winter. By February 2023, 100% of its terrain was open to skiers and riders.

More Terrain Expansion Planned

In fact, Brian Head is currently undergoing a major expansion project to increase its skiable acreage from 650 to over 1,500 acres. When finished, it will be the 7th largest ski resort by terrain in Utah. The multi-year, multi-phase project involves adding new chairlifts and trails on the Navajo Peak side of the resort.

The first phase opened 50 new acres during the 2021-22 season. Additional phases are expected to open over the next couple of years, for a total added acreage of over 800 acres upon completion.

Ideal Location for Early-Season Snow

What allows Brian Head to open so early compared to other resorts? Its base elevation of 9,600 feet is a huge advantage. That gives it a head start on natural snow versus lower-elevation resorts.

Brian Head averages 360 inches of snow per year. It also benefits from Utah's famously dry snow, which melts slower than dense coastal snow once it piles up.

The location on the west edge of the Colorado Plateau gives Brian Head prime positioning to capitalize on early-season storms coming in from the Pacific Northwest. These storms often hit Brian Head first before moving deeper into Utah and Colorado.

Rivaling Colorado for First Chair

Colorado's Arapahoe Basin ski area is known as one of the first resorts in North America to open each season, sometimes as early as mid-October. The fact that Brian Head is opening just two weeks later than A-Basin shows how favorable its early-season conditions are.

In a phenomenon called the "snow effect," Brian Head's base tends to attract more snowfall because it sits higher than the surrounding terrain. The air is cooler and primed for heavier snow at 9,600 feet of elevation.

El Niño Could Help Early Snowfall

Looking ahead to this winter, forecasters are predicting an El Niño weather pattern is likely. In the Southwest, El Niño years tend to mean increased snowfall for southern Utah ski resorts like Brian Head.

During the last strong El Niño winter in 2015-16, Brian Head received over 500 inches of snow. If this upcoming winter produces a repeat, the resort could be in for another long and snowy season.

Utah Ski Excitement Building

For skiers and snowboarders across Utah, Brian Head's early November opening date adds to the anticipation for winter to arrive. Resorts across the state have been announcing their projected opening days, and upgrades like new lifts and terrain expansions.

Other top resorts like Park City, Snowbird, Alta, Solitude, Brighton, Snowbasin, and Powder Mountain are slated for late November openings, so Brian Head could get a two-week head start on its in-state competition.

With new terrain, hopefully, bountiful snow in the forecast, and buzz surrounding the first chair lift dates, winter can't get here soon enough for Utah's passionate skiers and snowboarders.

Brian Head's November 10 opening sets the tone for a long, snowy, and exciting 2023-24 ski and snowboard season in Utah's famous Wasatch mountains.

Brian Head Resort Quick Facts:

Brian Head Resort is located in southwestern Utah with a base elevation of 9,600 feet and a summit of 11,307 feet at Brian Head Peak. This resort receives an average of 360 inches of snowfall each year across its 650 skiable acres. For the 2023-2024 season, Brian Head is scheduled to open on November 10, 2023.

The terrain at Brian Head Resort is 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, and 40% advanced. There are currently 8 chairlifts providing access to 71 trails, with the longest run stretching 2.4 miles down Navajo Trail. The resort offers night skiing on 20 trails and has snowmaking capabilities across 95 acres.

Brian Head can accommodate over 225,000 annual skier visits and charges $85 for an adult lift ticket. The resort is in the midst of an expansion project to increase skiable acreage to over 1,500 acres and add 4 new chairlifts, bringing the total to 12.

Key Takeaways:

  • Brian Head Resort in southern Utah plans to open for the 2023-24 season on November 10, one of its earliest opening dates ever.
  • The high-elevation resort often opens before most others in North America thanks to its 9,600-foot base and prime positioning for early snow.
  • Brian Head got over 400 inches of snow last season and stayed open into mid-May, so another long season is anticipated.
  • The resort is currently expanding its terrain by over 800 acres, which will make it the 7th largest in Utah when completed.
  • Forecasts suggest an El Niño winter is likely, which could mean increased snowfall in southwest Utah and good conditions for Brian Head's early opening.
  • Skiers are already getting excited about Brian Head beating other Utah resorts by at least two weeks and kicking off an epic winter in the Wasatch.