When the snow starts to fly, Las Vegas locals looking for a ski/snowboard adventure have plenty of opportunities to carve corduroy or find secret powder stashes without the headache of heading to the airport. Whether it’s a day off or a three-day weekend, three great options are within a four-hour drive from Las Vegas. Please purchase lift tickets and book rentals online and in advance of your visit to all resorts.
Photo courtesy Lee Canyon
For nearly 60 years, generations of Las Vegans have learned to ski and snowboard at Lee Canyon. Located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, at the end of SR 156 (or Lee Canyon Road), the resort is about 45 minutes to an hour from the city. It’s a perfect one-day getaway.
Situated on Lee Peak (11,289 ft), Lee Canyon averages more than 160 inches of snowfall annually, with some years seeing as much as 450 inches. The high alpine landscape is unlike the arid desert around the city. Surrounded by giant bristlecone and ponderosa pine trees, white fir and aspen trees, and massive limestone cliff bands, Lee Canyon’s base area is 8,600 feet, so the resort is up to 30 degrees cooler than the city.
With 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s a comfortable place for first-time skiers or snowboarders. Rabbit Peak, designed for beginners and served by its namesake quad chair, even offers a progression terrain park for people who’ve never hit a jib. But Lee Canyon isn’t a beginners-only mountain — more than 80 percent of its 27 trails, or 195 acres, are intermediate or advanced runs served by Bluebird, a quad chair, and Sherwood, a triple chair.
What also sets this local gem apart from resorts of its size is its hike-to terrain, which is recommended only for expert skiers and riders. Doug Schnitzspahn, in an issue of SKI Magazine, wrote about his experience with Lee Canyon’s hike-to terrain: “It’s true: I could be looking out on the back bowls of the Wasatch. It’s a big-mountain playground, with chutes and cliffs and snow everywhere.”
Lee Canyon’s 10,000 square foot Hillside Lodge in the base area is a favorite gathering spot for the local community, with indoor and outdoor dining options and the Bristlecone Bar, Las Vegas’ most scenic aprés ski spot. Every Friday in March is part of Feel Good Fridays, a benefit for the High Fives Foundation, where lift tickets are just $25 and proceeds support the nonprofit.
Lee Canyon is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Photo courtesy Brian Head Resort
BRIAN HEAD RESORT
People love to head north on I-15 from Las Vegas to visit southern Utah landmarks like Zion and Bryce National Parks. But since Brian Head Resort, about a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, cranked up its first chairlift in the mid-1960s, it’s been a favorite weekend destination for locals.
Located in the town of Brian Head in the Dixie National Forest, the resort is actually two mountains, Giant Steps and Navajo, each with a namesake high-speed quad chair. While Brian Head is more affordable and less crowded than Utah’s larger resorts like Park City and Snowbird near Salt Lake City, skiers and riders won’t be shortchanged.
Brian Head perfectly illustrates Utah’s “Life Elevated” slogan, with the highest base elevation in the state at 9,600 feet. The top of Giant Steps is 10,970 feet, and Navajo is 10,575 feet, so skiers and riders should be sure to drink plenty of water to ward off a high-altitude headache.
Brian Head’s 71 trails, covering 650 skiable acres, are served by eight chairlifts and three surface lifts, and get an average of 360 inches of snow annually. It’s a great spot for groups of mixed abilities; 30 percent of its terrain is “green” or easiest, while the balance is an even split between more and most difficult trails, blue and black.
Navajo is the choice for people looking for gentle terrain or who want to ease into the weekend. The bulk of runs are green, with intermediate trails accessible from the Wildflower chair, which offers stunning views of sundrenched red cliffs. If you’re a seasoned vet, Giant Steps is for you. Its four lifts access intermediate runs and a slew of most difficult and expert trails. If your group has to split up for the ski day, rendezvous at the Last Chair Grill & Brews inside the Giant Steps Lodge for aprés ski. (The Navajo Lodge also offers dining options.)
There’s a lot to love about Brian Head, but a special treat is night skiing on Friday and Saturdays from 4 to 9 p.m. Brian Head also offers cross-country skiing and snowmobile tours, and the Navajo Tubing Park is an excellent alternative for people who don’t ski or ride.
Lodging options are plentiful. Brian Head Resort is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., mountain time.
Photo courtesy Eagle Point
The mistake I made on my first trip to Eagle Point, which is tucked away in the Tushar Mountains about 18 miles outside of Beaver, Utah, was only booking one night. After a day on the mountain, as the snow fell outside and the fire roared inside, the only thing I longed for was more time. The resort and its on-property cabins and condos are secluded and a steal for ski resort accommodations.
Eagle Point is about three and half hours from Las Vegas (more when it snows). Open Friday through Monday, weekend warriors still get plenty of powder from mid-week snowstorms. Its 40 trails and 650 skiable acres get 350 plus inches of snow annually. Like Brian Head, it’s more affordable and far less crowded than the big Utah resorts.
Eagle Point is two mountains, Mt. Holly (12,001 ft) and Lake Peak (11,317 ft.), and the terrain is neatly divided. The Mt. Holly side has gentle green runs, intermediate cruiser corduroy, and ungroomed trails. The terrain park is also on this side. It’s a great place to warm up or spend the day — after a midweek storm, you can still find untouched snow here on Saturday afternoons.
The Lake Peak side, home to Puffer Lake, is served by the Lookout quad chair and is where you’ll find more challenging terrain – single black diamonds. These wide, ungroomed, steep trails and tree lines seem to never run out of powder.
Canyonside Lodge in the base area is open from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night menus. The lodge’s bar is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. On the Mt. Holly side is Skyline Lodge, which serves food cafeteria-style from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s located at the top of the Skyline double chair and accessible from an upper parking lot.
A memorable way to end any visit to Eagle Point is with a heated sunset snowcat excursion that takes guests to the Lookout Warming Hut (10,138 feet) to watch the Utah sky put on a show.
For more information or to book a condo or cabin,.