Off the road to nowhere, something big is springing up.
Construction has already begun on a development that could more than double the skiable acreage at Brian Head Resort — Utah’s southernmost ski and snowboarding playground — not to mention the population of tiny Brian Head Town. The 30-year plan for Aspen Meadows, a 2,000-acre ski-in, ski-out community, includes adding a third ski lodge to the resort as well as 850 skiable acres. That area would be situated to the northeast of the 650 acres on which the resort currently sits. Plans also include seven new lifts, some fixed and some high-speed, in addition to the eight already in place.
The expansion would make Brian Head, with 1,500 total acres, the seventh largest resort in the state in terms of skiable acreage. It would jump ahead of both Solitude (1,199 acres) and Brighton (1,048). It would still be just a fraction of the size of Park City Mountain (7,300) and Powder Mountain (6,999) — the two largest ski areas in the nation.
Flint Decker, president of the Aspen Meadows Group, called it a “legacy project.”
“It’s really going to be the best legacy project for Southern Utah, collectively,” he said.
Aspen Meadows Group is a subsidiary of Utah-based Gardner Plumb LC. That group bought the property from former Brian Head Resort owner John Grissinger in 2021, two years after Grissinger sold the resort to Durango, Colo.-based Mountain Capital Partners. MCP has an agreement with the Aspen Meadows group to run mountain operations on the new terrain, including lifts, snowmaking and ski patrol.
Plans for Aspen Meadows also include hiking and biking trails and, according to the conceptual master plan, the “world’s first bike-in neighborhood.” Brian Head Resort already offers 54 miles of lift-accessed mountain biking.
“Together, we will advance our purpose of giving people the freedom to ski,” Marilyn Butler, Brian Head’s general manager, said in a news release, “while expanding both our winter and summer operations in the future.”
Brian Head, which boasts the highest base elevation in the state at 9,600 feet, was the first Utah resort to open this season. Its Nov. 4 start was also the earliest in its 58-year history.
Decker said when Burt Nicols and Homer Vasels founded Brian Head in 1964, they envisioned the development of the Aspen Meadows area as part of the resort. In fact, according to local lore, Nicols could often be seen atop his bulldozer, building a road into the aspen glade that locals began calling “Burt’s Road to Nowhere.”
“What we’re developing,” Decker said, “that 30-year master plan of the project of Aspen Meadows, is what Burt always envisioned sitting on top of that bulldozer back in the ‘60s.”
Decker added that the road into the development would retain the name Burt’s Road to Nowhere.
The development will be similar to The Colony at White Pine Canyon on The Canyons side of Park City Mountain Resort, Decker said. Skiers and snowboarders will be able to park near the Aspen Meadows lodge, which will be surrounded by restaurants, rental services and the like. Ski runs, meanwhile, will wrap around individual residences, which will be part of a gated community.
Three such communities are planned for Aspen Meadows. Decker said he expects them to draw interest from teleworkers, national park enthusiasts and people wanting to relocate from Los Angeles and Las Vegas — the two metropolitan areas from which the resort draws many of its visitors. The development will more than double the residents of Brian Head Town, population 155. Yet, according to Decker, the Aspen Meadows Group, MCP and town leadership have been working together to create a master plan to help Brian Head Town manage the growth.
“It’s been a very collaborative effort together, very transparent,” he said. “And one where we’ve held different public meetings so far, and will hold future public meetings as well.”
Trail building on the new parcel will begin this summer, Decker said, and the first lifts are expected to be added by the 2024-25 season. For those who can’t wait, Decker said they’re offering prospective homebuyers snowcat tours of the property followed by a gourmet lunch in a heated yurt … in the middle of nowhere.