A small group of journalists and I flew to Vegas to embark on a five-day road trip through southern Utah’s St. George, Brian Head and Bryce Canyon National Park.
About a two-hour drive from the Las Vegas Airport, Red Mountain Resort is a wellness/adventure retreat surrounded by towering red cliffs. The laid-back luxury resort offers spacious suites, delicious (and healthy) meals, a spa, fitness center and guided outdoor excursions. Since it rarely snows (and even then, just a dusting) in St. George, the mild winter weather is ideal for exploring the outdoors.
Among the resort’s excursions is M.E.E.T (Mustang Educational Experiential Teachings) the Mustangs. This was an incredible experience where we learned about and interacted with wild horses (which actually seemed more tame to me than domesticated horses I’ve seen). As we approached the herd of about 20, which were gathered in small groups, one of the honey-colored horses - Hickory – walked right up to me. She was so sweet. Standing off to the side were the Velcro Boys, a group of males that always hang out together.
In the two hours we were there, we learned how to communicate non-verbally with some of the horses, using body language (including hugs) to interact.
The next day’s activity – canyoneering -was more challenging. We climbed and scrambled over steep terrain, often squeezing through narrow crevices. Once at the top, we put on gear to rappel down cliffs. While it was scary to step off backwards down a cliff, it was also exhilarating.
Meal times and evening soaks in a Jacuzzi were a relaxing way to wind down our active days.
After hearing about Brian Head from friends for a couple of years, it was a delight to finally “meet” the mountain, where I immediately felt comfortable. There’s nothing pretentious about the resort, which has Utah’s highest base elevation (9,600 feet) and over 650 acres with eight chairlifts and 71 runs. Big enough to not get bored and yet small enough so families can’t get separated. Older kids can ski on their own and easily find their parents for lunch. The food, by the way, is really good, especially the weekend barbecues (slow cooked brisket and pork) hand prepared by the resort’s friendly owner who can be found hanging out with guests for après-ski drinks.
The leading-edge ski school features Terrain-Based Learning (TBL) for beginners, and additional classes for those seeking to hone their skills. I skied with Mark Wilder, a veteran instructor who lives in nearby Cedar City, but enjoys the close-knit community of Brian Head (population about 100). After a day or two skiing in Brian Head it’s easy to be on a first-name basis with the locals.
Besides the great snow and friendly locals, a good reason to ski here are the cheap lift tickets: from $35 adults, $25 kids. Home-base for our stay was Cedar Breaks Lodge, which has modest but comfortable rooms with kitchenettes, fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs.
In addition to skiing, we also went snow tubing, snowmobiling, and star gazing. On a three-hour Thunder Mountain Snowmobile through the back country we got close-up views of Cedar Breaks National Monument’s red rocks draped in snow.
For our last stop on our southern Utah road trip, we rented cross-country skis to explore Bryce Canyon National Park, best known for spire-shaped rock formations. Though spectacular any time of year, the park is especially majestic in winter when snow sugars the jagged rocks.