When Brian Head's primary owner, Jim Trees, 69, died suddenly of a heart attack in 2008, it was just a matter of time before the Trees family unloaded Dad's amusement. The family had not invested in the resort much since then and the last major improvement was the connecting bridge in 2007.
The long-awaited interconnect lift and ski trail system joined Navajo and Giant Steps mountains to allow skiers and snowboarders to circulate freely between the two areas. Now, it's official. CB Richard Ellis Golf & Resort Properties in Carlsbad, Calif., is listing southern Utah's only ski resort for sale. CB Richard Ellis also lists the bankrupt Tamarack resort in Idaho. They brokered the sale of Wyoming's exclusive Yellowstone Club last year.
The property includes 1,106 acres, eight chairlifts, a tubing hill, snowmaking facilities, lodges, a dozen finished real estate lots on 13 acres, 1,744 acres for the planned community of Alpine Creek, and a golf course. One hundred fifty-six acres at the base of Giant Steps has been zoned for residential and commercial development as part of a future ski resort village.
Trees, a Harvard Ph.D., acquired the resort in 1992 and implemented many improvements including the installation of an extensive snowmaking system, a vehicle maintenance facility, and the skier bridge. He was the driving force behind the resort's master plan that presented the skier village at the base of the current Giant Steps area.
Two people close to Brian Head's marketing team expressed surprise at the March 26, 2010, sale announcement. "I hadn't heard about it from anybody but Google," said Bob Grove, owner of Wild West Alliance. "The mountain had been (unofficially) for sale for some time but now it's getting serious. When Jim (Trees) died, the resort was held in a family trust and partnership but the intent all along was to sell."
"$34 million is high," said one Brian Head realtor about the $34.75 million pricetag. "Maybe they're really not serious about selling." But Ron Burgess, Brian Head's director of sales and marketing disagrees. "(The price) is not at all high. Don't forget. This is all the land around as well."
No one has yet stepped up as a potential buyer and it may take some time, given the economy. The biggest selling point seems to be that while other Utah resorts have seen dips of up to 35 percent in skier visits this season, Brian Head is up by about 10 percent, according to Burgess.
"I just want to see the work put in to make (Brian Head) continually succeed. Would improvements be nice? Of course," said Burgess. "It's a great little family resort." Burgess and others, including the owner of the new Grand Lodge, would like to see BH develop into a mountain escape or retreat fit for any second homeowner.
In fact, at one point, Lynn Leany, the owner of the Grand Lodge considered buying BH but now he' has his hands full. Leany bought the Lodge when it came up for sale, gutted it, remodeled it for luxury living, and opened it last December. The place is gorgeous, the staff friendly and attentive, and Brian Head has finally got itself a rip-roaring place for après ski at the hotel's Lift Bar & Patio. Executive Chef Robert Polk (formerly at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas) oversees the vittles both there and at the hotel's four-star Leany's Steakhouse (we'd have given it five if the portions were bigger).
The spacious, dog-friendly rooms ooze rustic elegance with granite counters, wood-simulated tiles, stone fireplaces, and details you wish you had in your own home. Plus, you know a place has class when they provide both shampoo and conditioner instead of just "conditioning shampoo". Try to get a room on the top floor to avoid hearing the patter of neighbors above you. Ceiling beams, plush bathrobes, flat screen TVs, iPod-docking clock radios, free WiFi, ski lockers, indoor pool with cascading waterfall, outdoor hot tubs and deck firepits, cozy fitness center, and the Red Leaf Spa (one of only two in the area) round out the amenities.
The Lodge plans to offer discounted room pricing for its inaugural year and summer packages that take advantage of Brian Head's surroundings- the resort, the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City (June 28-Oct. 23) and nearby Bryce Canyon.