With wins at the X Games, U.S. Open and Dew Tour, Grete Eliassen, 27, is one of freeskiing’s brightest stars. Aside from her impressive collection of hardware, Eliassen also holds the female world record for biggest air. She achieved that in April 2010 when she launched 31 feet into the air at The Canyons, Utah and stuck the landing. Needless to say, Eliassen has left her mark on skiing and is poised to be a top medal contender in the halfpipe at the 2014 Games in Sochi, where freeskiing will make its Olympic debut.
Born in St. Paul, Minn., Eliassen moved to Utah in 2005 to further her skiing career. It wasn’t long before she chose 1,050-acre Brighton Resort as her home hill. “I love the snow and the terrain. It's one of the best backcountry access resorts in the U.S,” she said. Throw in six terrain parks, 500" of snow a year (among the biggest average snowfall totals of any American resort), night-skiing and the fact that Brighton connects to the neighboring resort of Solitude, which offers an additional 1,200 acres of terrain, and Brighton is the perfect destination for everyone from park rats to families.
Aside from the mountain’s obvious perks, Eliassen digs the resort’s personality, which she describes as “fun and laid-back.” Founded in 1936 and located just 35 miles from Salt Lake City, Brighton draws a local crowd and has more of a downhome vibe, rather than the fancy, polished sheen you might find at someplace like Deer Valley. This cozy ambiance appeals to Eliassen, who says, “I love the traditional feel of the ski resort.”
So while there are no five-star hotels or eateries (or $30 hamburgers), there’s plenty of fun to be had if you’re a skier who loves deep snow, varied terrain and affordable pricing. An adult one-day lift ticket costs $58 at Brighton compared to $107 at Park City. Plus, Eliassen often hosts freeskiing workshops on the mountain.
THE BEST OF BRIGHTON
Favorite runs: Anything off the Milly Express and through the gates at the top of Milly.
Best lift: Milly Express. The lift provides access to some of Brighton’s most extreme terrain.
Best hike-to terrain: Ride the Great Western Express to the top and hike through the gates. Remember if you go through the gates, you are not in a patrolled area. Therefore, you need to practice snow-safety with your ski partners. Once out the gates, follow the saddle until you reach the next bowl and hike up as far as you want to get fresh tracks. But remember you will need to cut skier’s right if you want to make it back to the lift without hiking.
Best trees: Anything inbounds off the Great Western Express.
Best groomer: The runs off of Crest Express.
Secret stash: Milly Express Cliff area. You’ll see it.
Best month to ski your resort and why: January through March, because it’s after the holiday crowds and you can get always find fresh tracks. Find the best lift ticket deals here.
Best month for powder: March.
Where to ski on a powder day: Brighton is so awesome because you will always find secret stashes. I love to start my day on the Milly Express then head over to Great Western Express. After that’s tapped out, and if things are safe, I hike out of bounds.
Best on-mountain dining: You can’t go wrong with the Silver Fork Lodge, three miles down the road from Brighton.
Best on-mountain meal: I usually don’t have time to eat on the mountain, but when I do, I stop at the Milly Chalet, at the base of Milly Express because it’s quick and exactly what you want—chili, fries, hot chocolate, etc.
Best restaurant in town: There really isn’t a town at Brighton, so head to Silver Fork Lodge, a cozy lodge with good food and accommodations.
Best après: If you are driving down to Salt Lake after skiing, play it safe and don’t drink. But, if you are staying in the canyon, the après usually happens in the parking lot, tailgate style.
Best breakfast: Silver Fork Lodge. Try the sourdough pancakes.
Best hotel: Solitude Mountain Resort Lodging, just down the road at Solitude.
Best hot tub: Solitude Mountain Resort Lodging.
Best off-mountain activity: Fireworks and night-skiing. Solitude Mountain Resort has a great Nordic Skiing Center as well.
Best ski shop: Backcountry.com
Best skis for skiing Brighton: My all-time favorite ski is the Volkl One. It’s a perfect powder ski for the days it dumps, but also skis well all around.
You should bring these three things: Avalanche beacon, shovel and a GoPro.