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Red Rock, Rock ’n’ Roll and Ribs


Life is funny sometimes. I mean, who would think that a rugged-but-approachable ski mountain resort in Southern Utah would be one of the best places in the country for great Kansas City–style BBQ? And that the guy cooking it would own the whole joint and, then, on top of all that, not even really be much of a skier?

No one.

Certainly not John Grissinger, the retired Kansas City industrialist who bought Brian Head Resort sight unseen(!) in 2010. Back then, he didn’t know that owning a ski resort would turn into the most fun he’d ever had in his life.

“It basically sounded like a good opportunity,” Grissinger chuckles. “I’m not even a good skier. I’m a terrible skier, actually.”

Back in 2010, the mountain ski resort, which is the main enterprise of the small town that bears the same name, was struggling. And then in walks Big John and starts looking around for a place to install his meat smoking rig. Since he took charge at Brian Head Resort, things have been getting done. They’ve expanded and improved the terrain and snowmaking, installed new high-speed lifts and started throwing a party every weekend with a mess of ribs and chicken cooked by Big John himself. When the dinner bell rings, the multitudes pile into the Last Chair Saloon to chow down on plates of meat, beans and secret recipe cornbread, while the band, often visiting from Las Vegas or L.A. for the weekend, turns things up to 11. Plan your weekend getaway to Brian Head Resort to join the party.

  • Brian Head Resort

    Brian Head Resort

    Surrounded by contrasting evergreen spruce and aspen, Brian Head boasts the highest base among Utah's resorts. Photo: Adam Clark

  • Red Rock Vistas

    Red Rock Vistas

    Three-hours of driving from Las Vegas or under four hours from Salt Lake, deliver you Brian Head's spectacular terrain and 360 annual inches of annual snowfall in the winter. Photo: Adam Clark

  • Chow Down

    Chow Down

    Serving up Kansas City–style BBQ at the Last Chair Saloon. Photo: Hage Photo

  • BBQ Dinner

    BBQ Dinner

    Brian Head roles out Owner John Grissinger's famous BBQ dinner and he often holds court behind his smoker. Photo: Hage Photo

  • A Mean Mess

    A Mean Mess

    Chow down on plates of meat, beans and secret recipe cornbread. Photo: Adam Clark

  • Local Feel

    Local Feel

    "Because Brian Head feels like such a small place, a weekend there makes you feel like a local, even like maybe you’d want to be one." Photo: Hage Photo

  • Last Chair Saloon

    Last Chair Saloon

    The kind of place that you might find yourself singing along with strangers to the likes of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Photo: Hage Photo

“It’s just a great way for me to get to know people and share something I love,” Grissinger says.

Ticket sales are up and the joint is jumping with locals from St. George and Cedar City, Utah and a whole bunch of Southern Californians and Nevadans who make the drive to play in the snow and stay for the fun. (The drive from Los Angeles is easier than the traffic-stymied drive to Mammoth Mountain, FYI.)

Because Brian Head feels like such a small place, a weekend getaway there makes you feel like a local, even like maybe you’d want to be one. That’s by design.

And, because Brian Head feels like such a small place (the mountain resort around the town is actually upwards of 650 acres with 71 runs and 1,300 feet of vertical), a weekend getaway there makes you feel like a local, even like maybe you’d want to be one. That’s by design.

“Business is 99 percent about taking care of people,” Grissinger says. “It’s trying to spoil your guests and taking care of your employees and treating them with respect and dignity. It makes a place special. We’ve got California people coming up here and falling in love with the place and buying a condo. They weren’t planning to move here.”

“I know exactly how they feel,” he says with a grin. “Because the same thing happened to me.”

More Inspiration

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Brian Head Area Mountain Biking

by Matcha

Whether you’re visiting the area for Brian Head’s seemingly endless bike options or making it part of a multi-stop Southern Utah adventure (Cedar Breaks National Monument is just five miles away), it’s a must-see for bikers of all abilities. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Read More

Jeremy Pugh

Jeremy Pugh is a writer living in Salt Lake City who, in one way or another, has been writing about culture, history, and the outdoors in Salt Lake City for more than a decade. Formerly the editor of Salt Lake magazine, Pugh is a freelancer and consultant writing for SKI, Sunset, and Salt Lake magazines and the author of the book 100 Things to Do in SLC Before You Die. A lifelong Utahn, Jeremy travels widely but always loves returning home to the mountains where he bikes, hikes, and skis as much as possible.

Brian Head Resort

What's Nearby?

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument, just 23 miles east of Cedar City, features a red rock amphitheater and is an internationally certified dark sky park.

Brian Head

Brian Head

The comfortable mountain climate at 9,800 feet above sea level makes Brian Head the perfect destination for an active summer get away (and winter ski vacation). As the temperatures of other destinations push into the hot zone, the resort stays nice and cool. And while crowds flock to the typical sites, this resort retains a peaceful atmosphere perfect for unplugging from the daily grind.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Water and wind over millions of years of freezes and thaws have carved into the plateau endless fields of the park's distinctive red rock pillars, called hoodoos, into the park's series of natural amphitheaters. Seek out the canyon floor on foot or stick to the overlooks by car. Bryce Canyon National Park invites discovery. Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is a popular year-round destination for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Read the Itinerary

Southern Utah is well known as a destination for scenic natural wonders contained within some of the most popular national parks in the United States and the spectacular landscapes and byways that surround them. It is also home to two high-elevation ski areas that contain generous helpings of what we call (with authority) The Greatest Snow on Earth®. Take our five day Ski Southern Utah: High Alpine Thrills + Red Rock Wonder to combine skiing and boarding with exploring the wintertime wonders to be found in Utah’s red rock country. 

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