Just a few years after the Mormon pioneers arrived in Salt Lake City, they explored Big Cottonwood Canyon and found thick forests and rapid streams that made it ideal for saw mills. By 1858 three mills buzzed and they produced more than a million board feet of lumber to construct Salt Lake’s homes, buildings and to shore up the area mines that produced gold, silver and lead.
The “first family” of Brighton was William Stewart Brighton, his wife, Catherine, and their children, Dan and Will, who emigrated from Scotland to Salt Lake City and homesteaded an 80 acre plot at Brighton.
Meanwhile, mining booms in Park City and Alta resulted in frequent travelers between the two towns, and Brighton lay in between. The shortest route was a one day trip over the ridge tops and through Brighton. Otherwise, it took about three days to go from Park City down the canyon to Salt Lake City to then up another canyon to Alta.
Catherine was a great cook and soon travelers discovered that Brighton was a great place to get a meal for Catherine always had a supply of mutton, beef, and fresh trout that she caught herself, as well as butter, butter milk, and biscuits on hand. The Brighton’s soon opened a large store and later built and operated the Brighton Hotel.
Brighton has been a popular summer destination since the 1850s when Salt Lake City residents came to get out of the city heat and enjoy refreshing activities, but they didn’t stay for the snowy winters. In the late 1800s Dan and Will Brighton made crude skis so they could move around on the snow.
About 40 years later, in the 1920s the Wasatch Mountain Club began skiing at Brighton because of its sumptuous snow. But there were no lifts in those days. Instead, groups would travel to Park City, climb up over the ridge tops just as the early travelers had done, and ski down into Brighton where they would spend a few days skiing, eating, drinking, dancing, playing bridge and getting very little sleep according to the accounts. Routes from Park City to Brighton became so popular that the club marked them with signposts displaying the club’s insignia.
In the early years, lifts were all privately owned. In 1936, the Wasatch Mountain Club built the first rope tow at Brighton. The Alpine Ski Club built a J-bar, but it was a complicated contraption that didn’t work very well. In 1938, K Smith, an avid skier with the Wasatch Mountain Club, built a 1,440 foot long T-bar lift that was very successful. Smith then went to Sun Valley to learn about a new fangled invention – chair lifts.
Zane Doyle becomes the father of Brighton
However, when WWII erupted, men were called to duty and that nearly put an end to recreational skiing. Zane Doyle, a meat cutter for nearby bustling Hill Air Force Base, disliked the meat business. With a vision and after much haggling, he bought Smith’s idle lift and went into the ski business. However, the first time Doyle turned on the power, a lift tower collapsed. It didn’t dampen his spirit. Over the years he continued to install other lifts. In the winter of 1947-48 a 4,000 foot long, 1,100 foot high Millicent chair lift was erected. It was lauded by the Intermountain Ski Association as one of the best constructed in the United States.
Then in 1955, Doyle and his father-in-law, Willard Jensen, formed a partnership to operate Brighton and the first double chair lift in the Intermountain region, the Majestic double chair lift. But it wasn’t one big happy ski area, for there were a variety of lifts, equipment and services at Brighton that were operated by a variety of different companies and people. In1963, Doyle and Jensen consolidated all of it under their ownership, and Brighton continued to grow and become a favorite resort along the Wasatch Front.
In 1987, Boyne USA , a family owned corporation established in 1947 by Everett Kircher, purchased the resort. Everett’s son John continues to guide the resort today. The Doyle family continues to operate Brighton.
1958 – Mary double chair lift added to Majestic side.
1963 – Most competing companies are merged into Mt Majestic Inc, owned by Doyle and Jensen
1968 – Evergreen double chair lift built on the Millicent side.
1971 – Ski school and building purchased from K Smith.
1979 – Night skiing begins on Majestic side.
1984 – Snake Creek triple chair built.
1987 – Boyne USA Resorts owned by Everett Kircher buys Brighton Ski Area and all base facilities. Zane Doyle and his family operate Brighton.
1991 – Crest express high speed quad replaces Mary double and adds 75 acres and 8 runs.
1992 – Explorer triple chair and new beginner terrain opened. Great Western quad opens 250 acres and 12 new intermediate and expert runs.
1994 – Brighton Center opens. It includes an elevator to the slopes, rest rooms, lockers, retail and rental shops, ticket sales, public bus waiting room and executive offices. Night lights and snow making added to Crest lift runs.
1994 – Vehicle maintenance shop added to house growing snow cat fleet.
1997 – First free season pass for kids 10 and under is introduced.
1998 – Lights added to existing night terrain.
2000 – Snake Creek Express high speed quad replaces triple chair.
2004 – Fixed grip quad replaces Majestic double chair.
2005 – GAX EX snow control system installed in Millicent Bowl.
2006 – Magic Carpet installed on Explorer beginner area, and GAX EX system extended.
2007 – Brighton is bought by CNL Income Properties Inc, a real estate investment trust in Orlando, Florida, and it agrees that Boyne USA will continue to operate the resort under a long term lease. Milly Express High Speed Quad replaces double chair.
2008 – A new Milly Chalet is built with expanded indoor/outdoor seating.