You live up there? In the winter, too? These are questions we—the dozens of people who call Brighton Estates home, year-round—are used to fielding. Our backcountry community is only about six miles from Park City’s Main Street but often feels worlds away, especially when it’s blanketed in 10-plus feet of snow with little to no visibility on the commute. Accessed via Guardman Pass typically via snowmobile, this beautiful and remote area is home to artists, doctors, photographers, firefighters, lawyers, marketers, and journalists (as well as moose and, in the summer, neighboring Girl Scouts). The common threads for those who have forged a life within the aspens and the A-frames are love of nature, freedom, and friendship.
With pride, I’d like to introduce you to a few of my neighbors. I’m confident you’ll love them as much as I do.
Volcano Man, Brad Lewis
As a young boy growing up in Millcreek Canyon, Brad Lewis found his sanctuary in nature, and that has never wavered. His mother owned a cabin in Brighton Estates, and by his late teens, he took over the payments to own it soon after.
Fast-forward some four decades, and this voracious skier and famous photographer smiles when he recounts recent spectacular outdoor adventures. “How lucky are we to live here?” Brad commonly observes. And he means it.
Brad’s lifelong outdoor addiction took him to Alaska, Hawaii, and around the world—but he always stayed deeply connected to Utah, and, more specifically, to Brighton Estates, where he raised his daughter and now owns two cabins.
“It’s so very isolated, yet close to so many things,” he explains. “It attracts really cool, competent people who know how to live here.”
Now an empty nester and known best as “Volcano Man” for his award-winning lava images from the Big Island, Brad enjoys a daily winter routine that includes catching first chair at Deer Valley, skiing the entire resort, and then backcountry skiing in the afternoon with his dear friends who are also neighbors, often ending the day with a hot tub soak and a martini.
Keep an eye out for his white beard and wide smile at DV. You’ll know it’s Volcano Man if you hear him say: “Life is sweet—don’t ration the passion. We have to have fun and focus on the positive.”
Nature Raised, Elizabeth and Scott Dooley
We always have projects,” explains nine-year-old Elizabeth Dooley, who has lived in Brighton Estates as long as she can remember. Rightly so: she was three days old when her parents brought her home on a snowmobile.
Her home is a 750-square-foot A-frame from the ’70s, which she shares with her father, Scott (best known as “Dooley”), along with guinea pig Coconut and two cats, Grace Jones and Alta.
The space is as cozy as it is cluttered with endearing doodads like the disco ball and pull-down ladder that reaches a loft with a round submarine-like window.
“Projects” range from fixing one of the dozen snowmobiles outside, to stacking wood, to clearing snow off of a car or hauling water to the storage tanks.
Most mornings for Dooley start with snowmobiling Elizabeth out of the neighborhood and then getting to her school. If it’s cold and windy, they take their boxy, silver snowcat from the ’80s (made by DeLorean) to escape the snow-encased neighborhood.
After living in Brighton Estates for more than 15 years, Dooley explains in his soft spoken and kind way that he loves what the experiences in this place have provided his daughter.
She is as comfortable on a snowmobile as she is in a car, knows the names of the mountains surrounding their cabin, and plans to learn how to drive a snowcat this winter. She also wants to build a treehouse next summer.
“She knows more than suburban kids,” he says. “It will serve her well in life.”
If you ask Elizabeth about her unconventional life, she shyly admits she lives in a cool place where it’s never boring.
Brighton United, Zach and Cindi Grant
Chatting with Zach & Cindi Grant on the deck of their A-frame in a serene aspen field is as relaxing as it is intriguing. With Norwegian elkhounds Stormy and Yoda at their feet, it seems they’ve all found nirvana in Brighton Estates.
“It’s like a Wasatch blind spot,” says Zach. “It’s really a backcountry paradise.”
Zach and Cindi were both in love with snowboarding as teenagers when they met at Brighton Resort 16 years ago.
“I saw her at the resort,” explains Zach. “I was wondering, who is this cutie?” Friendship and shredding led to love, marriage, and a major cabin renovation in Brighton Estates.
“There is so much blood, sweat, and tears in this home, I don’t ever see us selling it,” says Cindi.
When they bought it in 2012, they recognized the amount of work it would require. They spent the next four months learning on the job, tearing it down to the foundation and building it back up with loads of recycled materials and help from friends and the “University of YouTube.”
The strategically placed windows help heat the cabin with sunlight, and the wood stove is the other main heat source with a pipe that stretches to the ceiling nearly 20 feet above.
The meticulously organized gear room on the ground floor is enviable with split boards, climbing ropes, helmets, boots, and everything in between. It makes sense when you consider this nature-loving couple spends easily over 100 days on snow in the winter.
When they’re not out exploring, Zach works as a snowcat operator and Cindi weaves freelance writing, guiding, and yoga instructing together for a well-balanced career. These work choices complement what some may consider an unconventional and challenging lifestyle.
“The ease of our life here might be the most surprising thing,” says Cindi. “We are living in harmony with the mountains, not fighting against it. It fits our lifestyle and who we are.”