A History Worthy of the Majestic Wasatch Mountains
Why Build a Lodge?
In the 1920s, traveling to Brighton from Salt Lake City was an arduous, bone-rattling journey that took the better part of a day, so one-day recreational visits to Brighton were not an option. To facilitate multi-day visits, in 1929, Wasatch Mountain Club (WMC) members took up the task of building a Lodge on leased US Forest Service land for use as an overnight and weekend destination. Labor for construction of the Lodge was provided by WMC members who were guided and aided, as needed, by professionals. With the Lodge completed, club members could stay overnight and more fully enjoy skiing the Brighton bowl and hiking in the surrounding mountains. Today, the WMC Lodge is one of very few original log buildings remaining in the Brighton area. Its history and importance have led to its listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
The WMC and Utah Skiing History
The WMC and ski-jumpers of Norwegian descent are credited with establishing recreational skiing in Utah. Club members were skiing the Brighton bowl early in the 20th century, when no winter travel was possible in Big Cottonwood canyon. To access the exceptional terrain at Brighton, they took the train to Park City and then hiked to Brighton on their skis, crossing the high country now traversed by the Guardsman Pass Road. In the 1920s, WMC members built the first “ski lift” in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It was only a humble rope tow, but it was a big improvement over hiking up the slopes. When the Brighton Resort was established, the rope tow was replaced with a chair lift. Over the years, the WMC Lodge has welcomed innumerable visitors, including skiers from all over the world.
A Feminist Organization
The impact of the WMC during the early days of Utah skiing is evident in these historic photos. Take a close look, and you will notice something interesting: There are lot of women—and in some photos, women outnumber the men! In this sense, the WMC was a “feminist” organization long before that term came into use. The club was an all-male group at its inception, around 1913, but by the time the club was incorporated in 1920, women were welcomed as members. This shift happened because the girlfriends and spouses of the original club members were not content with being on the sidelines. Wanting to join in on the fun, they insisted on club membership, and they got it. At a time when women, for the most part, didn’t participate in vigorous sporting activities, their prominence in the WMC is remarkable. Mixed male/female membership has since been a defining feature of the club.
The Lodge Goes Public
With highway and automobile improvements over the years, “overnighting” at Brighton increasingly became an option, rather than a necessity. As a result, Lodge use gradually diminished. Eventually, the WMC could no longer accommodate the imbalance between Lodge usage and expense, and a new mechanism was sought to operate and preserve the Lodge. To that end, in 2010, club members voted to transfer ownership and operation of the Lodge to a new entity, the Wasatch Mountain Club Foundation. This 501(c)(3) charitable corporation is separate from the WMC but remains closely related to the club.
Transfer of ownership opened the Lodge to use by the public for events such as weddings, family gatherings, and meetings. (For additional information, visit the Rent page or our VRBO page.) Revenue generated by rentals has proven sufficient for day-to-day operation and maintenance of the Lodge, and in this sense, public access has succeeded in meeting the Foundation’s preservation goals. But rental revenue does not cover the cost of major repairs and improvements. For these needs, donated funds and labor are required. Please consider helping to preserve this important historic structure by becoming a Lodge donor or volunteer! Visit the Donate page for more information. Contributions to the WMC Foundation are fully tax deductible.