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Adventure

Exodus to Utah, Take Two

Travel

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There’s a foot of fresh in the Wasatch and your plane just touched down in Salt Lake. But instead of heading to Alta/Snowbird or Park City, your destination might just be 40 minutes north in Ogden, a burned-out industrial city that’s gunning to become the Next Big Destination in skiing.

The plan is grand, yet simple in an “If you build it, they will come” way: String up a $50 million gondola from Ogden (population 80,000) to Malan’s Basin, a yet-to-be-built, 1,400-acre, 1,800-vertical-foot ski area that falls off the northwest-facing, expert glades and ridges of Mount Ogden. (Proponents say the terrain will be akin to the runs off Alta’s Wildcat lift.) That’ll attract skiers, but planners want the ski industry to relocate too. Descente, Goode, and Scott, lured by tax breaks, have already shifted headquarters or opened offices. That means hundreds of new resident skiers who can spread the gospel and hit Snowbasin, 20 minutes away, while the monster project gets going. Says Mayor Matthew Godfrey, who’s eyeing a 2007 opening date: “The potential is unprecedented.”

Not everyone wants to transform Ogden into North America’s only “skiing city.” Concerns have surfaced over the feasibility of a $50 million gondola, and the fact that it’ll serve a wind-exposed, expert-only face. “What happens when the novelty wears off?” says Mike Vause of Smart Growth Ogden. “I’d hate for us to bank everything on an amusement-park ride.”

But for Descente VP Curt Geiger, who moved the company from Colorado to Ogden in 2004, it’s just a matter of time. “If you want to relocate to the next great place, you can’t wait until Vail becomes Vail,” he says. Just how confident is he in Ogden’s future? “I bet my company on it.”