Ski Resort news often seems to revolve around the same big names: Vail Resorts, Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley, etc. Last week, however, a small resort in Northern Utah snuck into the spotlight, revealing their plan to expand the 140 acre Nordic Valley to a whopping 2,800 acres with a 4.3 mile gondola.
Though many skiers are stoked about the potential for new skiable terrain, the plan has been subject to a great deal of controversy. Not only are locals protective over their cheap lift tickets and tourist-free atmosphere, but expansion would cut into the protected Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest which has been previously designated as roadless territory.
“I think that this is one of the most unique resort locations in the country,” says James Coleman, CEO of Mountain Capital Partners who owns Nordic Valley. “On one side it’s a typical resort and very rural and on the other, it goes into a big city. To make a 4.3 mile gondola and connect the two sides, that hasn’t really been done before.”
By expanding Nordic Valley into the surrounding forrest, Coleman hopes the resort will attract more skiers and be better equipped to compete with major ski resorts around the nation. Not only would the expansion create more skiable terrain in the Wasatch Mountains, but it would significantly boost the local economy. The 4.3 mile gondola, which will be among the longest in the world, would carry skiers straight from the ski resort to North Ogden, providing more business for the local shops and restaurants.
“I think for the most part, people are really excited about it,” says Coleman. “It’s an incredible mountain and people understand how much skiing and Utah is growing; you can’t keep adding more and more people into the same ski areas.”
Environmentalists, however, argue that building a ski resort in a national forest might not be the best way compensate for the influx of skiers in Utah. The construction could potentially affect the water supply, wildlife, air quality and vegetation in a currently protected region of Utah. The primary deforestation needed to create ski trails and lifts is only a small portion of the potential environmental impact. In addition to this, the resort will consume a much larger amount of energy as people travel by planes and cars to access the new terrain contributing to air pollution and roads and real estate will likely be constructed to provide new arrivals with access to the resort.
Coleman stresses the importance of sustainable development in regards to the ski resort’s expansion. “Without a healthy environment what’s the point?” he argues. “A big part of people skiing is enjoying nature and its very important to preserve it as much as possible.”
One of Coleman’s reasons for expanding the ski resort is to allow more people access to nature. The Wasatch Mountains are home to some of the best snow in the country, but as Coleman points out, this terrain is inaccessible to many people due to differing levels of ability. “We want to make it more accessible to a broader range of people” says Coleman. He explains that not everyone is able to hike for miles and miles in order to access prime skiing terrain. By expanding Nordic Valley, Coleman hopes the Wasatch Mountains will become more accessible to a diverse range of people, allowing everyone to experience the "Greatest Snow on Earth"
Nordic Valley claims that, though ticket prices will likely increase, they are committed to maintaining their status as Northern Utah’s most affordable ski area. “It's really important to us to make skiing in Utah more affordable and more inclusive,” says Coleman.
If everything goes according to plan, Nordic Valley will begin construction in April of 2020. Before that can happen, however, the National Forest Service must grant the resort a Special Use Permit and a Forest Plan Amendment. The resort is currently in the public information step of their plan, where they will continue to host meetings and get feedback from the North Ogden community.
“We want to make sure that everyone's included in the process and Nordic Valley is the best resort that it can be,” says Coleman. “We love skiing, we love building and we love helping people; we're super excited to put those three things together.”