Why Ogden: It may have been too rowdy for Al Capone back in the 1920s, but today's Ogden isn't any less rambunctious than it used to be. It's just a different kind of wild. Gone are the brothels, replaced with miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, kayak courses and ski resorts, three of them - Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Wolf Mountain - within 25 miles, and another six within an hour's drive. Thanks to an ambitious mayor determined to transform the city into an outdoor mecca, Ogden is thriving, with nine sporting goods companies newly relocated to its downtown, the $21 million Salomon Center - with indoor skydiving and surfing - and a cost of living that hovers at 84 percent of the national average. Plans call for a gondola to link Ogden to a parcel of private land known as Malan's Basin, site of a proposed four-season resort. In town, historic 25th Street - where Prohibition-era smuggling tunnels still connect the buildings - is the city's link to its rowdy railroad past. It's now a hopping stretch lined with faux gas lanterns and white lights. Not that Ogden doesn't have a seedier side: Venture just east of downtown, and history can repeat itself. "You come in for a $20-a-plate entrée, then go down the block to the biker bar for a buck-fifty longneck, says Shane Osguthorpe, creative director at local ad agency Out of Bounds Creative. "It's what keeps Ogden from becoming too cool.
The Skiing: Snowbasin is Sinclair Oil magnate Earl Holding's pet project, a 2,820-acre mountain that's a favorite among locals for its great service and well-groomed cruisers. A new snowcat program ratchets up the challenge. Powder Mountain, at the other end of the Ogden Valley, is far less coiffed, with 2,800 lift-served acres augmented by 2,700 acres of patrolled "sidecountry. A busy day here means one skier to every two acres. Down the road, little Wolf Mountain is Ogden's community hill, where a family of four skis for $28 and all 110 acres are lighted for nightskiing daily.
The Vibe: Often likened to the Boulder, Colo., of 30 years ago, Ogden attracts outdoorsy types who love its easy access to their favorite pastimes. "From an outdoor perspective, Ogden is great, says Matt Kaplan, vice president of marketing for Suunto, maker of sports watches. "I can take two trips up the gondola at Snowbasin, get in 7,000 feet of vertical and be back in my chair by 10:30. Though it's no Boulder when it comes to the dining scene, Ogden has its institutions, such as Rooster's, a microbrewery on 25th Street and de facto meeting spot for weekend warriors. As for Utah's liquor laws, which require a $4 "membership to imbibe at a bar, "I've had no problems getting a drink, says Kaplan. "And yes, I was worried about that.
The Life: Ogden's economy is thriving, thanks to the companies who've put down roots here since ski apparel maker Descente led the march in 2004. Twelve outdoor brands - including Salomon, Atomic and Goode - call Ogden home, with more on the way. Rossignol and Scott USA have warehouses here. As a result, young families are moving into Ogden - where the median age is a spry 28 - and the real estate market, once slow, is trending upwards. In downtown, a 2,000-square-foot Victorian goes for about $200,000, up from $115,000 in 2000. Weber University, with a student base of 17,000, lends a measure of cultural and intellectual depth. Several big-box stores carry all the mod-cons a few miles from downtown, but developers have been careful to keep chains out of the historic area. Instead, locals rave about the sushi at Tona and the homemade ice cream at Farr's, where lines snake around the block during the summer.
The Visit: Ogden shares Park City's accessibility. Fly into Salt Lake City International Airport and hop on I-15 North for 35 miles. Downtown, the Ogden Marriott is right behind 25th Street's shops and cafes, and the Hampton Inn & Suites is around the corner. Both offer liftt-and-lodging packages to Snowbasin and Powder. To stay closer to Snowbasin, book a condo at Lakeside, 12 miles away. For dinner, try a Rooster's burger with a Bees Knees Honey Wheat Ale.