Nordic Valley's new owner has big plans for ski resort

Wednesday , August 06, 2014 - 6:46 PM

EDEN — Flanked by Powder Mountain on the north and Snowbasin to the south, Nordic Valley’s 500-acre ski mountain has always served as a cozy draw for locals but lacked the glitz and glamour to fully compete with its more majestic Ogden Valley counterparts.

But now, big changes are in the works for Ogden Valley’s smallest ski resort. And Josh Richards, the mountain’s new owner, promises that the runt of Ogden Valley’s ski pack is about to become a real head-turner.

For starters, Richards said they’ll be cutting new ski trails on Nordic Valley’s higher southern slopes that skiers will be able to access this upcoming ski season via snowcat.

“For a small additional charge, they can take a vehicle and ski some of the best terrain in all [of] Utah,” Richards said. “It will change their opinion about this place forever.”

By opening terrain where winter sets in earlier and lingers longer, Richards said that Nordic Valley can turn its current lower-altitude weakness (about 6,400 feet) into a strength.

“At the end of March, half the family can mountain bike on one side while the other half skies on the other,” Richards said.

Richards recently coaxed former Snowbasin General Manager Denzel Rowland to tour the property’s perimeter and Rowland obliged in a head-patting sort of way, Richards said. But by the end of that ride, Rowland’s perspective had changed.

“He said that there’s not a single soul who understands what we have — and that we have the ability to become one of the best ski resorts in the country,” Richards said. Shortly after, Rowland hired was on as Nordic Valley’s new general manager.



A four-season recreation haven

Nordic Valley already boasts an array of mountain bike trails, including a three-mile loop that currently plays host to competitive off-road bike races this month and next.

“Our long-term vision is to use the mountain terrain for a lot more things,” said Roger Steed, brother-in-law to Richards and Nordic Valley’s chief marketing officer.

Along with new ski runs and more bike trails, Eden Park Real Estate will break ground on a 54-unit condominium project at Nordic Valley next spring, Steed said. About half a dozen of these one- to three-bedroom ski-in-ski-out units — starting at $243,000 — have already been spoken for, via www.pine-canyon.info.

“We went to France and looked at villages that have been around for 500+ years,” Richards said. “We’re trying to combine what has worked for centuries with the style of our valley.”

The Pine Canyon building will represent the first of what Steed described as a “very nice, boutique resort” — with shops and restaurants lining a European-style main street.

By 2017, Richards and Steed intend to have zip lines and a single-rail mountain coaster operating on the mountain.

“We would be the first in the U.S.,” Richards said, to have a single-rail transport system that unobtrusively hugs the terrain.

Knocking on the U.S. Forest Service’s door

“Ultimately we hope to work with the Forest Service so we can make it up to the peak,” Richards said of future ski runs. “That would give us 3,000 vertical feet of skiing, and we’d be a little over 2,000 acres in size. We’d be second to no one.”

With community support, Richards said he hopes to achieve that lofty dream within about 72 months.

In a recent letter, Forest Service Recreation and Special Uses Manager Rick Vallejos alerted Weber County planners that his office had not yet received a formal proposal from Nordic Valley regarding two planned trails that extend on to federal land.

“No approval for the construction of a trail will be given by the Forest Service until an adequate environmental review and a decision is documented by this office,” Vallejos said, adding that such a process takes time and “would require a summer field review of the trail locations.”

In addition, expansion of skiable terrain on to Forest Service land involves an even more rigorous process.

“Currently Nordic Valley on their website is showing expansion of lifts and runs up the mountain onto National Forest. At this time, no proposal has been submitted to our office for approval of this expansion,” Vallejos said. “We request that this future proposal be a component of the county approval discussions since it may affect the development designs on private property.”

Reached Monday, Vallejos told the Standard-Examiner that his agency is very careful not to tell people what to do on private land.

However, he pointed to a rendering on nordicvalley.com that showed trails extending “way up” into National Forest land.

“They need to go through our approval process and get it done,” Vallejos said.

Steed and Richards said they ultimately want to team with the Forest Service to reduce mountainside fuel for wildfires and maximize Nordic Valley’s offerings.

“Our 10-year plan is to work into a relationship with the Forest Service and take the ski terrain on to their property,” Steed said.

On Aug. 26, Nordic Valley’s team goes before the Ogden Valley Planning Commission for conditional-use permit approvals.

“Right now the applications are for resort expansion, the parking area and some new temporary buildings,” said Weber County Planning Director Sean Wilkinson. “In the future, we’re expecting more of a master plan from them.”

The little resort that could

First established in 1968, Nordic Valley has provided families with affordable learn-to-ski options for decades. Through the years, the mountain faced many challenges and, in June 2005, was acquired by the nearby Wolf Creek Golf Resort. It then became known as Wolf Mountain, although many area residents couldn’t break the habit of referring to it as Nordic Valley.

Wolf Mountain Ski Resort LLC declared bankruptcy in 2010, and in January, Richards’ Skyline Mountain Base LLC bought the resort from America First Credit Union and changed the name back to the original. 

In addition to lighted runs for night skiing, Nordic Valley (www.nordicvalley.com) also offers summertime hiking and biking, and the mountain will host Eden’s annual hot air balloon races Aug. 15-17.

“We like Nordic Valley — what it was and what it’s trying to be. We think we can help it hit the next stage,” Richards said. “We’ll create a little bit of everything so that people can really get a flavor of this terrain, and we can introduce them to a valley asset they didn’t know existed,”

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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