Friday , July 13, 2018 - 8:10 AM2 comments
EDEN — About 100 people packed the barn at Nordic Valley Thursday night to ask questions about the newly unveiled grand vision for the mountain.
A few people spoke in favor of the project, which would connect the base to North Ogden via gondola and expand the ski area by 3,000 acres, mostly on U.S. Forest Service land. But the overwhelming sentiment was one of concern — especially about water, dark skies, traffic and, above all, how the aggressive development would alter the fabric of the close-knit, pastoral mountain community.
“You’re in one of the fastest-growing states in one of the fastest-growing parts of the state,” said James Coleman, Nordic Valley’s new operator who’s at the helm of the expansion. “Whether we do this or not, there are going to be thousands more people living here. So depending on we do this … you could put more of the density here and maybe more of the green space gets to stay.”
MORE ON NORDIC VALLEY’S EXPANSION PLANS:
For many of the residents’ questions, Coleman had few answers since the expansion plan is still in its early stages. Coleman wants to start construction on the Nordic Valley-North Ogden gondola by 2020, but he first needs a sign-off from the U.S. Forest Service for an inventoried roadless area, which is no small feat.
“I’ve never had a project fail yet,” Coleman said.
He operates about half a dozen ski areas in the Southwest, but he’s never overseen a plan this ambitious.
Some meeting attendees asked Coleman about the cost of the proposed expansion, which also includes 10 or more new lifts accessing Coldwater Canyon and the North Ogden Divide. Coleman explained the gondola alone would likely cost $40 million and a typical high-speed lift is between $5 million and $6 million.
Bob Pattschull, a long-time resident of Ogden Valley, neighbors the resort. He said he feels snowmaking plans alone make the project impossible. Nordic Valley has a lower elevation than its neighboring resorts — Powder Mountain and Snowbasin — even with the proposed expansion.
“There’s not enough water. They don’t have enough water to supply the snowmaking they have now,” Pattschull said. “So how are they going to put water on top of the mountain to fill snowmaking equipment?”
The Utah Division of Water Rights shows the resort’s owner, Skyline Mountain Base LLC, has 37 acre-feet of water in Pineview Reservoir for “snow making and pond evaporation.”
Powder Mountain filed for a water right exchange of 400 acre-feet in 2014 — used for its village development, not snowmaking — so they could drill a well at the top of their resort. That move created a big and ongoing backlash in the Ogden Valley community, which still includes several farms.
Those living downhill of Nordic Valley also expressed worries about runoff and flooding from the mountain.
“I understand your point, that’s why we’re here getting your concerns so we can address those the best we can,” Coleman said when responding to questions about water.
Kirsten Healey, who has lived in Eden for 13 years, also expressed her concerns about the resort’s skiing future. She said she met a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration while skiing at Powder Mountain.
“He said, ‘unfortunately in around 20 years, Powder Mountain will probably not be a viable ski resort anymore due to climate change,’” she said. “While you’re making expansion plans, how does that fit if he stated, even at higher (elevations), there won’t be a viable ski resort … what happens to all the infrastructure then, all the money?”
Coleman responded that scientists said the same thing decades ago.
“I don’t know when it’s going to get too warm, but I don’t think it’s going to be in 20 years, I think it’s going to be longer than that,” Coleman said. “That’s part of why summer activities are going to be an important part, that’s why tons of resorts all over the country are building their summer activity banks.”
Nordic Valley’s operators are taking public comments while they pursue approval from the U.S. Forest Service. They can be submitted at NordicValleyProject.com.
If the expansion moves forward, the U.S. Forest Service will hold its own public commenting process.
At the meeting’s end, Dan and Allison Ianniello weren’t feeling optimistic.
They live in Eden with a view of Nordic Valley. They said they moved to the area from Washington, D.C., three years ago to be near the forest, in a wilderness-like environment.
“The most frustrating thing about this is, this group has talked with the North Ogden mayor, they’ve talked to the county. But the valley isn’t represented at all,” Dan Ianniello said. “This is going to impact valley residents much more than North Ogden residents, and valley residents have been left out.”
It’s worth the higher cost of living and their long commutes to Hill Air Force Base to raise the daughter they’re expecting in a wild, semi-rural place.
“We know that people are moving to Utah, but we’re not going to have a shortage of ski resorts in the future as much as we’ll have a shortage of roadless areas and forest,” Dan Ianniella said. “If they build what they want to build, it will never be the same.”
Nordic Valley is planning on hosting another open house in North Ogden next month. Details have yet to be announced.
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