Whisper Ridge: Utah's newest, biggest ski resort to officially open this season

Friday , September 16, 2016 - 5:15 AM2 comments

LEIA LARSEN, Standard-Examiner Staff

PARADISE — Northern Utah’s newest ski area is a secret no more.

Whisper Ridge officially opened last winter, opening a portal to 110 square miles of powder. There are no lifts at this resort, no lodges and no season passes. Instead, Whisper Ridge offers a unique backcountry experience, accessing acres and acres of terrain with a helicopter and eight custom-built snowcats.

For the coming winter, word about Whisper Ridge has started to spread and resort operators are ready to get more guests out making tracks.

“Last year, we slipped under a lot of people’s radar. It was a light opening,” said Marshall McGonegal, marketing and public relations manager for Whisper Ridge. “We only ran two snowcats — we wanted to test the waters and get everyone excited.”

Whisper Ridge’s diverse terrain spans between Eden and Paradise near the Weber-Cache county line. Runs have up to a 3,300-foot drop and snowfall has averaged right around 330 inches the past few years, consistent with other resorts in Ogden Valley.

Most of the massive mountain destination is owned by the Cache Valley-based Lockwood family, who used the land as a grazing site in the summer and for fall hunting in the past, leaving the land largely undeveloped and untrammeled, McGonegal said.

This winter, Whisper Ridge will also have leases on two adjoining private properties extending into Morgan County. \

“You could take seven Powder Mountains and they’d all fit in our terrain,” McGonegal said. “You literally have a private mountain to yourself.”

Whisper Ridge is the second ski area to open in Cache County in as many years. Cherry Peak kicked off its first winter in 2015. Beaver Mountain, an old Utah ski favorite since 1939, also operates in the county’s borders.

“Having an attraction like that is great for our industry,” said Paul Marshall, spokesman for Ski Utah. “It shows this $1.3 billion industry in the state is a thriving thing.”

Whisper Ridge sets itself apart from other Utah resorts with its overnight backcountry experience, Marshall said. Some resorts, like Powder Mountain, offer snowcat tours to exclusive sites, but none offer secluded sleepovers. 

Whisper Ridge also leads the pack with its staggering amount of terrain.

“What I’ve heard from people who did test runs last year is there’s tons of terrain with different pitches that can be super fun,” Marshall said. “But … they have so much land, and they haven’t even touched half of it to know just how great it could even become.”

Gaining access to “North America’s best-kept secret,” as the resort brands itself, doesn’t come cheap. But starting at $450, skiers and boarders get swept around the mountain in its custom cats, complete with heating and comfortable bucket seats — or upgrade with a day of cat skiing and a night in a swanky yurt, which includes a wood-fired hot tub, infrared sauna, meals cooked by a five-star chef and 360-degree views for $775. 

“A lot of people have done yurts before, but they’ve always been in a hut-to-hut system — you have to hike in, pack stuff in and pack it out,” McGonegal said. “We do it in an all-inclusive environment.”

The yurts are completely off-grid, powered by solar and quiet generators, according to a press release. Colorado Yurts engineered all 10 of the destination’s yurts to have moveable foundations, too, so they have a low impact on the landscape. 

Each cat skiing group accommodates up to 12 people. Guests receive a beacon, probe and avalanche training. Each group is overseen by two trained guides. Snowcat trips depart from Paradise and the resort offers first ascent helicopter trips, too, flying out of Huntsville. 

McGonegal said Whisper Ridge is best suited for advanced skiers and snowboarders. 

“This is a full backcountry immersion experience,” he said. “There are no groomed runs.”

But Whisper Ridge offers other ways to indulge in the backcountry, even for non-skiers. Some overnight yurt packages include guided cross-country skiing trips, snowshoe hikes and snowmobile tours. There’s a “wellness” program that includes yoga, massage, hot rock therapy and the like.

Powder lovers can book yurts, heli-ski tours and cat skiing on the Whisper Ridge website or by calling 801-876-4664. With the season’s first snow dusting Utah peaks this week, McGonegal said buzz about the destination is starting to grow.  

“We’ve had a phenomenal response,” he said. “We’ve been getting a lot of people who are really excited about us.”

Contact Reporter Leia Larsen at 801-625-4289 or llarsen@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook.com/leiaoutside or on Twitter @LeiaLarsen.

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