Standard-Examiner

Nordic Valley's lofty expansion plans go online, but many questions remain

Monday , June 25, 2018 - 11:12 AM

Nordic Valley Ski Resort in Eden on Monday, June 25, 2018.

BEN DORGER/Standar-Examiner

Nordic Valley Ski Resort in Eden on Monday, June 25, 2018.

Nordic Valley’s new management quietly revealed massive expansion plans with a website, nordicvalleyproject.com, going live last week.

The proposed changes look ambitious. According to a conceptual rendering, they include 10 new lifts and dozens of new runs criss-crossing Coldwater Canyon and the North Ogden Divide. All said, the proposition would take Nordic Valley from a diminutive 140 skiable acres to 2,850 lift-served acres. 

At the apex of their plans is a 4.3-mile gondola, which would connect the resort base with North Ogden near the city-owned Equestrian Park and green waste site. 

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“The plan is to get all the permits in place and, around 2020, start trying to make this happen,” said Denzel Rowland, the resort’s general manager. “It’ll be phased out, probably the gondola will be the first thing, then they’ll pick and choose from there.”

Still, some say the lofty project shows the resort’s management has its head in the clouds.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Nordic Valley is going to expand up the mountain and I’m sure it’s not the last time,” said Dan Schroeder, conservation chair for the Ogden Sierra Club. “As far as I can tell, (it’s done) to puff-up real estate prices.”

The expansion faces several obstacles. It would take buy-in from several parties, including North Ogden City, Weber County and the public.

Some of the growth would happen on land Nordic Valley already owns, but the vast majority would be on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, in an inventoried roadless area

“It’s going to be a tough road, that’s really all I can say. The most important thing is the public’s participation in this — the buy in from the different communities,” said Sean Harwood, U.S. Forest Service Ogden District Ranger.  “Roadless areas, in a lot of peoples’ (minds), is the next thing to wilderness.”

Harwood said he’s had “one discussion” with Nordic Valley representatives about their plans. He has yet to receive an official proposal.  

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“It would take three amendments to the forest plan in order to do it. That’s a lot of work. It’ll be a lot of time on their side and a lot of time on our side,” he said. “We have to make absolutely sure the public is behind it.”

Charlie Ewert, principal planner for Weber County, said his office hasn’t been contacted about Nordic Valley’s plans. 

“We haven’t had conversations with them in the better part of a year,” he said. “There’s a whole gamut of things we’d want to chat with them about before we even decided what permitting route they would go.”

North Ogden City Planner Rob Scott said he also hasn’t received any formal plans or applications from Nordic Valley. He said he wasn’t sure how the resort planned to build its gondola base on city-owned land. 

“I guess it could either be a lease or purchase, either one,” he said. “But until we get a formal proposal, it’d be a real supposition.”

Skyline Mountain Base LLC bought Nordic Valley in 2014 when it was known as Wolf Mountain and mired in financial woes. Its new management floated expansion plans soon after, including new lifts and runs on U.S. Forest Service lands, condos and “French inspired mountain luxury.”

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Those development plans never quite got off the ground, but the resort seems to have new momentum after entering a new operating agreement with Mountain Capital Partners this spring.

Colorado-based Mountain Capital Partners owns and operates a handful of resorts in the Southwest, including Colorado’s Purgatory Resort and Arizona Snowbowl.

“They’re well-versed in the ski business,” Rowland said.

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Attempts to interview representatives with Mountain Capital Partners were not successful by the time of publication. Rowland said the proposed gondola could be a boon to communities on both sides of the mountain.

“It’s not all about skiing, it’s about transportation over the Wasatch and into Eden. It should take some traffic out of Ogden Canyon and North Ogden Divide,” he said. “UTA could deliver right to the base, (then) people could go over the top, possibly to another transit station on the other side that could deliver them to Powder Mountain, Huntsville and Snowbasin.”

Rowland acknowledged, however, that there are still hurdles to jump, especially with the Forest Service.

The Nordic Valley project website notes its “precise environmental impact” on those lands will be determined during the National Environmental Policy Act process, which they hope to start this fall.

Schroeder with the Ogden Sierra Club said the impacts to the area’s public lands will likely be vast. They organized to fight a proposed tram from Ogden City to Snowbasin and Malan’s Basin more than a decade ago.

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“They’d be cutting down a very large portion of all the conifers on that mountain. They’d be putting a spaghetti network of roads all over that mountain,” he said.

Roads would likely be needed to access and service the new gondola, lifts and snowmaking equipment. That network isn’t appropriate for an area that’s currently protected as roadless, Schroeder said, and it’s where groups like the Sierra Club draw the line.

“We decided collectively as a nation 18 years ago that we’re not going to build in inventoried roadless areas,” Schroeder said. “It has quite a bit of legal protection, so that raises all kinds of questions about whether they’re serious about the proposal.”

He also questioned whether Nordic Valley’s geographic and climatic limitations make expansion worth the effort. Its base is currently at 5,375 feet — much lower than neighboring resorts in Ogden Valley, which means it generally has a shorter season.

Even if the expansion is approved, its elevation will peak at 8,100 feet. Snowbasin, by comparison, is 9,350 feet at the top and Powder Mountain is at 8,900 feet.

“To spend all that money and introduce all that impact developing an entire mountain for a ski season that’s only going to last a couple months, I don’t think it sounds feasible at all,” Schroeder said. “The elevation is not high enough you can count on snow.”

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