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Snowbasin rethinking development plans, Club Med hotel proposal shelved

By Tim Vandenack - | Mar 22, 2023
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This undated photo shows the site of the future DeMoisy Express lift, which will drop riders in a wind-protected area above Dan's Run at Snowbasin Resort.
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This photo taken Sunday, July 31, 2022, shows the site of a planned Club Med hotel at the Snowbasin ski resort near Huntsville. While construction of the new Club Med Resort at Snowbasin has not yet started, the old base lodge has been torn down and a cell tower has been erected at the site.
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These plans show proposed long-term development envisioned by Snowbasin officials around Earl's Lodge, the resort's main gathering spot. Earl's Lodge is shown on the right side of the cluster of envisioned development depicted in the middle of the plans. A proposed Club Med resort is shown in the upper right-hand corner of the plans.

HUNTSVILLE -- The Old Day Lodge on the grounds of the Snowbasin ski resort was razed last year, ostensibly to make way for a 300-room Club Med hotel.

The hotel was to be one of the first prongs of a major expansion and reimagining meant to make Snowbasin a "world-class resort destination," Snowbasin General Manager Davy Ratchford said in 2021, when the plans were unveiled.

Now, though, resort officials are rethinking the plans.

Snowbasin said in a statement Tuesday that the plans with Club Med have been shelved. Bruce Fery, chairman of Snowbasin's parent company, Grand America Hotels and Resorts, said the resort will instead put its focus on "providing a world-class ski experience."

Neither Snowbasin nor Club Med shed much light on the decision to shift gears.

"After extensive discussions, the two companies have decided not to pursue this project," said Snowbasin's statement.

In its statement, Club Med, which operates resort hotels around the globe, seemed to indicate that Snowbasin was the force behind the change in plans.

"Unfortunately, while we had hoped our first U.S. project would be at Snowbasin, there have been delays and Snowbasin is reassessing their development plans on the mountain, instead focusing on improving the skier experience. As a result of these delays, Club Med is shifting its focus to other projects in its pipeline," Club Med said.

What the announcement means to other elements of the Snowbasin vision unveiled in 2021 -- notably, a sprawling "resort village" around Earl's Lodge featuring restaurants, shops and lodging -- remains unclear. Earl's Lodge sits at the base of many of Snowbasin's popular slopes and is the resort's central hub of activity.

"We aren't ready to speak further at this time, as Snowbasin is currently reviewing its plans for the future," the resort said in a followup statement to the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday. "Per the statement, we are reassessing the path ahead and focusing on providing the best ski experience for our guests."

Whatever the case, Weber County commissioners late last year approved creation of three new taxing entities that would be able to collect up to $300 million in property taxes to fund proposed infrastructure improvements at the ski resort as part of its expansion initiative.

Whatever the spur for the change, Snowbasin isn't hurting for customers, with Ratchford calling the 2023-2024 ski season "one of our best yet." Operators haven't stopped pumping money into Snowbasin facilities.

"In recent years, we have seen strong demand at Snowbasin, fueled by the growing Utah tourism market, and continued investment into the resort," Fery said in the Snowbasin statement. "As we navigate this period of growth, we felt it right to reassess the path ahead, enabling us to focus on our central goal of providing a world-class ski experience to our resort guests."

Late last year, Snowbasin announced plans to insall a high-speed, six-person lift, the DeMoisy Express, in the resort's Strawberry area. It's to be ready for the 2023-2024 season.

Notwithstanding Tuesday's announcement, the Club Med plans seemed to be moving at full speed as of last August. The Old Day Lodge building southeast of Earl's Lodge had already been razed and officials told the Standard-Examiner at the time that the hotel plans were moving forward.

"I'm very excited for people to experience this extraordinary property when it's complete," Ratchford said at the time. He went on: "The community can expect an amazing local partner in Club Med."

Development of the resort village, officials said last August, was to begin in 2025. In all, the long-term development proposal unveiled in 2021 envisioned around 2,400 new housing units in all on Snowbasin land in the Ogden Valley, including 1,529 units around Earl's Lodge.

Meantime, the owners of Nordic Valley, a smaller resort in the Eden area, are pursuing development of a ski village around the base of that facility. Weber County commissioners late last year approved the rezone of the property needed to allow the plans to proceed, though actual development hasn't started.

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