Thousands of skiers visit Utah's Ogden Valley each winter for the uncrowded slopes of Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. By 2015, they may have a legitimate third option as well. Wolf Mountain, the small, local ski hill that for decades has been an afterthought in Northern Utah's hidden valley, is set to undergo a major overhaul that could almost triple its vertical and increase its skiable acreage by more than five times. First thing's first, though: Wolf Mountain will be going back to its original name, Nordic Valley.
"In the coming years it's going to be a much different place than what people understand today," says Josh Richards, an Ogden-raised real estate entrepreneur who is leading the new development.
Richards says Nordic Valley will target the intermediate market. "Everything from real estate, to your dining experience, to the ticket prices and everything else—it's our intention to stay very friendly to the family budget," he says. "We'll have far more blue terrain than any of our neighbors. Pro skiers will still want to go hit Lightening Ridge and some Snowbasin runs, but for a family day resort, I believe we'll be the best in the valley, actually by far."
The first phase of the development is starting this summer with the mapping and cutting of new trails, which will add 700 to 800 vertical feet to the current 1,000-foot ski hill, and may be accessed by snowcat as soon as this winter. The first lifts could go in next summer, Richards says. All of this will take place on private land already zoned for development. "It's nearly 500 acres of private property," says Richards. "All you see today is 100 acres, and the ski terrain happens to be probably in the worst place it could be. It's on a warm spot that doesn't have a great aspect. There's four times that area on the private property that has great terrain, great aspect, great temperatures."
Richards first looked into buying the Wolf Mountain/Nordic Valley property about 14 years ago. "It was a long process," he says. "It literally took about two years of due diligence, everything from temperature testing on the mountain to surveys and other things." When the ski area went back on the block recently, he returned with a development group comprised of both local and foreign investors.
While he wouldn't name them—indicating that they preferred to be in the background for now—Richards says the investors are very serious and well-financed partners. "They are a very capable development group with extraordinary ability to make things happen if they want to," he says. "They are involved with ski resorts in Europe—which tend to be much larger—and they have a very similar vision [as me] as far as the type of amenities they'd like to have. However, we want to see if the valley wants it."
Within five years, Richards envisions a gondola to the top of 8,000-foot Skyline Ridge, which would give the ski area 2,500 vertical feet from its current base area. A shopping and residential plaza, mountain coaster, mountain bike trails, mid-mountain restaurant, and single-family residences are also part of the development plan. In all, Richards says, they expect to develop about 100 acres near the base area, with only 10 to 13 acres of that being high density. Skier visits, Richards expects, will triple from the current 35,000 a year, and the area could see the same number of mountain bikers in the summer.
"I believe mountain biking is going to be as big as skiing," he says. "One of the nice things about the terrain we have is it's fantastic for mountain biking. The snow burns off about mid-March to the first of April, so while you're mountain biking on the [current ski area], you'll be skiing on the new stuff still."
Nordic Valley is working with the U.S. Forest Service on approval for the gondola and subsequent terrain, which Richards believes is forthcoming. Work within the private property boundaries has already begun. The Ogden Valley overall, seems to support the project. "We have concerns that need to be addressed, but nobody seems to be against it," Richards says. His sentiments are echoed on local forums, comment boards, and social media, where opposition has been non-existent.
Other players in the local tourism industry, meanwhile, have voiced their support. "Snowbasin Resort is in support of the Nordic Valley Resort development," Jason Dyer, spokesman for Snowbasin, said in a statement. "We believe that the expansion of their resort will not only bring more visitors to Ogden Valley, but add to the many reasons that the area is a premier destination for winter and summer outdoor enthusiasts."
Nordic Valley first opened to public skiing in 1970. In 2005 it was acquired by Wolf Creek Golf Resort and the name was changed to Wolf Mountain. The name caused confusion because of similarities to Wolf Creek, Colorado, and because it was also the name of a resort in Park City (now Canyons) in the mid nineties. It has traditionally been a venue for race training and night skiing for residents of Weber County.