New Owner of Utah Ski Resort Proposes Massive Expansion

Ogden’s Nordic Valley would grow twentyfold under plan


With just three chairlifts and 140 acres of mostly moderate terrain, Nordic Valley, a 50-year-old ski resort tucked into the Wasatch Mountains near Ogden, Utah, is the epitome of the tiny and unpretentious ski operation often romanticized by sentimental skiers.

That’ll change drastically under a proposal unveiled this summer by the resort’s new owner. James Coleman hopes to undertake a massive expansion of Nordic Valley, one that would entail growing the resort to some 2,800 acres and installing up to 10 new lifts, including a 4.3-mile gondola that’ll link the communities of North Ogden and Eden.
Coleman says the plan stems from a simple goal: providing skiers with stellar terrain, including great steeps and the higher-quality snowfall that falls on of the area’s upper elevations.

“First and foremost, I’d say it’s the skiing opportunities that it’ll provide to this part of Utah, which doesn’t have as many skiing opportunities but has a fast-growing population,” Coleman said. “You can’t just keep putting a growing number of skiers on this small area. This will improve that by providing more access to the community for recreation, providing more jobs to the community and providing more opportunity for the community to experience the outdoors…That’s really important to us.”

But the project will likely face resistance; environmentalists are already criticizing the scope and impacts, particularly because it would entail a major shift in use for public lands currently designated as “inventoried roadless lands.”

The project would expand the current resort boundaries west and south into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Coleman’s private equity and development firm, Mountain Capital Partners, has yet to submit formal proposals to the US Forest Service (it would require a special use permit and forest plan amendment), and Coleman says it’s still in the very early stages. Instead, the company launched the project with community outreach meetings and a website devoted to the expansion.

Coleman says the majority of the feedback he’s gotten has been positive. But the project hasn’t been met with wholesale enthusiasm.


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Carl Fischer is executive director of Save Our Canyons, an environmental organization dedicated to protecting lands in the Wasatch Mountains. He says this proposal is directly at odds with the Forest Service’s current management plan.

That’s because much of the land is subject to the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which limits activities that require construction of permanent roads and aims to provide lasting protection of lands.

“This expansion is nonsensical and it’s totally against what we’ve all worked for—what the forest plan is for this area, which mandates that it’s basically left alone,” Fischer said. “I don’t think ski lifts and giant gondolas can co-exist while protecting those values.”

Fischer says it’s his impression that the community enjoys their “quiet and quaint quality of life, and they aren’t really interested in changing that.” His organization’s plan is to plead with the Forest Service to uphold its roadless values. Because when it comes to Utah’s mountains, he says, enough is enough.

“We’ve seen so many places lost to ski area projects,” he said. “We don’t really want to see any more infrastructure in our wild places, period, and we don’t want to see any more commercialization in our mountains.

Coleman’s answer to the criticism is that the company will proceed with a commitment to leaving the landscape—as well as Nordic Valley’s down-to-earth vibe—as intact as possible. He says they’ll do that by building as few roads as they can, keeping ticket prices affordable, and offering specials like free lessons for beginners.

This isn’t the first time expansion has been proposed for tiny Nordic Valley. A similar project was floated in 2014.

This new version came about after Coleman, whose acquisition of mid-sized resorts such as Colorado’s Purgatory and Arizona’s Snowbowl has earned him the nickname Ski King of the Southwest, entered into an operating agreement with Nordic Valley in April.

All it took for Coleman, who’s known as a capable skier with an appetite for expert terrain, to sign onto the expansion idea? Exploring the upper terrain. There, he says, he found incredible views, exciting ski landscapes, and great snow.

“It’s a spectacular place, just a really beautiful mountain,” Coleman said. “And the potential for skiing there looks fantastic. It looks like you can create a lot of steeps with minimal work, and there is lots of open space. Plus, you get that consistent snowfall from the storms coming off the Great Salt Lake. I’m really excited.”

Mountain Capital Partners hopes to begin construction in 2020.

 

Katie Klingsporn is the content manager for Telluride Mountainfilm. Read more of her writing at katieklingsporn.com
Showing 27 comments
  • Steve
    Reply

    My in-laws live a mile or so from the proposed gondola base in North Ogden, and I was riding and running on trails in the proposed impact area a couple weekends ago. It’s beautiful and undeveloped, especially the canyon where the gondola would run. This proposal doesn’t make any sense, at least as explained. Nordic Valley is a fun and affordable little family and beginner hill, but it’s got the lowest base elevation in Utah, and they were barely open last season because of the warm temps and mud. Even the max elevation of the proposed lifts at the top of the ridge is only 7800 feet, lower than the base of Alta and about mid-mountain of Snowbasin which is a few miles south.

    I think the gondola over the mountain idea is a red herring meant to distract from the massive lift building with the accompanying road and forest clearing that are proposed. No, the only way this project makes sense is if the developer is planning to sell a ton of real estate in the already pricey Ogden Valley. There’s no way with current climate trends that the base area can maintain enough snow to support skiing on the upper mountain for a normal ski season. It would have to be moved higher, freeing up the land for development. And the locations and elevations of many of the proposed lifts only make sense if they’re purely sacrificial. So no, this is not a step forward for providing skiing options to the public. This is purely about making a bunch of money developing extravagant and barely lived in homes, using the zoning laws for ski resort development to support a real estate venture, and in the end after building a bunch of new lifts and roads on public land, charging the same outrageous lift ticket prices that are killing skiing everywhere else.

    • Diane
      Reply

      Amen!! Very well said, Steve.

  • Patrick
    Reply

    Steve, thank you for your comment. I haven’t lived in a ski town, so I’ve never been exposed to those kinds of schemes, so it’s fascinating to hear about the ploys that presumably have happened elsewhere in the past & could be at work here.

  • Suzanne D
    Reply

    This is crazy but given the current atmosphere will not have to undergo the normally required EIR reports.
    As if Utah doesn’t already have a jagillion ski areas. This is , all about money and will eventually destroy a gorgeous area of the country for a select few.

  • Kevin
    Reply

    The proposed expansion is not at sufficient altitude to have really high quality snow, it would be similar to Sundance in that regard, which is to say decent skiing and snow only up high and only for a short part of the season. I imagine this is really a real estate play.

  • Gregory Smith
    Reply

    Trash idea. No idea how anyone can call themselves an environmentalist and support new ski resorts. I’m not going to let you ruin my community.

  • jr
    Reply

    Steve is correct, this doesn’t make any sense and I’ll be shocked if this ever gets off the ground.

  • David
    Reply

    What ever you do resist the temptation to sell your ski hill to Robbie Katz.

  • Jackson Hogue
    Reply

    Coldwater Canyon and North Ogden Divide Canyon are not perfect, but they are still relatively untouched, as is the rest of the Lewis Peak bloc. There is no reason to add roads and chairlifts. Not even in an alternate world where we are cooling and the low elevation gets snow. Nordic Valley barely does as we sit. Leave it be.

  • Jason
    Reply

    The gondola idea isn’t new, they’ve been talking about it in Ogden for decades. If it’s for Snowbasin or Nordic, it’s been talked about. Lots of folks will dismiss it without thinking, but I like the idea.
    Ogden Canyon is a terrible drive. Tiny, old road, lots of cars, blind corners…its got it all. Which is better from an environmental standpoint: removing half the cars from the canyon by building a gondola or the continuously increasing traffic? I know I’m simplifying things, but still, why not build the gondola and cut time to the mountain and traffic?
    Sure, buses are always an option, but they haven’t removed the traffic like a gondola would.

    • Meg Sanders
      Reply

      Would you have taken the gondola today? It will just sit. Furthermore, Coleman said at his Monday meeting at Eccles, he expects 8-12 thousand visitors a day. Where will they park? Have you seen the infastructure of the surrounding city? Those cities, particularly North Ogden, will need a complete overhaul.

    • greg
      Reply

      You don’t remove any cars, you just force them through the middle of a town that already has massive traffic issues.

  • Meg Sanders
    Reply

    James Coleman is a real estate magnate out of Austin. He reels in locals with his ski-bum attitude and mutual love of the sport– then just buys and build condos and apartments.

    He wants to annex Nordic into another city on the west side of the mountain, because the Ogden Valley where this resort currently resides does not allow high-density housing. The city he wants to annex to, North Ogden, does. Hit up YouTube and search “North Ogden City Council meeting”. Coleman addresses the city for the first time, July 10th– about two hours in. His answers on development and water are fascinating and ever-changing.

  • TJ Owen
    Reply

    It’s just a bad plan. Utah already has good ski resorts why expand Nordic and add some garbage Ski Resort. Jason above thinks that a 40min+ gondola ride is going to free up traffic. Guess what it isn’t. The two roads to get to the valley for skiing are much quicker.

    In fact, the gondola isn’t just an old idea. It’s a terrible one. It’s been shot down at least two other times in the last 20 years by the city of Ogden because it makes NO SENSE. Now the idea is being proposed in North Ogden in hopes that they can get away with it easier. It’s shameful, and we don’t need this desolating out hike/bike trails and our forest lands!

  • Melanie R Barker
    Reply

    Please don’t destroy our beautiful canyons for skiing. There are plenty of ski resorts in the area. This is NOT a viable place to put in a gondola or ski lifts. Please do not cut our beautiful vegetation. The gondola will not decrease traffic in our city it will only increase it. Please stay out of our beautiful Cold water and North Ogden canyons.

  • Mitch
    Reply

    Horrible idea. I grew up and currently still live about a quarter mile away from the planned site. It’s been amazing to have this hidden gem all to ourselves and it would be a shame to prevent future generations from doing the same. Residents of North Ogden love living here for the small, quiet, and peaceful town it is. It would be awful to ruin our great town with an idea like this.

  • Gregory Smith
    Reply

    It’s a complete delusion to think this will decrease traffic on the divide it will at least Double it! 8-12 k visters and thousands of condos!? All the builders, employees, shipping, food service, homeowners, vacationers WILL be driving the canyon in Mass.

  • Dan morris
    Reply

    No snow and no water. Horrible idea.

  • Phil mendelson
    Reply

    I love the gondola idea, I am not a skier but would love easy access to the valley for possible summer concerts, or outdoor activities.

  • Mark J Salcedo
    Reply

    I live a few blocks from the proposed development in North Ogden. This is a terrible idea on so many fronts. Due to poor snow Nordic Valley is the last resort to open and the first to close, and that is on the east facing slope! The west facing gets even less snow. I hiked it all last winter on dry ground or mud. Leave our beautiful mountain alone.

  • Lisa
    Reply

    I dont see how our current roads could handle that many people a day. I’m 100% Against this project, go make money somewhere else

  • Diane
    Reply

    North Ogden has some specific areas zoned for high density housing, but they NOT near this proposed development. This area is single family on minimum lot sizes of at least .25 acres, if l read the city master plan correctly.

    The area also houses the city green waste facility and the posse/equestrian arena which would be poor companions to a gondola.

    Wanting North Ogden to annex land on the other side of the mountain just to basically line developers and realtors pockets would be a lose-lose-lose proposition. Sure, the talk now is that they would want no services from North Ogden, but after annexation it could be an entirely different story with North Ogden on the hook for sewer, culinary water, emergency services, street care and every other service we now enjoy as residents. Citizenship in a community does not come in levels or grades—either you are or you are not. Are we going to buy another leaf truck for Liberty if we annex them? Think about all this, folks!!

  • Andy
    Reply

    “Coleman says the majority of the feedback he’s gotten has been positive. But the project hasn’t been met with wholesale enthusiasm.”

    Obviously from the commentary he’s not talking to the majority of us who live in north Ogden or the valley. It’s a ploy to sell high density condos.

  • Alison McLennan
    Reply

    Sadly, Coleman and this project have a serious altitude problem.

  • Ringram
    Reply

    The developers would make a fortune on the real estate. We residents would lose our views, cold water canyon, and the dark sky. As the resort sucked our water to make snow, we would hear the constant hum of snow making and snow grooming machinery. Traffic would increase on all roads and so would the VBRO rentals. These rentals attract folks who may not care about our community. I currently have a VBRO on my street and often large parties are hosted there. The guests speed up and down the street and often litter the area. The private land owned by Nordic is 1/6 of the size of the proposed expansion. Let them expand on their private land, not our public land.

  • Daniel Hinrichs
    Reply

    I live in North Ogden minutes away from where the proposed gondola is to be built. And I am not at all in favor of it. There are many reasons not to have this gondola, and only one to do it, and it only helps one person.

  • Nicole Thompson
    Reply

    Not sure where he’s getting the idea he’s met with mostly positive feedback, unless he’s just choosing not to listen. Go to any standing room only city meeting on either side of the mountain and you’ll get a different opinion. There are some local leaders who stand to profit tremendously with this development, so of course they favor it. But the people? No.

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