The new operator of Utah’s Nordic Valley, Mountain Capital Partners, has high hopes for what is currently the littlest ski resort in Utah. MCP is the fast-growing Durango, Colorado-based outfit led by James Coleman that now operates six ski resorts in the four corners region. Less than three years after acquiring Purgatory and Arizona Snowbowl, Mr. Coleman entered into an operating agreement with Nordic Valley’s owners in April. Now we know one of the reasons why he went to Utah.
The centerpiece of master plan released this month is a 4.3 mile gondola stretching from North Ogden to a summit elevation of 8,100′ before descending into Nordic Valley’s base area near Eden. It would be the third longest gondola system in the world and some 6,000 feet longer than anything in the United States today. “In addition to offering direct-to-resort access in a scenic 12-minute ride, the gondola will also help cut down on canyon traffic and vehicle emissions,” notes the recently-launched nordicvalleyproject.com website. A similar gondola was once eyed to connect Ogden to Snowbasin and the proposal reminds me in some ways of the successful Silver Mountain Gondola project which transformed Kellogg, Idaho.
Nordic Valley has attempted to expand upward and outward multiple times over its 50 year history but never before had access to the kind of capital needed to undertake what is now mapped. The plan includes nine new chairlifts surrounding the new gondola, which would likely be built in two sections. “We’re passionate about the ski industry, and about giving families and individuals the freedom and opportunity to experience the outdoors,” MCP notes. “With an improved guest experience, the new Nordic Valley will be better positioned to grow the ski industry, compete with other area resorts, and bolster Ogden’s status as a first-rate recreation destination.”
Still, there are many possible roadblocks. Much of the land needed is in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which Nordic Valley would need a new special use permit to operate in. Some of the required lands are designated by the USFS as roadless. “It’s going to be a tough road, that’s really all I can say,” Ogden District Ranger Sean Harwood said in an interview with the local paper following the news. “The most important thing is the public’s participation in this — the buy in from the different communities. Roadless areas, in a lot of peoples’ minds, is the next thing to wilderness.” The western terminus of the gondola would sit on land currently owned by the City of North Ogden, which has not yet received a formal proposal.
If there’s anyone who could navigate his way to approval, it’s Mr. Coleman and his partners, who have spent more than $40 million on improvements including five new lifts in three years at resorts which once struggled to survive at all. The Nordic Valley project website proclaims if the environmental review process is successful, the new gondola could spin as early as December 2020.