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80 Years of Winter Fun in Utah

Called one of Utah's "best kept secrets," Snowbasin Resort is celebrating 80 years of history and family fun in the majestic Ogden Valley

Looking out over the panoramic grandeur of Ogden Valley is one of Utah’s best kept secrets: Snowbasin Resort. The state’s third largest ski resort, Snowbasin is situated just outside the City of Ogden and is less than an hour-drive from both Park City and Salt Lake City to the south.

Officially opened in 1940 as ‘Ogden’s Snow Basin Winter Playground’ when two rope tows were installed to pull skiers up Becker Hill, Snowbasin Resort is now one of the oldest continuously operating ski resorts in the U.S. Over the last 80 years, Snowbasin has played host to a number of prestigious sporting events, such as the NCAA National Ski Championships, the 2001 Disabled World Cup and the Utah Winter Games. As part of Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Olympic Games, the resort was the home venue for the Men’s and Women’s Downhill, Super G, Combined, and Paralympic events.

As a member of the Grand America Hotels and Resorts family, Snowbasin is a year-round resort offering families and outdoor enthusiasts a wide variety of activities. In winter, Snowbasin features world-class skiing and snowboarding over nearly 3,000 acres, with an average of 300 inches of annual snowfall and 3,000 vertical feet to schuss down. In the summer months, guests come to enjoy lift-served hiking and mountain biking, scenic gondola rides, rounds of mini golf, shopping, live music events and much, much more. Snowbasin also delivers award-winning cuisine and unique culinary events, including mountaintop dining to take in the spectacular views.

With a single, centralized base area, gondolas, free parking, shuttles from the parking lots, a great snowsports school and variety of terrain, Snowbasin has become widely recognized as one of the top resorts for families in Utah.

SKI Magazine recently deemed Snowbasin Resort to be the most accessible ski resort in the west, and our dining experience is regularly recognized by the magazine’s reader surveys,” said Megan Collins, communications and events specialist at Snowbasin Resort. “We like to say that the resort is a touch of luxury, but accessible for everyone.”

In 1941, Norwegian-American brothers and well-known ambassadors for the sport of skiing in the U.S., Sverre and Corey Engen opened Snowbasin’s first ski school and established a decades-long tradition for snowsports training excellence. The resort was awarded the 2017-18 Conversion Cup Award by the National Ski Area Association (NSAA), recognizing its efforts in building the best beginner snowsports program in the U.S.

Snowbasin’s three-year ‘Learn and Earn Program’ is designed to teach ‘never-ever’ skiers and snowboarders within a comfortable, encouraging and welcoming environment at a great value, and turn them into snowsports enthusiasts for life. In the first year, participants receive three all-day lessons, rental equipment for the season and a season pass after completing all three lessons. In the next year, the Learn and Earn graduates can purchase ski or snowboarding equipment and a heavily-discounted season pass, and are given three all-day lessons to help further refine their skills. The third year offers those who have participated in the first two years a heavily discounted season pass, private lessons to perfect their skills, as well as other perks.

On average, Snowbasin has welcomed 1,500 new skiers and riders into the sport each year since the program started, with an 82 percent retention rate through the three years.

“We are proud that we have found a program that works,” said Collins. “Most people have a special place in their heart for the ski resort they learned to ski or ride at, and Snowbasin is now that ski resort. There are many people who don’t embrace the ski industry here in Utah, so we still have lots of room to grow, so programs like this are not only important to Snowbasin, but the industry as a whole.”

At Snowbasin, guests are able to spend more time on the slopes and less time riding lifts to get where they want to go. The resort currently has 11 lifts (soon to be 12) on the mountain: two eight-person Doppelmayr gondolas (8-minute ride); a 15-person Doppelmayr tram (2-minute ride); two four-person, high-speed detachable Doppelmayr chairlifts (10-minute ride); a six-person, high-speed detachable Doppelmayr chairlift (5-minute ride); a three-person Stadeli, a three-person Thiokol and a three-person CTEC (all 12-minute rides); and two SunKid Conveyors. This winter, Snowbasin will be adding a tow rope to help access its Wildcat Express from the base area.

Snowbasin grooms 57 of its 106 trails with 14 Prinoth snowcats (two of which are winch models) on a nightly basis; with seven machines on each shift between swing and graveyard. For snowmaking, the resort uses TechnoAlpin automatic air/water guns and hydrants, as well as automatic fan guns by SMI Snowmakers to cover more than 600 acres. Many of its TechnoAlpin guns are the eco-friendlier Rubis Evo model, which offers a higher degree of control over energy consumption. Snowbasin strives to optimize its snowmaking operations and looks for the best way to get the most snow for the least amount of energy.

The health and safety of its guests and staff has always been a top priority for Snowbasin Resort. As part of this, the resort recently created the new position of health and safety director to implement new safety measures, and have added baffling and signage, and staff to help educate skiers about space and speed; and to shift the resort’s culture towards promoting a safe atmosphere for all abilities. An example of this shift is found in the ‘Family Zone’ at the beginner area, established for the start of the 2019-20 season.

“This is where many beginner skiers and families who are learning to ski can merge with the more advanced skiers and riders as they come to the base area,” said Collins. “We are extremely grateful for all the staff support from the Safety Ambassador Team, Ski Patrol and Guest Service Team who take the time to be in the Family Zone on our busier days.”

Year-over-year data has indicated that Snowbasin’s efforts in regard to safety are paying off, demonstrating a decrease in incidents at the resort in spite of an increase in skier visitation. This past summer, Snowbasin was recognized by the NSAA for having the Best Guest Safety Program for large resorts, as well as the Best #RideAnotherDay Program, which promotes the actions every skier and rider can take to keep themselves and those around them safer on the slopes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably presented a number of hurdles for Snowbasin over the last number of months, as well as for the foreseeable future. The resort recently wrapped up its modified summer operations, where it expanded the outdoor dining spaces, loaded every other gondola to allow for sanitization at the top and bottom, and required face coverings for guests in areas where social distancing wasn’t possible. For staff, Snowbasin has required face coverings at all times, daily health screenings, encouraged correct hygiene habits and provided training related to COVID-19 protocols.

For the winter months, Snowbasin has made several significant enhancements to its current amenities to promote social distancing during the pandemic. Improvements have also been made at Needles Lodge over the summer with the addition of The Overlook, a new full-service bar with panoramic 8,700-foot views of Snowbasin Resort and Ogden Valley, and renovations to the lodge service to improve speed and flow. Snowbasin has also added new yurts at the base of its Middle Bowl to provide an area for guests to rest and warm-up, away from any resort lodge.

“As you can imagine – like everyone else – managing the new protocols because of COVID-19 [has] been challenging,” said Collins. “Looking ahead, we plan to continue focusing on social distancing and spreading people out on the mountain, with [the] main priority on our bottleneck areas.”

Snowbasin believes in the pursuit of greater sustainability and continuously works on reducing its carbon footprint. The resort is proud of its materials diversion rate, which – in the last three years – has diverted approximately 230 tons of material out of the waste stream and into recycling commodities. Recently, Snowbasin Resort has been exploring the practice of having all its compostable material hauled off-site and deposited in the first anaerobic digester in Utah that will create biofuel to power thousands of Utah homes, as well as create organic fertilizer that Snowbasin will use for its gardens and lawns.

In addition, Snowbasin uses solar-powered lighting in its parking lots and has installed smart heaters inside its lift shacks to conserve electricity, as well as takes part in efficient lighting programs and makes use of LED lights throughout most of the resort. Snowbasin has also partnered with Ogden-based, Qnergy for a test demo of the Qnergy ‘Smart Boiler’ that creates electricity while heating the water in the broiler, further reducing the need for electrical transmission from coal operated power plants.

“Environmental measures are important to us because it’s part of running a ski area,” said Collins. “Sustainability has basically become like second nature with the NSAA Environmental Charter, and we see the emphasis everywhere. If you can do something in a more environmental or sustainable way, you’re doing [well].”

Snowbasin Resort is celebrating its 80th anniversary this winter and will mark the milestone with a number of events highlighting its long history in the Ogden Valley, as well as the release of a specialty beer inspired by the resort and brewed by local brewer, Roosters Brewing.