In this economic environment, opening a new ski resort or, in the case of Utah's Eagle Point, reopening it after eight years of being closed might be considered risky.
But resort co-owner Shane Gadbaw said the first year of operation for the small Beaver County ski area went about as expected from an economic standpoint and better than expected from a skier's viewpoint.
"I did not realize the extent that this is everyone in southern Utah's favorite ski resort," said the Manhattan transplant, who moved to this rural Utah area with his wife and three children. "We had a great first season and are really excited about the second."
The resort's ski terrain changed little from the days when it was known as Elk Meadows. It operated two double chairs, one triple and one quad below Mount Holly in a scenic canyon 19 miles east of Beaver. And most of the core of the resort's relatively new staff remained, which should bring continuity to the resort operation this year.
But the resort owners upgraded buildings and freshened up the resort for its reopening. And there will be a few more changes coming this season.
These include 200 new acres of skiable terrain on the steeper, more difficult side of the resort; a new hot-tub garden; and spa services being offered at the Canyonside Lodge. The resort is also offering a midweek special that includes two adult lift tickets and a two-bedroom condo for $150 a night.
The resort is scheduled to open Dec. 14 but could open earlier if conditions permit.
Gadbaw said there were a few first-year glitches. The resort had six days of power outages because a power line coming up the canyon had not been maintained when the resort was closed.
The Eagle Point co-owner said the resort's busiest days came on Saturdays and during the major holidays. There were days when a group of 100 would schedule a day at the resort and double the number of people on the mountain.
"We are small and growing," said Gadbaw. "We are never going to be Deer Valley or Park City Mountain Resort."
The resort's biggest market proved to be Las Vegas, with St. George coming in second. A surprising number of visitors came from California, which will be a big area of focus this year. And there was a late-season jump in visits from Wasatch Front skiers who wanted to check out a new resort, enjoy a weekend getaway and take advantage of less expensive lift tickets.
Business owners from the nearby town of Beaver were happy to see the resort open again.
Ursula Carstensen of the Beaver Chamber of Commerce said winter business was helped and several motel owners in Beaver offered ski packages.
"Our motel owners were very happy," she said. "Actually, in the years the ski resort has been open in the past, sometimes winters have been at least equal to summer business if not a little more so. The resort opening was a big deal."
Eagle Point has a base elevation of 9,100 feet and a top elevation of 10,500 feet with a vertical drop of 1,400 feet. It has 400 skiable acres, rated as 20 percent beginner, 50 percent intermediate and 30 percent advanced. It features 36 runs.
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Opens • Dec. 14 (earlier if possible)
Where • Eighteen miles east of Beaver along State Road 153, a 3.5-hour drive from Salt Lake and Las Vegas, two hours from St. George. 435-438-3700. http://www.skieaglepoint.com.
The vibe • Now that it has completed its maiden season, the former Elk Meadows is hoping to solidify its presence with new features on the ground and at lodges.
What's new? • Year Two features the addition of 200 skiable acres of terrain replete with tree skiing and steeps. Facility upgrade continues with outdoor hot-tub garden at Canyonside Lodge.
Area day • Adults: $45
Area day • Ages 7-17: $32
Area day • 65 & over: $32
Half day • Adults: $35
Half day • Ages 7-17: $26
Half day • 65 & over: $26
Tubing • $15
Note: For multiday, subtract $1 for each day of pass.