Utah taxpayers may help finance development at a second Utah ski resort

A new proposal could mark the second time a public board, created to develop land connected to the military, helps finance development at a ski resort.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers and snowboarders gather at the bottom of a run at Sundance Mountain Resort near Provo on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. Under a new proposal, Utah's Military Installation Development Authority would help fund a new lodge at the resort.

A second Utah ski resort may get financial help from taxpayers through the state’s Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA), a public entity tasked with developing land that is owned by or that directly benefits the military.

MIDA is being asked to partner with Sundance Mountain Resort in Provo Canyon to build a new lodge, the Sundance Inn.

MIDA can issue public bonds — which gives developers access to less expensive financing. Then, as the new development raises more in taxes, MIDA can use much of that increased revenue to pay off the debt.

The infrastructure that MIDA would help fund at Sundance, according to a draft plan, would include rooms in the new lodge that comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and accessible offerings for military veterans.

MIDA’s involvement, the proposal says, will help the resort establish a Sundance Veterans Program, paid for with the money the resort saves on development costs.

“We are very excited to bring the proposed Sundance project area that would serve our heroic wounded veterans to the MIDA Board of Directors for their review on Dec. 19,” MIDA spokesperson Kristin Kenney Williams said in a statement.

MIDA would be partnering with Utah County and with Storyteller Canyon Investments, which is controlled by two companies, Broadreach Capital Partners and Cedar Capital Partners. The companies bought the Sundance resort in December 2020 from its founder, actor-filmmaker Robert Redford.

State statute requires local governments to invite and approve new MIDA project areas, and Utah County has done both, Williams said.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign hangs at the entrance to Sundance Mountain Resort near Provo on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023.

The total cost for the lodge would be around $35 million, according to the plan. MIDA, the plan says, “intends to issue bonds to fund the hard costs associated with Sundance Inn construction” but also estimates a “minimal sharing of development costs.”

The MIDA board will consider the project Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. The virtual meeting is open to the public via Zoom; a recording will be available on Utah’s public notice website. If the MIDA board approves the project plan Tuesday, MIDA and Sundance Mountain Resort will move forward with development plans in the spring.

The Sundance project could be the second time MIDA has inked a deal with the ski industry and helped fund a ski resort. The authority — created by the state of Utah in 2007 — is also involved in the Mayflower Resort, a new ski area outside Park City now under construction.

One of the Mayflower hotels, according to the plan, will include 100 rooms that offer booking priority to military members, at a reduced cost and on an income-based sliding scale.

If approved, MIDA will issue a bond to help Sundance Mountain Resort finance the construction and supporting infrastructure for a new base lodge.

The project would include a 65-room, ADA-accessible inn at Sundance’s base village, according to Williams. In turn, Sundance and MIDA will develop and operate a Sundance Veterans Program, modeled after the Vail Veterans Program, which offers outdoor programing and behavioral health counseling to wounded veterans in the Colorado ski town.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sundance Mountain Resort has no "centrally located and owned" lodging. Funding from MIDA could help it build a new lodge at the base.

The inn at Sundance would serve as a home base for program participants and families, Williams said, and would add extra lodging offerings for all Sundance guests.

“Sundance Mountain Resort currently does not have a centrally located and owned lodging facility,” the draft project plan says. “Though Storyteller has invested in necessary updates to aging infrastructure, the financing, short build season and geographical constraints pose significant challenges to the provision of further offerings.”

Redford bought the old TimpHaven resort in 1969 and renamed it after the character he played in the movie that made him a star, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Redford launched the nonprofit Sundance Institute at the resort in 1981, and filmmakers’ labs have been held there nearly every summer since. Because of the planned construction, the institute announced last month that the 2024 directors’ lab will be held at Colorado’s Stanley Hotel, credited as Stephen King’s inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in his novel “The Shining.”

Utah County Commissioners unanimously approved an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement for the proposed MIDA project area on Nov. 8. The agreement specifies that Utah County retains land use authority and control of municipal services.

According to the proposal, Utah County also retains 100% of the base tax revenue that exists now. It will earn 25% of incremental tax increases — the new tax revenue generated by the lodge. MIDA will keep the remaining 75% of the incremental tax revenue as repayment for the bond.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers and snowboarders gather at the bottom of a run at Sundance Resort near Provo on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023.

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.