Snowbasin • It isn’t just cruising the green and blue groomers anymore. Snow Basin is going off-piste.
Despite hosting the downhill races and an international crowd during the 2002 Olympics, the ski area just 30 minutes east of Ogden has mostly been known as a locals’ resort. With no accommodations on site, it had to embrace that reputation.
But change is coming.
Snowbasin last week announced extensive plans to expand its base area and build its first on-mountain lodging — a Club Med — by 2024.
The changes will give Snowbasin an international flair while keeping most of the attributes that have drawn people from the Salt Lake Valley to it since it was created in 1940, according to resort general manager Davy Ratchford.
“I don’t know if we can really do anything to change the fact to make it be something other than what it is. It’s a very local resort,” Ratchford said Tuesday following a town hall addressing the expansion. “And I say that because even though we sell season passes in 37 states and people come from all over the world who love Snowbasin. But it still feels so localized because I see the same people all the time.
He added, “I think what it really does for us is it puts us on the map on a different scale.”
If some think it’s too grand a scale, few of them were among the roughly 100 people who attended Tuesday’s meeting at Earl’s Lodge. When question cards were gathered, the majority of them were from people wondering how they can get on a waitlist to purchase slopeside condos. The condos are part of Snowbasin’s distant-future development plan, which Ratchford cautioned may never come to fruition.
A second town hall meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The addition of the hotel will be the most impactful of the changes planned for Snowbasin. The Club Med resort will be built on the site of the current Wildcat parking lot and Day Lodge. It will include 300 guest rooms and 120 staff rooms, an underground parking lot, a pool, three restaurants and pickleball courts. Guests will access the slopes via Littlecat Express, which will be upgraded to serve both skiers and foot passengers.
Ratchford said he and his staff put much consideration into what type of accommodation should be the first built within the resort. One of the top priorities, he said, was to find something that could fill rooms midweek and during the shoulder seasons and that “wouldn’t just sit empty 80% of the year.”
Club Med, which typically books guests for a week at a time, checked that box, he said. Resort owners also liked the fact that it caters to families and will provide the “high touch,” as Ratchford called it, on which Snowbasin prides itself. Because Club Med guests typically take shuttles to resorts and rarely leave the site during their stay, they are not expected to contribute to traffic congestion either.
Eileen Kett, the senior vice president of development for Club Med, said Snowbasin interested the hotelier more than other Utah ski areas because Club Med “is a pioneer.” She noted it was the first resort established in Cancun, Mexico, and on the islands of Turks and Caicos, among other vacation spots. It operates 24 other mountain resorts.
“We love to create destinations,” Kett said. “Snowbasin has got a great reputation. It’s an amazing destination, but internationally nobody knows about it. So our brand, together with their incredible operations, is going to be able to help continue to build the sense of community and participation.”
Those wishing just to spend a day or two at the resort may be able to secure some of the additional base-area lodging included in the Village Master Plan. Scheduled to break ground in 2025, that plan will also allow space for restaurants and shops.
On the mountain itself, the beginner area will be expanding. The Ridgeline Beginner Area will encompass the terrain near where the new Squirrel run was built, to skier’s right of Littlecat, and will eventually include new lifts.
To make up for the upcoming loss of the Wildcat parking lot, Snowbasin this year installed 435 spaces in the Maples and Canyon Rim Parking areas.
Ratchford said planning for the development has been in the works for years and had nothing to do with the COVID-enabled boom Snowbasin and other Utah resorts experienced last season. It has actually taken quite a bit of time, he said, to get the ski area to a place where an expansion like this would work.
He also squashed any suspicion that Snowbasin’s owners are building up the resort to make it more attractive to larger ski companies, such as Vail Resorts,
“You don’t do what we’re doing and all of a sudden say, ‘Well, here. We just spent lots of money, but here you go.’ That’s not how it works,” Ratchford said.
“But I can say,” he added, “our plan is to be the best operator of the resort we can be and do amazing things for the community.”
More information on the planned development can be found at snowbasin.com.