As the ski industry reaches ever deeper into your wallet, some are bucking the trend.
In a rare moment of journalistic intrepidness, I took a dive into the murky world of lift-ticket pricing this past fall. It’s a terrifying trip through a dark, foggy realm that obfuscates vision and tests resolve. While I emerged from my plunge physically unscathed, I forever will carry the emotional burden from the journey. I won’t say which resort’s lift-ticket webpage I braved—let’s just say it rhymes with Schmark Schmity—but I can tell you the evils it held are not unique.
It offers no standard lift-ticket pricing, only a “search for available tickets” link—like when you purchase an airline seat on Kayak. The prices, you see, are so unspeakably high—breaking the three-digit barrier—that the resort marketers hide them from immediate view and even inflate them during peak season to wring every last penny from your pocket. God help you if you show up to the ticket window, day of, without having pre-qualified for a bank loan.
Meanwhile, securing new gear often requires the exchange of a working kidney.
“Show me a hero!” the masses exclaim. And the saviors of the Beehive State have risen to bring skiing back to the people.
The Old Guard:
Southern Utah conjures images of blazing red rock towers, endless mesas and slithering slot canyons, but just beyond the town of Parowan, Brian Head Resort has been serving up heaping piles of the Greatest Snow on Earth since 1964. With a summit elevation of more than 11,000 feet and nearly 2,000 feet of vertical drop, Brian Head feels a whole lot more alpine than barren desert. Even so, the resort abuts the Dixie National Forest, home of Cedar Breaks National Monument, so you’ll get views from the slopes of fiery rock formations.
The resort may not be new, but a lot of what’s going on there is. Topping the list is the new Giant Steps Express, a high-speed detachable quad chair that will zip you to the top, as well as a renovated lodge and restaurant. But Brian Head hasn’t lost its intimate charm. Lift tickets for adults cost just $65, and every Saturday the resort’s owner John Grissinger cooks up his famous Kansas City barbecue, and serves famished skiers at the Last Chair Saloon.
You might not have heard much about the Tushar Mountains, but the range is Utah’s third highest (Uintas, first; La Sals, second), topping out above the mighty Wasatch at 12,174 feet. Tucked in the shadows of those peaks east of Beaver is Eagle Point Resort. Formerly known as Mt. Holly and then Elk Mountain, the resort didn’t operate from 2002 until 2009, when new owners resurrected it.
Skiing at the new Eagle Point is like stepping back into an idyllic childhood memory of skiing. You won’t find any lift lines, just untouched snow. You can join a Peak Performance adult specialty workshop for one hour each Saturday for $35. Just $35 for a lesson with tips on shredding moguls, floating through powder or carving better turns? That’s unheard of these days. Almost all of the lodging is ski-in, ski-out, but it certainly isn’t priced that way—you can buy one of the places for $100,000, which is what a week’s rental costs at many ski resorts. And once you’re tuckered out from skiing all those fresh lines, you can stop by the new Mystery Machine, a food truck, or more accurately food snow cat, that rolls to convenient locations around the mountain, serving up good eats and local craft beers on tap. Did I mention adult lift tickets start at just $40?
The New Hope:
North of Salt Lake, Beaver Mountain has been an old standby for years, but a new resort on that scene, Cherry Peak, is delivering outstanding skiing just 20 minutes from Logan. After years of planning and development by CEO John Chadwick, including a legal battle with some local residents who wanted to keep the area open for backcountry skiing, Cherry Peak opened for the 2014-15 season, and skiers are loving what they’re finding.
Cherry Peak is another resort with the small-mountain charisma of a bygone era. The stats: three triple chairs, 322 inches of annual snowfall, 1,265 feet of vertical, night skiing ($25) and impressive snow-making capabilities if the skies don’t cooperate. Cherry Peak also has snow-tubing for those who prefer their fun without planks. What you won’t find are lift lines, corporate conglomerate superstructures at the base or tracked-out snow. Got $42 burning a hole in your pocket? That’s what an adult lift ticket costs, so cruise up Route 91 and hop out when you hit Cherry Peak.
Look Swank but Don’t Break the Bank
Selling ski outerwear is a racket. The margins are absurd, and most of your prestigious brands are produced in one of a handful of factories overseas. Staying warm and dry is important on the slopes and good products are worth the investment—it shouldn’t be equal to buying a powerboat.
2nd Tracks is the first place any skier or snowboarder should look when getting gear, especially outerwear. They have a huge selection of lightly used gear sold on consignment, as well as a massive inventory of new outerwear, goggles, gloves, etc.—usually last season’s overstock—at shockingly low prices. As long as you aren’t worried about your outfit’s color palette being perfectly on-trend, you can get an entirely new wardrobe for the cost of just a new jacket from your favorite online retailer.
2729 E. 3300 South, SLC, 2ndtracks.com
Note: 2nd Tracks inventory is ever changing.
written by: Tony Gill