Kathryn Watson and her husband, Matt, collect their skis outside the ski lodge at Wolf Mountain Ski resort. (Ryan Galbraith/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Deep snow...for shallow pockets
Wolf Mountain offers a quaint, friendly ski experience -
and Utah's least expensive lift tickets

By Tom Wharton
The Salt Lake Tribune

EDEN - Sounds of laughing children filled the cool night air on the slopes of Wolf Mountain.
   Utah's smallest and least expensive ski and snowboarding mountain, formerly Nordic Valley, played host to a different kind of crowd on this late December night than found at larger and more expensive resorts.
   Senior skiers, enjoying the $13 night skiing pass offered to those 55 and older, practiced turns on the small beginner hill off the short and slow Wolfdeedo Chair.
   Kids dressed in T-shirts and well-worn parkas snowboarded as fog lifted from Pine View Reservoir below to reveal small towns dotted with sparkling lights. A woman took pictures of kids with a video camera next to the newly restored barn day lodge not far from a blazing outdoor fire pit.

A skier pauses and looks up the hill while night skiing at Wolf Mountain Ski resort. (Ryan Galbraith/The Salt Lake Tribune)
   Can a resort with only two double lifts and a mere 1,000-foot vertical drop survive in a high-tech world of mega-ski destinations?
   Wolf Mountain's customers seem to feel it can.
   "I have a 10-year-old and a 4-year-old, and this is a great hill to teach them on," said Chad Stoddard, who recently moved from Idaho to Ogden. "This is so quaint and nice. We can bring the family up to board and ski."
   Thirteen-year-olds Jordan Grill and Braxton DeFriez of North Ogden liked the new lodge, small terrain park and the resort's proximity to home. DeFriez took advantage of the resort's $100 season pass and plans to return to Wolf Mountain again and again.
Skiers and snow-boarders outside the lodge at Wolf Mountain Ski resort where night skiing is popular. (Ryan Galbraith/The Salt Lake Tribune)

   If families priced out by bigger resorts are looking for a place where they can still afford to ski, this could be it. A family of four can buy a season pass for $400.
   Day tickets go for $20 for adults, $17 for military and seniors 55 and over and $15 for kids 12 and under. Drop that to $15 for adults and $10 for kids for a night pass (lights cover the entire resort). On Monday nights, four family members can ski for $20. On Thursday nights, students from kindergarten through high school can ski for $10 and the deal includes a slice of pizza.
   That makes Wolf Mountain easily Utah's lowest-priced ski area and perhaps one of the lowest in the United States. Consider that a single adult season pass at Deer Valley sells for $1,585,
and adult season passes at Alta cost $1,000.
   The resort, about an hour's drive from Salt Lake City, often experiences a lack of snow due to its elevation of 5,400 feet, Utah's lowest-elevation ski area.
   The new owners, who bought the old Nordic Valley last year, have tried to solve that with new snowmaking equipment to cover 55 of the resort's 85 acres. They changed the name to Wolf Mountain so it could be marketed with the Wolf Creek Resort vacation home and golf course owned in nearby Eden by the same company.
   Other improvements include new lighting, a "magic carpet" ride for beginners that resembles an airport people-mover belt, more beginner-friendly contours on the lower hill, and new paint nearly everywhere.
   The rental shop features all new skis and boards. Lights for night skiing - every run is lit - were replaced or improved.
   Most noticeable? Friendly and helpful staff, from the day lodge to the ticket windows to the hill. The lift operator, for example, slowed the beginner chair when novices were getting ready to get off to help them from falling.
   "The big thing is that we have tried to revitalize a little local mountain," said general manager Bill Cox, who thinks there is room in the ski industry for Wolf Mountain. "It seems to be playing out with the traffic we've had so far. Our lots have been full. There are no lift lines and we have a gentle, nonthreatening slope to learn on."
   The laughter coming from kids and adults all over Wolf Mountain seems to support the feeling.


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