Parleys Summit • Back when Tucker Norred was a pro snowboarder — less than a decade ago — he had to pay a high price for trying new tricks. A soft landing wasn’t easy to come by.
“Internationally there were a few airbags,” he said, “but it was really hard to get access to those.”
Not so anymore. Norred has landed as the senior marketing manager for Woodward, a 50-year-old company that specializes in making action sports accessible to the masses. Its flagship center, Woodward Park City, is set to open in December just over the top of Parley’s Summit. The former Gorgoza Park tubing hill will be combined with a 66,000-foot building that will offer indoor and outdoor facilities for skateboarding, biking, cheer and parkour as well as skiing, snowboarding and, of course, tubing.
Officially Utah’s 15th ski and snowboard park, Woodward Park City’s construction marks the biggest of a slew of improvements the state’s resorts have implemented in preparation for the 2019-20 ski season. From new lifts at Park City Mountain Resort and Brian Head to reimagined terrain at Brighton and Snowbasin, the changes are directed at encouraging patrons enjoy themselves more this winter.
“The resorts are kind of in this maturing phase where they are kind of the size they are going to be and are focused on fine-tuning the guest experience,” said Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, the nonprofit charged with promoting the state’s ski and snowboard industry. “These are literally some of the best resorts in the world. They need to offer the facilities and experiences and equipment that come along with that. That’s really where they’re headed.”
Some of the smallest resorts are seeing the biggest changes.
Brian Head, located near Cedar City, announced Tuesday it will be acquired by Mountain Capital Partners, making it the company’s eighth resort and second in Utah, alongside Nordic Valley Ski Resort. Brian Head was already in the midst of a $6 million renovation, which will be most evident in its installation of a high-speed quad that will replace a triple chairlift up Navajo Mountain and in its relocation and expansion of its tubing park. MCP had proposed even more grandiose plans for Nordic Valley, which it acquired in 2018, including the addition of 12 lifts and increasing its skiable acreage by nearly 2,500%. It withdrew its proposal to the U.S. Forest Service in March without explanation.
“To be working with someone who shares a passion for ski and outdoor lifestyle that all of us at Brian Head Resort do is pretty amazing,” resort spokesman Mark Wilder said. “We’re pretty lucky to have a partner like that.”
One bane of any ski trip is trying to dig out that season pass at the base of a chairlift or getting stuck in line behind someone the lift gate is having trouble scanning. Deer Valley Resort hopes to eliminate that hassle with the installation of RFID-chipped gates and scanners, allowing people to move up its mountain a little faster
Park City, meanwhile, will literally move people with its new Over and Out Lift. The lift will help get people from the bottom of its Tombstone Lift in the middle of the mountain to the top of its Sunrise Lift close to Canyons Village. Before making the jump, patrons can stop by Tombstone BBQ, which will ditch its food truck and take up new digs at the bottom of the lift that bears its name.
Two resorts will celebrate significant anniversaries this season. Eagle Point, near Beaver, will ring in its 10th year with expanded terrain park features and resort-wide wifi. New ski-in, ski-out lodging is also on tap. Meanwhile, it has been 50 years since Robert Redford opened Sundance. The actor apparently feels the resort is pretty well dialed in, as no major changes are in store.
Snowbird, Alta and Beaver Mountain didn’t make many major changes either. Snowbird added the 1970s-themed SeventyOne restaurant at the Cliff Lodge, and Alta put in a secondary ski and rental shop at the Albion Base Area. Beaver Mountain’s lone move was to become part of the Indy Pass, joining the growing trend toward multi-resort passes. Beaver Mountain is the lone Utah resort on that pass.
“We’re not the biggest, but we get same Utah snow everybody does,” Travis Seeholzer, mountain operations manager at the Logan Canyon ski hill, said.
Speaking of snow, last year Utah area resorts were swimming in it. A total of 711 inches fell on the ground, according to Ski Utah’s Rafferty. Several resorts are hedging their bets against that being the norm by installing additional snowmaking this season. Snowbasin has added more guns around Mt. Ogden Bowl so that it can get its John Paul lift running earlier in the season, while Deer Valley and Brighton also added snowmaking equipment.
No snow will be no problem at Woodward. With its indoor offerings, the center will be open 365 days a year and its ski hills will transition to mountain biking as soon as the white stuff disappears, Norred said.
The resort caters to anyone who wants to learn a skill or progress in a sport. So, while it welcomes beginners and “never-evers,” Norred said a steady stream of Olympians and X-Games-caliber athletes have been stopping by to scope out the project and lend their input.
Norred, 29, can’t wait to relive his own glory days on the center’s springy surfaces — without elevated risk of bruises and broken bones. Woodward’s slogan is “We Live This,” which basically gives Norred carte blanche. He soon should have plenty of trampolines and ramps to pop off of as well as gymnastics mats, a foam pit and, yes, an airbag to soften the blow if his imagination goes bigger than his body or physics allows.
“It’s 100 times better than the old huck and pray method,” he said.
Cost: $989 (adult)
Unlimited access to: Park City plus 36 resorts outside Utah
Limited access to: Snowbasin, Sun Valley (Idaho), Telluride (Colorado) (seven days each) and some resorts in Canada, Japan and Europe
Ski Utah Gold
Unlimited access to: Alta, Beaver Mountain, Brian Head, Brighton, Cherry Peak, Deer Valley, Eagle Point, Nordic Valley, Park City, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin, Solitude, Sundance and Woodward Park City
Limited access to: None
Note: Pass is fully transferable
Cost: $1,049 (adult)
Unlimited access to: Solitude Mountain Resort and 14 resorts outside Utah
Limited access to: Brighton, Deer Valley, Alta/Snowbird (seven days each)
Cost: $199 (adult)
Unlimited access to: None
Limited access to: Beaver Mountain plus 43 resorts outside Utah (two days each)
Cost: $509 (adult)
Unlimited access to: None
Limited access to: Alta, Snowbird and 16 other resorts (two days each)
Cost: $999 (adult)
Unlimited access to: Nordic Valley, Brian Head plus four resorts outside Utah
Limited access to: Arizona Snowbowl (Arizona) and Purgatory Resort (Colorado), three days each
Note: Kids 10 and under can get the pass for free
Cost: $649 (adult)
Unlimited access to: None
Limited access to: All Utah resorts (one day each)