Utah Olympic Park announces ski hill expansions, details funding
Colin Hilton, president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, announced Wednesday that the organization plans to expand the Utah Olympic Park’s skiing hills to create both an intermediate and a larger ski area, primarily for athlete training, over the next two years.
Hilton unveiled the plans before a group of Park City Ski and Snowboard parents and staff during the club’s season kickoff meeting at the Jim Santy Auditorium.
The plan has two phases. The first is to grow the “small hills” to the west of the large ski jumps into an intermediate skiing hill, with 11 acres of terrain that rises about 400 feet to the top of a planned fixed-grip lift, with 1,200 linear feet between the base and the top. The second would develop another ski area west of the bobsled course.
The foundation already has the lift equipment for phase 1 – Deer Valley’s old Homestake lift – which Hilton said is currently residing in the UOP’s parking lot. It was secured with the help from Bob Wheaton, who is president and chief operating officer of Deer Valley, and also sits on the Olympic Legacy Foundation’s board.
“We will put added lights, added snowmaking, improve snowmaking to essentially allow – when the temps allow – to make snow and get that open early,” Hilton said, adding that the infrastructure plans were influenced by needs from organizations like Park City Ski and Snowboard, Rowmark Ski Academy, and the University of Utah, all of which use the UOP’s facilities for winter sports training.
“A lot of stakeholders talked about the travel costs they (accrue) to get teams in November and December to places that have snow,” Hilton said. “If we put the right type of snowmaking equipment and get the right temps, we could probably blanket that area in a week’s time.”
Hilton said construction of the intermediate hill would involve moving a road that switchbacks through the area. He expects construction to begin next summer and to be completed by the 2019-2020 ski season.
If fundraising and construction on the intermediate hill go as planned, then the hill adjacent to the bobsled course would be developed into a 30-acre ski area, complete with another fixed-grip lift, 1,200 feet of elevation change, and 3,280 linear feet of ski run.
“That could provide … for up to about 10 lanes, but you could actually host a (giant slalom) competition for lesser competitions,” he said.
Hilton said there are already lights that illuminate part of the area, which would allow for night skiing on the yet-to-be-named hill.
“It’s currently just (called) the West Peak,” Hilton said. “Depending on our fundraising efforts, our joke right now is, maybe (to call it) Mt. Eccles.”
He said Spencer P. Eccles, whose family name is emblazoned on many recognizable buildings and initiatives in Utah and Washington, D.C., has been involved with the planning and fundraising.
Hilton said “Mt. Eccles” would tentatively open for the winter 2020/2021 season.
All told, the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation is seeking $11 million to fund the projects – $9 million for construction and $2 million for an endowment that Hilton said would defray the annual operating costs “to the tune of about $120,000 per year.”
He said the foundation itself would contribute $1.5 million, while Rowmark and PCSS would contribute $3 million each, and the University of Utah would add another $1 million.
Hilton said the organization would seek the rest of the funding through private donors with affiliations to the clubs and the Legacy Foundation.
“Through the fundraising efforts, we feel pretty good that we are going to secure the first $3 million of the 11 million campaign to be able to progress,” Hilton said in reference to the summer 2019 groundbreaking date for the intermediate hill. “That’s why the Homestake lift is in the parking lot.”
John Kanarowski, executive director of PCSS, said the expansions would be a “game changer” for the club.
Out of PCSS’s 713 athletes, alpine and moguls skiers account for as many as 370.