A local getaway option that provides both world-class skiing and affordable stays for groups of friends is Ogden Valley. The picturesque mountain valley containing the towns of Eden, Huntsville and Liberty as well as Pine View Reservoir, has white stuff so good that Snowbasin (Huntsville, 888-437-5488, Snowbasin.com) was the site for skiing events in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Yet the area has still been able to fly low enough under the radar that it hasn’t yet become overrun with tourists and the insane Park City prices that always seem to accompany them. It’s still just undiscovered enough to be fun but not outrageously expensive.n
In terms of the slopes, Ogden Valley offers the trifecta of Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Wolf Mountain. As mentioned above, Snowbasin hosted the Alpine events in the 2002 Olympics and continues on in the racing spirit by offering NASTAR racing, a nationwide ski program that in a way attempts to do for skiers what the handicapping system did for golfers. In addition to steep slopes, Snowbasin also offers terrain parks, tubing and Nordic skiing.n
Powder Mountain (Eden, 801-745-3772, PowderMountain.com) has seven different lifts that can take skiers and boarders up to many different runs and destinations on the mountain, including the Hidden Lake Lodge at 8,900 feet. Tours using everything from shuttles to snowcats to helicopters can deliver visitors to areas that provide acre upon acre of pristine powder.
For those who enjoy skiing under the lights, Wolf Mountain (Eden, 801-745-3511, WolfMountainEden.com) is lit until 9 p.m. every night with passes going for a mere $20. The bulk of the runs cater to beginning and intermediate skiers, but the Howling Wolf double chair goes up to several black-diamond runs on the mountain. Snowboarders have access to a 20-acre terrain park with over 25 rails and fun boxes, a series of jump lines, log rides and urban features.n
Beyond skiing, a variety of other winter activities are available, including guided activities that can be booked through Wolf Creek Adventures (Eden, 801-745-2000, WolfCreekResort.com/adventures). Everything from ice fishing to sleigh rides to geocaching on snowshoes to snowmobiling to heliskiing to—believe it or not—hot-air ballon rides. The Ogden Valley is host to a major balloon festival in the summer, but balloon rides that offer 360-degree views of the serene valley and Pine View Reservoir also can be arranged during the winter.n
While the skiing and winter adventures rival what can be found in other major resort areas, what’s tough to beat is the affordability of lodging and entertainment options for a group of friends getting together for a ski weekend. The main source of accommodations in the area is Wolf Creek Resort (877-492-1061, WolfCreekUtah.com), which offers everything from single-room hotel dwellings to homes with all of the amenities. The condominium complexes feature set-ups to accommodate a couple of couples up to a larger group of ski enthusiasts. Wolf Creek has a liquor store on site as well as a restaurant that offers a skiers buffet on Saturday and Sunday mornings.n
As for the nightlife, Ogden Valley is admittedly not Park City. But who’s thinking of that when sitting in his or her own hot tub because they were able to rent an entire house without busting the budget? For those who do venture out, head over to Harley and Buck’s Grill (5510 E. 2200 North, Eden, 801-745-2060, HarleyAndBucks.com) for barbecue or enjoy the views of the valley from The Rusty Cactus restaurant (801-745-3737, ValleyLodging.com/dining.html). Another option is heading over the mountain pass to the city of Ogden to find clubs and bars, particularly in the downtown area of 25th Street.n
One reason Utah winters are more easily endured is due to the ease of access to great winter activities in nearby mountains. Local skiers, boarders, cross-country skiers, ice-fishers, snowmobilers and snow lovers in general, can not only get away from it all, but find themselves in a picturesque setting, simply by driving an hour to the north. tttt