Aug 08 2012

News: Ski FREE at Eagles Nest, UT


Located in Utah’s Tushar Mountains, Eagles Nest resort gives access to some awfully sweet terrain. The view from the top of Mt. Holly, back when it was called Elk Meadows.

When I first heard the term “free skiing” it was over a decade ago from the VP of marketing at Atomic, telling me free skiing was the term they would be using in the future to promote their brand. His manipulation of the English language was a classic example of contrived “marketing speak.” I thought he was a kook.

My reply was, “that’s what Couloir magazine is about, skiing for free.” He thought I was a kook for promoting skiing without chairlifts. In the meantime free skiing has become the popular term used to promote the rad, bad, and hip aspect of resort skiing. Witness the growth of Free Skiing competitions. And backcountry skiing has grown phenomenally since then.

Californians Ski Free at Eagles Nest, UT for 2012/13.

Which brings us to the present, when a little resort in southern Utah, Eagle Point, is making a push to restore the original meaning of the term free skiing that the average skier can understand in plain English. I’m not talking about backcountry skiing where you earn your turns by hiking up and therefore, ski for free. No, I’m talking about riding lifts up to ski down for free. For the coming season, everyone skis for free on Thursdays during January, and those from the most bankrupt state in the union, California, ski for free the entire season.

No, the new owners of Eagle Point do not have a soft spot in their heart for Californians, nor are they trying to promote backcountry skiing. They’re just a lot more transparent about how they make their money and realize that the profit isn’t in lift tickets, it’s in all the amenities surrounding the resort, most notably, the real estate accommodations.

Skiing off the backside of Mt. Holly, sidecountry from Elk…er, Eagles Nest resort.

In their words, they’re adopting a Las Vegas approach. “By owning or controlling all of the restaurants, services and rental properties around the resort and maintaining low overhead, we have the same advantage as the Vegas resorts. We can give lift access away for free yet still achieve a sufficient yield from our guests on food & beverage sales, rentals, instruction, retail or condo stays.” said Shane Gadbaw, CEO and co-owner of the resort. Skiing free will be their hook to raise awareness of their slice of skiing nirvana.

Is it any good? Actually, it is, especially if you’re inclined to mix in a bit of sidecountry with your lift riding. The lifts of Eagle Point access slopes below treeline off of Mt. Holly, located in Utah’s Tushar Mountains. There is some solid backcountry skiing off of Mt. Holly, and it is only a short 30-40 minute skin from the access gates off the Eagles Nest lift.

View Larger Map

Eagle Point is located 18 miles east of Beaver, Utah, approximately 3.5 hours drive from Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, or about two hours further than a drive to Mammoth Mountain. It may not have the terrain of Mammoth, but it won’t have the crowds either.

© 2012

  • Wyatt Hanks

    This resort – formerly known as Elk Meadows before it shut down for ten years, now resurrected as Eagle Point, but know as several names throughout its troubled history – has always suffered from a huge problem:  location.  As the resort furthest from a major populated place in Utah, it has struggled to get people to go there.  Everyone in northern Utah goes to the huge selection of much closer resorts in the Wasatch, and those in Vegas and St George will cut an hour off their trip by stopping short at the larger Brian Head.  And honestly they are not missing much.  Eagle Point suffers from a very odd and inconvenient layout requiring lots of traversing, use of shuttles, and, with the removal of a critical charlift, either hiking or a ride on a trailer pulled by a RZR to access many of the inbounds black diamond runs.  And overall the place is just really small with not a ton of great or varied terrain, yet doesn’t have any of the “quirk” or “charm” that many small resorts have.

    So, throughout its history they have been forced to run similar promotions:  $20 or $10 weekly lift ticket days, season tickets for honor roll students, insanely cheap season tickets  – anything to get people to drive the extra mile (or 70-200 miles) to go there.  I usually take advantage of one of the deals once or twice a year (when the place is in business), but have yet to sample the backcountry since the area has no avy reports and isn’t open during prime Tushar season – late spring.   That said, I’ve had some fun times skiing there and got my money’s worth tearing up some really good powder and since nobody goes there, I didn’t have to wait in any lines or suffer on skied out runs.  And of course as a hub for lift accessed backcountry skiing, it could be fantastic.  I hope to find out this winter – if they get any snow.

  • Telemangonz

    Why not give Vermnters a free pass?  I mean the lame pols are gonna do the same as California.