New alpine night training area at the Utah Olympic Park will open this winter
As the Park City area continues to grow, so do the opportunities for junior ski racers to train. The newest training grounds are under construction – and slated to open this winter – at the Utah Olympic Park.
Plans for an alpine training area at the Utah Olympic Park have been underway for years. The first phase, including a chairlift and smaller intermediate ski run not visible from the Snyderville Basin, was completed in 2019.
With the last of the needed funds finally raised, the UOP was able to start construction on the second phase, the more visible West Peak expansion, earlier this year. UOP Chief Operating Officer Calum Clark says it will open up a whole new training area.
“We have a 25 acres of skiing terrain, designed for alpine skiing and freestyle skiing,” Clark said. “It’s going to be serviced by a high speed quad chairlift. We have snowmaking and lights. The intent here is to really service the local youth in training and competition eventually, allow kids to be on the hill in a convenient location, to be able to ski under lights in a safe and productive way, so that they're able to go to school during the day and be able to train and refine their skills in the evening.”
Park City Ski and Snowboard Alpine Director Tommy Eckfeldt says it will be an incredible addition to the training space they have now at both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley resorts.
“It's going to really accommodate so many groups, from all of our junior programs to even the other stakeholders meaning Rowmark and the University of Utah,” Eckfeldt said. “It's going to really open up our ability to train flat to steep, with the added terrain features. They're talking about being able to build more terrain up on the flatter sections, so we can train our junior athletes up there. If you're any kind of avid skier, or you know, like skiing, it's just really cool to see the development of this kind on take shape and form and kind of come together.”
Because the ski run is cut wide, Eckfeldt says dozens of different levels of ski racers can train on the same hill at the same time, by using differently set courses with individual training lanes separated by fencing.
But many in the community, who weren’t aware of the ongoing plans, aren’t happy about the scars being cut in the hillside – and may be upset when the lights go on – and stay on between 4 and 9 p.m. this winter.
UOP CEO Colin Hilton says they hope to be good neighbors.
“It gets dark at 4:30,” Hilton said. “And the kids are in school till three, right. So, it has been for our intermediate hill for our bobsled track, the only way to have time for kids to get on the hill. So, the best thing we do is make sure the lights go off at a good hour. So around eight – 9 p.m. will be the cut off of the programs and that's how we manage that.”
These ski runs are not open to the public, which is why Ski Utah CEO Nathan Rafferty says the UOP isn’t counted as Utah’s 16th resort. But Hilton says the public may have limited access.
“I will put a little bit of a teaser out on this is that being a bit of a backcountry skier myself and liking to skin up and ski down before the hill, at least when the ski resorts get busy,” Hilton said, “we're looking at potentially doing a locals up-hill ski pass and have it be a part of a community local effort to allow folks that will be about maybe the only local option to do that before we get busy with the club trainings.”
The training hill could be open mid- to late December of this year. Hilton added that the venue is like a chameleon and can change to whatever the needs may be, including meeting Olympic standards. The area he says can be used for everything from snowboard PGS to alpine giant slalom and potentially even aerials and moguls.
It remains to be seen he says which Olympic events local resorts may host if the games return to Utah. Hilton says negotiations are wrapping up and a future Olympics venue plan will be finalized by September.