Big Fun on Smaller, Less Expensive, Utah Mountains
By Jack Dunphy
The size of a mountain is in the eyes of the beholder. I flew to Salt Lake City from Boston for Utah spring skiing. “Majestic” sprang to mind as I gazed at the enormous snow-capped mountains outside Salt Lake City.
I planned to ski two of Utah’s 14 ski areas–Beaver Mountain and Cherry Peak Resort both not far from Logan. They were plenty big enough for me. And size is relative. For kids, small mountains look huge.
Right off let me say what is great about these two ski resorts: Family Friendly. Children learning to ski or snowboard find both mountains manageable, friendly, and appropriately challenging.
As I walked into the comfortable lodge at Cherry Peak a man about my age was sitting in a chair outside gazing up at the mountain view. I asked, “You’re not skiing today?”
He said “No, I’m watching after my grandchildren. They love this mountain.”
I asked how many grandchildren. He said, “oh only eight.” Welcome to Mormon Utah.
At Beaver Mountain, I spoke with the general manager Travis Seeholzer who took a break from driving the snow cat to speak to me. The mountain was started by his grandparents in 1939.
He said, “We definitely are a family place. That’s what Beaver Mountain is founded on.
One thing we have here is if you lose track of your kids at Beaver somebody will take care, and that’s the kind of vibe we like to have and the culture we have.”
Kids on the M0untain
And what do the kids have to say? At the end of the day as I turned in my skis at the Beaver rental shop I asked a young guy, Mika, how he enjoyed skiing that day. “I had a blast!” And his father, Henry Aaron, told me he and the rest of his family were all coming back to do it again tomorrow.
Henry also told me it was affordable for him compared to Park City and others. Another family-friendly feature. From the $60 lift tickets to the $25 rentals, everything here is simpler and cheaper.
Let’s compare the two ski areas I visited for spring skiing in March 2023: Beaver Mountain is owned by the same family for 85 years making it the oldest continually operating ski area in the country. Cherry Peak is the newest ski area in the country!
The drive to Beaver Mountain, 27 miles east of Logan, is an adventure in itself. Sweeping views of distant mountain peaks around every winding turn delight the eyes- when I could see over the eight-foot snowbanks.
I’ve never seen so much snow, and neither had the two resort’s owners who have been very happy this year not having to make as much snow.
The ski lodge warmly welcomed me in for our day of adventure. Tabby and Kathy fitted me with skis and goggles. My friend Max Hartshorne, GoNOMAD Editor, joined me for our exploration of Beaver Mountain. Now let’s ski!
Harry’s Dream chairlift zipped us to the 8860-foot summit. We appreciated the lift attendant who swept the new-fallen snow off the ski lift chairs before we climbed aboard– no wet pants seats on us.
As we headed down Gentle Ben Trail something was very different compared to my many years of skiing in the East. Powder, powder, powder! I could not see my skis as they were buried in fresh snow. It felt almost like I was ice skating.
A Mexican Salad
We worked up an appetite while enjoying many of the 50 trails during our morning runs. Time for lunch. I ate lunch at many different ski areas all without a “ wow that was a good moment.”
Here I ordered a Mexican salad. The chef Eder Figueroa put together all fresh ingredients something especially scrumptious.
“Where did you learn to make such a tasty Mexican salad?” I asked. “ I grew up in Mexico City, that should give you a clue,” he said. Indeed.
Travis Seeholzer, the Beaver Mountain owner (he calls himself General Manager) joined us for lunch and shared with us the ins and outs of running the Beaver Mountain ski area. If you operate a ski area you want snow.
At Beaver, the base elevation is at a high of 7200 feet. It’s a good bet when it rains in Salt Lake City in the winter snow is falling on Beaver.
Travis said “This year 2022 to 2023 has been fantastic – 400 inches of snow. Do the math.” I did. That is over 33 feet! “It snowed for 25 days,” Travis said.
“What is so awesome about Utah, the snow quality is really good, and” Travis pointed out, “we do not make any snow. The natural snow quality is way better.” It sounds to me like there is no need to make snow there.
I especially liked that Beaver Mountain offers two parks. The Gentle Ben Park with a top elevation of 8860 feet presents skiers with plenty of beginner and intermediate trails.
The Rodeo Grounds Park, serviced by a separate chairlift named Marge’s Triple encourages the more advanced skiers onto that separate section.
With this intelligent trail design experts and beginning skiers tend to be in separate sections, or parks, on the mountain.
So beginning skiers are less likely to freak out as an expert zips past at breakneck speed- as happens at other ski areas — since the experts have their own chairlifts and trails away from the slower skiers. Smart!
What Else is Special at Beaver?
“What else about Beaver Mountain is new and special,” I asked. “We’re starting a large construction project this summer (2023): A new rental shop, ticket office, skier services, café, ski school. It will be about 25,000 square feet,” he said.
And how is the business coming off covid? I asked. “ We have essentially doubled in size in the last six years, and we’re feeling some growing pains, and that’s where these new facilities are coming in.”
It sounds like Travis and his team are doing a lot of things right. His grandparents would be proud.
Many ski areas continue in the summer offering other activities. Beaver Mountain joins that model:
Camping: “We have a large campground here, “Travis said. “I think we have 84 sites total between tent camping and different RV camping.”
Weddings: “We had 13 weddings last summer.”
Mountain biking: “We offer a cross-country mountain bike trail here that’s about 6 miles long. That’s basically a community trail. It is free, we don’t charge for it.
We don’t operate the chairlift for the bikes.” He said down the road they may use the chairlift but for now you pedal or use your E-bike.
Disk golf: Yup that too – also free.
Base lodge: The whole lodge can be rented for your gatherings.
Indy Pass: All ski areas offer a season pass. Beaver Mountain is part of the Indy Pass system. Travis said, “As an Indy Pass customer you get two free days at every resort on the pass, which is now over 120+ resorts and it is under $400 so if you use it it is an absolute no-brainer.
They are adding more resorts all the time. The East Coast is huge, midwest, mid-Atlantic. I mean, it’s all across the country.
“In Utah Powder Mountain and Eagle Point Resort (in Beaver, UT) are part of the Indy Pass as are three ski areas in Idaho. We were one of the first resorts to join Indy,” Travis said.
Beaver Mountain Details:
Night skiing is offered but mostly for private groups and on selected trails about 1/4 the mountain
Top elevation 8860 feet. 1,660-foot drop.
48 trails on 984 acres.
3 triple-person chair lifts 1 double lift. 5 lifts total.
A restroom located on a busy ski trail part way up the mountain. How convenient!
27 miles east of Logan Utah. 107 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Snow sports school: Private and group lessons are offered in skiing and snowboarding. The snow sports school is a member of PSIA and AASI.
Skis, snowboards, and even snow bikes are allowed. No tubing or sledding.
Open: 9 am to 4 pm December to April
All-day adult: $70, senior (70+) $55, Junior (11 and younger) $55.
Cherry Peak Resort, The Newest Ski Resort in the United States
The next day we skied Cherry Peak Resort, a 15-minute drive east of Logan. Cherry Peak opened in 2015 and boasts itself as the newest ski area in the US.
immediately noticed the ski conditions were very different. Cherry Peak is at a lower elevation with its base at 5775 feet above sea level. It has a vertical drop of 1265 feet compared to Beavers at 1660 feet and at about 400 acres it is less than 1/2 Beaver’s size.
The higher elevation gave Beavers’ slopes all that powder; the trails at Cherry Peak were packed and well-groomed. It’s a whole different type of skiing. Packed powder I found it easier to turn in and generally easier to navigate.
Newest Resort in the U.S.
For the newest resort in the country, much is offered: three triple chair lifts, night skiing, a five-lane tubing hill, and even ice skating.
The summit lift took us up to the 1265-foot vertical top. The sweeping view of distant mountain peaks from the summit is breathtaking. You must see it for yourself!
Operations Director for Cherry Peak Resorts, Dustin Hansen, shared with us the history and future plans for the resort.
“How is it going opening up a ski resort and running into covid? Must be tough?“ I asked. Dustin said, “No, covid made us all better. And this is our eighth season.
Our season pass sales are up over 40% this year. Our skier visits are right around 30% up… but we have to give a lot of credit to the snow.
Cherry Peak Details
Ice skating, 29 ski runs, Nordic ski trails
Tubing is available on their Magic Carpet run.
No mountain biking yet.
They close out the season in April with a big party. Their 100-foot pond attracts the diehards and risk-takers brave enough to ski (or skim) across the pond.
Many of their concerts in the summer typically attract 3,500+ per show. Busses ferry up music lovers from the convenient 1300 parking stall 3 miles away.
Cherry Peak owns the ski area land with over 400 acres. Most Utah ski areas (including Beaver) rent their land from the Forest Service.
27 weddings are booked so far in the 2023 summer.
Wi-Fi covers the whole mountain
Fireworks exhibitions delight viewers numerous times over the summer. Check their website for dates.
Costs: Youth day (12 and under) $38; nite $21 Adult $48; nite $25
The lodge is available for rental to group parties throughout the year.
It’s crazy I’m at 363 inches. We have snow! “Dustin further said, “We have 100% snowmaking on the mountain.
We were full steam ahead with snowmaking in November, which gave us a three-week head start this year.” And he added, “Every trail here is lit for night skiing. Our night skiing is the best in the state.”
Allied Season Pass System
“And Cherry Peak offers a season pass?” I asked. Dustin said, “We are affiliated with the Allied Season Pass system. Allied is like a 50% discount.
These passes are really becoming the future of skiing. I mean if you ski more than a couple of times a season the pass is so worth it. “The Allied ski pass allows the holder ski privileges at 30+ resorts.
And what is neat is it is valid for a year from whatever time you purchase it. Dustin explained, “We call it an annual pass, not a season pass so that’s what makes us a little different.
There’s never a bad time to buy. You can buy it in January it goes to next January. You could buy it in February it’s good for next February.
I told Dustin we skied Beaver Mountain yesterday and talked with GM Travis. “With the two mountains being close to each other is there a bit of a contentious rivalry?” I asked.
Dustin said, “I’ve known Travis since I was a young kid. We’ve skied, we’ve done everything. I went up and skied together with him a couple of weeks ago.
I talked to him yesterday.” Isn’t that the best of business: competitors but friends and part of a small club to boost each other? Good sportsmanship!”
We live in a beautiful place and we have the opportunity to ski at two beautiful resorts,” Dustin said.
Dining in Logan Utah
We were impressed with the local favorite La Nonne for tasty Italian food in a converted home.
We also enjoyed more exotic fare at Kabuki the Japanese steak house in Logan.
The author’s trip was sponsored by SkiUtah but the opinions are his own.