Gav Martell: He’s in the Kitchen


Great Skiing, Great Price: Ogden, Utah

A belly-bursting ski trip that won't break the bank

While often overlooked due to its shiny nearby neighbour Park City, Ogden Utah is a hidden gem tucked in just north of Salt Lake City. It is a ski destination that manages to combine good skiing and great food, while remaining at an affordable price point. Over the last few decades North American skiing has become an expensive past-time. In an effort to woo tourists, ski resorts across North America have been building bigger and more impressive resorts. Luxury hotels, giant lodges, massive chain restaurants and bars have been popping up at the base of mountains turning them into all-inclusive mega-destinations comparable to those you'd find at beach-front resorts. However, the cost of these architectural feats has lead to a steady increase in lodging, dining and lift ticket prices. Thus making ski or snowboard trips an expensive choice. Not so in Ogden where quality ski tourism remains affordable, rivaling larger competing locations in its own charming way.
Ogden is at its essence a ski town with a variety of ski resorts within striking distance. Hotel prices remain incredibly low despite a great nightlife and a restaurant scene that spreads out for a few quaint blocks along 25th Street in front of historic Union Station. The train station is a museum today but harkens back to an era long ago. Nearly 100 years ago Ogden was a required stop on any train trip across the United States and was built up as the "Junction City" on land donated by Brigham Young. This lead to a quick booming growth of infrastructure — transforming Ogden from an agricultural town to a bustling city. Today, locals are quick to inform you of the famous (and infamous) celebrities and dignitaries who passed through Ogden in times past. The current day strip of store owners that line 25th Street all proudly tell of Ogden's wild past which included a red light district often frequented by military personnel: A required stop of debauchery for many soldiers shipping off to fight in the First & Second World War. 
Today the store fronts are occupied by a healthy abundance of quality eateries, bars and stores that seem to defy the 85,000 person population of Ogden. Italian eateries, craft burger joints and artisanal food shops are aplenty. Prices are modest but menus do not disappoint. Such is the case at Tona Sushi Bar & Grill where husband and wife Tony Chen and Tina Yu are churning out modern, unique sushi creations. Every dish perfectly balanced with a celebration of international flavour. Local cooked fish and traditional raw sushi dishes are superbly presented. The quality of selection and modern sushi menu has one quickly forgetting that you're in the middle of Utah. 
With no shortage of additional food stops such as The Pie (winner of Utah's greatest slice of pizza for more years than I care to count) and Rooster's Restaurant & Brewing Company (go for a pint of Polygamy Pale Ale - try one and you'll want another, and another, and another.) it would be easy to forget the reason you came to Ogden in the first place — the skiing. Within 30-45 minutes from Ogden sit a dynamic duo of ski resorts: Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. The two are completely complimentary to one another offering different experiences that give visitors a wonderful choice of variety in skiing.
While modest in the size of its rustic lodge base Snowbasin has great skiing for all levels. A 3,000 foot vertical ascension leads to groomed trails ranging from expert runs (used during the 2002 Winter Olympics) to more gentle slopes. There is no shortage of selection once one traverses up the mountain in the high speed, covered main gondola. For foodies options are not vast but some great choices exist such as John Paul's Lodge, a mere 9,000 feet above sea level. Not to be missed: The John Paul 'Mondo' burger — a fresh ground beef patty topped with Italian sausage, peppers, onions, mozzarella and red sauce. Occasionally celebrations are also scheduled for the main lodge at the foot of the mountain such as the recent Brewmaster's Dinner. Six courses of culinary excellence intimately paired with beer selections from Utah's Uinta Brewing Company. Similar events celebrating food paired with wine and tequila take place throughout the year.
Just north of Snowbasin lies Powder Mountain. An entirely different experience to the former. What it lacks in height it makes up for in open majestic run after run. 7,000 acres of pristine terrain (the largest in the United States) Powder Mountain is ideal for those looking to break free of traditional groomed trail skiing. Peak after peak of entirely open skiing and snow boarding calls to visitors and locals alike. With few areas marked as "off limits" the sky is literally the limit at Powder Mountain. Whether you want to experience cat skiing, back country skiing, or groomed trails - Powder Mountain has got you covered. Taking the 15 minute ride up a mountain in a snowcat to experience virgin, ungroomed skiing is truly something incredible. The vast openness can be overwhelming and thus the resort offers free daily guided tours to help you acclimatize. It's a local treasure and the laid back employees are almost all from Ogden and excited to share it with anyone who comes to experience Powder Mountain's glory. The low lift prices are partially felt in the modest dining options but skiers have their choice of two food lodges. The first includes Peruvian style tacos and burritos while the main lodge houses The Powder Keg. The menu here includes a large selection of local beers on tap, grill food and live music most days as the skiing winds down.
With great skiing that can go head-to-head with some of the best North American resorts and a plethora of dining options along 25th Street to keep foodies buzzing meal after meal, Ogden is truly a hidden secret that does not come at exorbitant prices. With more expensive options down the road in Park City the ski town has managed to keep a low profile and thus uncluttered ski trails.
For those looking for a great ski or snowboarding vacation that will not break the bank it is a destination that's just too good to pass up!