Air Force Plans New Ski Resort in Utah for Military Families

Troops and civilians from Hill Air Force Base took advantage of being stationed in Utah when they took to the slopes at Snowbasin Resort for the annual Team Hill Ski Day Feb. 12, 2016. Alex R. Lloyd/Air Force
Troops and civilians from Hill Air Force Base took advantage of being stationed in Utah when they took to the slopes at Snowbasin Resort for the annual Team Hill Ski Day Feb. 12, 2016. Alex R. Lloyd/Air Force

Construction on a new recreation lodge near Park City, Utah, operated in partnership with the Air Force could start within the next several years, officials with Hill Air Force Base, Utah, said today.

"This really, I think, will provide a world-class recreation experience for military members and their families," said David Williamsen, who leads the enhanced-use lease office at Hill Air Force Base. "It's something that I think will be a good thing for Utah and a good thing for the Air Force and the military."

The lodge, located near Deer Valley Resort, will be built primarily on Air Force land near Park City, but may not be owned by the service, officials said.

Instead, it would be operated by a contractor and constructed under a partnership with Utah's Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA). The resort would be about 60 miles from the base and offer both winter and summer recreation.

"The Air Force is really good at doing our mission, which is defending the nation," Williamsen said. "We recognize that we don't run resorts. We try to do a really good job with our Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities, but really recognize that if this is going to work, it needs to be done on a very professional basis."

Proposals on how to fund the property, what it will look like and exactly who it will serve are in the very early stages of development, Williamsen said, but one thing is certain -- no federal tax dollars will be used. Instead, the project likely will be funded by tax revenue collected from other MIDA projects and financing from whatever company wins the operation contract, officials said.

The new Utah resort will likely operate very differently from the military's other four recreation resorts, such as Shades of Green outside Disney World, Florida. Those properties, which are owned by the Army and operated by MWR employees, are open only to approved military users and their sponsored guests. In 2015, they generated $39.8 million in profit, Army officials said.

The Utah resort, on the other hand, will probably not be owned by the Air Force. Instead, it will likely be owned by MIDA or another entity, open to all users and offer a military discount on set-aside military rooms.

The resort project has been a long time coming, Williamsen said.

A small Air Force-owned rustic ski lodge in the area was permanently closed leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics so a nearby ski area could be expanded to accommodate the games.

Legislation was included in the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act giving the Air Force new land for a replacement location so long as no taxpayer funding was used for construction or operation.

After almost 14 years of trying to find the perfect location and a false start when other plans fell through in 2011, the new location decision could put to rest the planning stages of the project, Williamsen said.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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