The History of Eagle Point Resort
Claim to Fame: Home of the ‘Powder Friday’!
Eagle Point Resort is closed Tuesday through Thursday, so you have a fairly good shot of enjoying crisp and fresh powder snow at this high elevation resort every Friday!
Unique Character: Eagle Point graces the flanks of the Tushar Mountain Range, the third highest mountain range in Utah after the Uinta and La Sal ranges. As such, it scores incredibly dry, high-quality powder snow.
Eagle Point is divided into two fairly distinct areas. The upper half of the resort (accessible via the Skyline Lodge) contains mellow groomers, the terrain park and lovely gladed runs between aspen groves, all framed by the gorgeous view of Mt. Holly looming above. The lower half of the mountain can be accessed via the Eagle Point Canyonside Lodge and contains steep and deep north facing shots. You’ll want to head here first on a powder day before milking mellower stashes up higher in the afternoon.
What’s in a Name: Eagle Point
Regarding the local Indigenous populations, it is thought that the local word for the mountain range was once “T’shar” meaning white mountain as the high peaks were frequently covered in snow. When Anglicized, “T’shar” became “Tushar,” and we call them the Tushar Mountains to this day. Historians believe that an ancient tribe of Indigenous persons called the Tushari may have inhabited the foothills of the mountains.
Before it became Eagle Point, the property sat dormant for eight years as the defunct Elk Meadows resort. On an early visit to the premises when its sale was in the works, current owner Shane Gadbaw spied an eagle as he was departing. He took this as a sign that moving forward with the purchase was a good move, and the resort was renamed Eagle Point.
Archeological findings demonstrate Indigenous populations inhabited the area around Beaver, Utah for thousands of years. The Mineral Mountain range to the east even contains a prehistoric obsidian quarry. It was the Southern Paiute people that inhabited the region before European contact. Spaniards from the Dominquez-Escalante Expedition first arrived in 1776, and Beaver was subsequently settled by Mormon pioneers in 1856.
The Tushar Mountain range rears up in stark relief from the dry plains below. A sparkling cloak of white snow coats the tops of this small but mighty range in Central Utah. Back in the 1970’s, Conrad and Amy Koning eyed the flanks of Mount Holly, knowing that these slopes would make excellent powder skiing terrain. The couple negotiated with the state of Utah to lease the state-owned land surrounding Mount Holly’s southern scarps. Mt. Holly Ski Area opened in 1972 with a double chair and a T-bar. The following winter in 1973, a small hotel (now the Stonewood Condominiums) was opened for travelers. This is the lower section of today’s Eagle Point resort.
A few seasons later in 1985, the Elk Meadows Ski & Summer Resort was developed and opened on the slopes adjacent to and directly above Mt. Holly resort. This separate ski area operated independently and featured a triple chair, a double chair, and a platter lift by Poma. The two ski areas soon connected their marketing efforts, and a shuttle service was offered to whisk guests between the two areas. Elk Meadows guests had the option to ski down to Mt. Holly via the tunnel beneath Highway 153, which guests can still enjoy today. The resorts primarily marketed to skiers from Southern Utah, Nevada and California.
By 1994, the two resorts were merged into one entity, Elk Meadows, under the ownership of a Canadian, Henry Jung. Jung concentrated on adding more lodging, and by the end of 1994, the resort offered 320 beds for visitors. Financial troubles beleaguered Jung, and he filed for bankruptcy protection and ultimately sold his resort in 1997 to a business entity in Portland, Oregon called Schmitt Industries, owned by Wayne Case.
Highs & Lows
Upon purchase, Case and his corporation undertook the effort to make immediate upgrades. The Lake View quad chair (now the Lookout Chair) was added, and a double chair replaced Mount Holly’s T-bar (now the Canyonside Chair). Seating capacity was expanded at the West Village Lodge to accommodate more diners. Case had big dreams, gunning for a major expansion in the late 90s that included a golf course. However, the decision to rapidly expand the resort was unwise, and he faced crippling debts. Over $15 million had been spent on upgrades by the year 2000. The ski area operated as Elk Meadows for one final season in 2001-2002 before shuttering, having run out of money to continue operating.
Case sold the resort to a group that later restructured into Mount Holly Partners LLC. Inspired by Montana’s Yellowstone Club, this group formulated ambitious plans for a private ski and golf club with million-dollar lodging, trophy homes and a signature Jack Nicklaus golf course. Lending was easy to come by in these halcyon days, and Mount Holly Partners embarked on a frenzied bender of land acquisition around neighboring Puffer Lake. Their master plan envisioned a staggering $3 billion dollar build out. The economic crash of 2008 proved too much for the Mount Holly Partner’s grandiose plans. Saddled with enormous debt and with the neglected resort infrastructure badly in need of repair, Mount Holly Partners voluntarily filed for bankruptcy on July 9, 2009 with plans to sell the resort.
A New Era & A Fresh Start
The tumultuous history of Elk Meadows would soon take a dramatic turn. Bankruptcy proceedings involving the doomed Mount Holly Partners LLC resulted in an online bankruptcy auction of the resort, which had tragically been shut for a total of eight years. A group of owners, including Shane Gadbaw, acquired the resort and quickly got to work repairing the deteriorating lift infrastructure and clearing out overgrowth. Extensive renovations on the disused lodges and buildings were also essential.
The resort reopened anew in December of 2010, and Ski Utah was there! Shane and his family pride themselves on a hands-on approach to welcoming their guests, while striving to provide an intimate and family-friendly atmosphere. The new ownership remains committed to providing low-cost lift tickets to make skiing and snowboarding accessible for the local community, alongside sustainable, responsible development. Their aim is to preserve the independent spirit of this unique mountain and its inspiring natural setting.
Since 2009 Eagle Point has seen a remodel and update to the Canyonside Lodge, the construction of the Lookout Warming Cabin and the creation of the Aspen Crest home sites.
Flying to the Future
Eagle Point aims to remain a distinct destination while avoiding the look and feel of mega-resorts. A number of capital improvements to enhance the guest experience include new lodging opportunities, continued improvements to their snowmaking capacity and summer amenities to allow guests to enjoy the surrounding beauty of the Fishlake National Forest. The resort plans to responsibly add homes and resort lodging without spoiling the beauty and scenery of the adjacent National Forest lands. Guests can expect to eventually enjoy a new lift that will improve connectivity between the upper and lower portions of the mountain.
QUICK FACTS & ZANY LEGENDS
Photos: Generously provided by Eagle Point Resort
Colorado Ski History (no date). Elk Meadows / Mt. Holly. Coloradoskihistory.com. Retrieved from http://www.coloradoskihistory.com/lost/ut_elkmeadows.html
Dutton, C. E. (1880). Geology of the High Plateaus. United States Geographical Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
Eagle Point Resort (no date). Our History. Retrieved from https://www.eaglepointresort.com/discover/our-history
Hargrave, J. (2010). "Defunct Elk Meadows ski area to reopen as Eagle Point," Utah Outside, Sept 30, 2021. Retrieved from http://www.utahoutside.com/2010/09/defunct-elk-meadows-ski-area-to-reopen-as-eagle-point/
Solomon, C. (2008). "An unlikely Shangri-la," High Country News, Aug 18, 2008. Retrieved from https://www.hcn.org/issues/40.15/an-unlikely-shangri-la
Wikipedia. (no date). Beaver, Utah. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver,_Utah