Wednesday’s unveiling of One Wasatch, the Utah ski industry’s idea for linking resorts in Salt Lake and Summit counties, was noteworthy in several respects.
• It marked the most concerted effort to date by Utah’s ski industry to actually pursue the long-discussed, long-disputed concept of interconnecting the seven resorts clustered tightly in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains.
• It brought together for the first time in memory the general managers of the seven independent resorts, symbolic of their solidarity in supporting the still nebulous concept.
• Although industry officials offered multiple assurances that they will do all they can to protect watersheds and the interests of backcountry skiers, the pledges did nothing to lessen the opposition of Save Our Canyons or the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance.
"It’s a concept we’re definitely not excited about, whatsoever," said Save Our Canyons Executive Director Carl Fisher.
"It doesn’t change how I feel about it at all," added Wasatch Backcountry Alliance President Jamie Kent. "I have no confidence they can protect the backcountry."
Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty said he knew the concept would get plenty of feedback, negative included. But he added that the seven general managers, who have 289 years of cumulative ski industry experience, understand the importance of feedback in shaping still-forming plans.
There are unresolved issues, Rafferty acknowledged.
For instance, he couldn’t identify specific lift alignments, other than to say they would make three key connections:
• Little Cottonwood Canyon to Big Cottonwood.
• Big Cottonwood to Park City Mountain Resort.
• PCMR to Canyons Resort.
A fourth and lesser link, between Park City and Deer Valley, only entails taking down a rope that marks those resorts’ common boundary.
Rafferty could say the total cost is projected to be about $30 million, all privately financed, all on private lands.
But he could not say when work on the project would begin or what kind of timetable industry officials had in mind for completion.
Still, he added, "connecting seven of Utah’s finest ski resorts while preserving both our water quality and a pristine backcountry experience is not an impossible task."
If enacted as envisioned now, Rafferty said, Utah skiing would establish a niche for itself unique in North America. Customers would be able to buy one pass (price still unknown) that would provide access to "seven distinct resort personalities," 18,000 skiable acres, 100 lifts and more than 750 runs.
"With this concept coming to life, there’s not a ski area or community in this country that can beat us," said PCMR General Manager Jenni Smith.
"It will be an opportunity to create a ski experience rivaled only by the large ski circuits in Europe," added Canyons GM Mike Goar.
The concept undoubtedly has more appeal for destination visitors than locals, Rafferty admitted, while insisting different types of ticketing packages could be devised easily to pique the interest of Utah’s ski community.
But there’s growing interest, he contended, in a type of European mountain culture where someone might start at Snowbird, take lifts and runs to Deer Valley for lunch and then return in the afternoon.Next Page >
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