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Utah Travel Headlines

Monday, October 24, 2011

Should Salt Lake Canyons Become One Mega Ski Resort?

Utah ski resorts continue to expand, and to offer interconnecting lifts and runs. As a result, it is becoming more practical to ski multiple resorts in one trip - sometimes even one day. The ease of access to the slopes and the variety of terrain, has long been a draw bringing skiers to Utah. Now, the possibility of skiing multiple resorts is adding to the appeal.

The four resorts in the Cottonwood Canyon east of Salt Lake City, and the three resorts in the Park City area are separated by just a few miles and a couple mountain ridges, and the trend is to build more inter-connectivity.

There is a real possibility that the area could evolve into one mega resort, and that has some people concerned. The Deseret News has this article about the prospect. Below are excerpts.

Jeff Niermeyer, director of public utilities, said adding a lift here, adding a lift there, putting in a new tram at one resort or establishing glide path to connect two resorts are among proposals under discussion. Some have been formally presented for review to government agencies — such as the U.S. Forest Service or Salt Lake County Planning — while others are in the talking stage.

"Our concern is that we have all these people right now trying to push all these individual projects and nobody is really looking at this in a holistic manner," Niermeyer said.

As the city's ultimate watchdog and caretaker of a Wasatch watershed that supplies the drinking water needs for nearly 500,000 people, Niermeyer admits he is ultra-sensitive to proposals that could threaten that supply.

Ski Utah President and Chief Executive Officer Nathan Rafferty said any of the proposals out there are designed to make sure the ski resorts can meet the needs of the future.

"They are less about making the ski resorts bigger and more about getting people from one resort to another," Rafferty said, pointing to congestion and other traffic problems that already pose headaches for skiers and snowboarders.

Gov. Gary Herbert, too, said some sort of ski resort connectivity might actually have environmental benefits — such as improvements to air quality — but such development would have to have proceed with caution and appropriate mitigation.

"Whatever we do has to be in harmony with the stewardship responsibilities we have in protecting our watersheds, our flora and our fauna," he said. "We might be able to tip-toe through the watershed with an aerial tram."

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