By Ann Schissler
(March 2014) For many years dreamers have dreamt of being able to move from mountain to mountain via lifts along Little Cottonwood Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon and the Park City Area. The geography makes it possible. The dream took a big step toward becoming reality recently.
Admittedly, it won’t happen for many years. It’s just a concept. There’s no plan or time table. But the resort managers from Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton, Canyons, Deer Valley, and Park City recently announced in a press conference the areas are committed to making this dream come true. Skiers will be able to enjoy 25 square miles, 18,000 acres, 100 lifts, 750+ runs on one lift ticket! This is way beyond anything you can call a ski area or ski resort. This is a Euro style ski complex and easily North America’s first and largest complex. To provide some perspective, this is three times the size of Vail and twice the size of Whistler! The project could cost $30 million; all paid by the resorts according to Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah.
As you probably suspect, not everyone is thrilled with the idea. Strong opposition is coming from backcountry skiers, wilderness advocates and water officials. “It’s a gimmick, a marketing ploy they are trying to use to attract more tourists.” said Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons. He believes the ski areas already have enough terrain in the Wasatch and “linking” will ruin pristine areas. Currently, the plan calls for lifts to be built on private land, however some believe that’s impossible and doesn’t matter. “You’re going to be hiking around lift towers instead of rocks and trees. You’re going to be looking at cable and chairs instead of wildlife.”
Alta Ski Area GM Onmo Wieringa said the plan could be completed within the next decade but ultimately it will come down to each ski area determining if their portion of the project is financially attractive. “Before we would invest $10 million or $5 million or whatever, we’ve got to feel that we’re going to get some return on that money,” Wieringa said. But in the words of Mike Goar from Canyons Resort, “The idea was finally baked enough.”