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Tag: Utah

Utah renews debate over Euro-style resort connections in Wasatch Range, some already in place

By Associated Press, Published: November 19

SALT LAKE CITY — This could be the next great leap forward for Utah skiing: Hopping from one resort in the Wasatch Range to another, with seven resorts already clustered so closely together some neighbors are separated by only a rope line.

It would make for a Euro-style experience in in the mountains that loom over Salt Lake City. By combining 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) of terrain, the Utah resorts could offer North America’s largest skiing complex — three times the size of Vail and twice as big as Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia.

Canyons Resort has given the concept new attention with a proposed first step: a $10 million gondola traveling two miles (3.2 kilometers) over the 10,000-foot (3,000-meter) Wasatch ridge and dropping into Solitude Mountain Resort for customers of both resorts.

Many skiers are delighted at the prospect of open travel along some of the best skiing terrain in the West, with the reliability of dry Utah snow.

“It would give Utah the marketing edge it needs,” says Jon Weisberg, a retired Bristol-Myers Squibb executive from New York who moved in 2000 to Utah for the skiing and redrock canyons. “Stringing these jewels together will make it even better.”

It’s not clear Canyons will succeed, but the Park City resort has opened a debate that lay dormant for decades. The discussion could bring in other resorts, and it’s already spurring studies of transportation and route options involving rail, cable cars or dedicated bus lanes.

“The whole idea of connecting resort has taken on renewed discussion and debate. We’re happy to be a part of it,” said Mike Goar, managing director of Canyons. “It’s consistent with the bigger picture of connecting resorts.”

Going over opposition from the U.S. Forest Service, Canyons asked Congress earlier this year to sell a corridor of land for the gondola, raising an avalanche of protest from backcountry skiers, wilderness advocates and municipal water officials.

“We need to curb development and keep the pristine beauty of the Wasatch mountains that draws people to this place,” said Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons, a preservation group that says it’s open to lower-impact options for resort connections.

Solitude recently stated that it hopes to see construction of the inter-resort gondola begin in summer, but aides to Utah’s Republican Congressman Rob Bishop don’t expect any action until the new Congress is seated in January.

Skiers don’t have to wait for the politics to settle. It’s already possible to ski between some neighboring resorts in the snowy Wasatch mountains.

Solitude and Brighton offer a joint pass, along with Alta and Snowbird in a neighboring canyon. In addition, the trade group SkiUtah offers an underappreciated but somewhat taxing Interconnect Adventure Tour of all seven Wasatch resorts.

The daylong tour with a stop for lunch tour is led by backcountry guides who keep an eye on avalanche danger. The longest out-of-bounds stretch on the tour is barely two miles (3.2 kilometers), the distance Canyons would connect with an express gondola.

Plenty else has changed since the 2002 Winter Olympics remade Utah’s ski industry. Utah officials are looking to possibly make another Olympic bid for the 2026 Games in a decision due this month.

The 14 resorts have invested in roughly $1 billion in improvements, adding terrain, high-speed lifts and bubble chairs. Park City now has a handful of five resorts, from the Waldorf Astoria to the Montage Deer Valley.

Some of the latest improvements came in small packages, like a tiny ski area in southern Utah that offers big adventure.

Just beyond Eagle Point’s gates are hundreds of square miles (kilometers) of untrammeled powder snow under the volcanic-shaped peaks of the Tushar mountains. Skiers can take endless backcountry loops with little effort using the resort’s lifts.

Managers of a New York-based hedge fund brought the former Elk Meadows ski area out of dormancy and are running it as a family operation for a third year. Revenue is thin for Utah’s most remote ski area, outside the ranching town of Beaver, but that didn’t stop the owners from offering free skiing.

Anyone can ski Eagle Point at no charge Thursdays in January, and for California residents skiing is free all season. Meanwhile, nearby Brian Head is slashing prices for skiers who buy a punch pass of five lift tickets for midweek use, at $159.

Adventure also is on tap at northern Utah’s Powder Mountain, which grew from one of the smallest to arguably largest Utah ski resort, although it involves some walking or snowcat rides to reach distant slopes. The effort is worth it, with deep powder outlasting other Utah resorts for days at a time after a storm.

A look at what’s new at Utah resorts this year:

— Alta is celebrating 75 years with its own anniversary beer, produced by Wasatch Brewery. Alta opened in 1938 with rope tows and a year later added a chair lift, the second in the West after Idaho’s Sun Valley.

Alta plans to mark the Jan. 15 anniversary with fireworks and a torchlight parade. It’s publishing a picture book and will roll out a series of short films digitized from 8 mm color shots taken as early as the 1940s. What’s more, Alta is partnering on a $349 pass for two days of skiing at each of four destinations, including Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. That works out to $43.60 a day.

— Beaver Mountain has leveled and cleared out its base area for easier skier access, after adding a triple-seat chair last year.

— Brighton opened first for the season among Utah resorts Nov. 13 with a 36-inch base (nearly a meter). The boarder-friendly resort is rolling out a new mobile app for snow reports and a yurt for ski school.

— Canyons Resort introduces the Ultimate Mountain Experience, with six Olympians and six other athletes coaching guests for three-day sessions under the direction of Phil McNichol, former U.S. men’s alpine coach.

— Deer Valley replaced the fixed-grip Deer Crest chair with a high-speed detachable quad as part of $8 million in improvements. The resort also boosted snowmaking, bought five new Prinoth snowcats and renovated Snow Park Restaurant.

— Park City Mountain Resort offers a new terrain park, Neff Land, and a three-day freestyle camp for children.

— Snowbird replaced the 1980 two-seat Little Cloud chair lift with a high-seed quad. Instead of a ride of eight minutes “that felt like 20,” the new lift delivers skiers to the top of Snowbird in 3½ minutes, said Dave Fields, vice president of resort operations.

— Solitude expanded snowmaking for earlier season openings.

— Sundance adds a new chair lift from an upper parking lot with direct access to a terrain park. It also expanded snowmaking capacity by 40 percent.

— Snowbasin is expanding a terrain park and its snowcat fleet.

— Wolf Mountain, under new ownership and management, runs Utah’s smallest ski area with three lifts, night skiing, and a magic-carpet conveyer for children.

Growing Support for SkiLink from Legislators and Local Businesses

 

Salt Lake City, Utah (July 18, 2012) — Thirty legislators, demonstrating bipartisan support from the Utah legislature, thirteen local business owners, community leaders and citizens have recently joined together in supporting an organization called the Lift Utah coalition, which considers SkiLink—the proposed connection between the Canyons and Solitude Ski Resorts via gondola—an important first step to demonstrate that linking resorts is viable in an economically and environmentally responsible manner. This new group of supporters applauds the efforts of the coalition for their purpose of building upon 30 years of study and debate of resort interconnection, and sharing the remarkable benefits that will follow if we interconnect the ski resorts in the Wasatch Mountains.


“It is of no surprise to me that my fellow legislative colleagues and many other local businesses have joined with me in support of the Lift Utah coalition,” said State Senator Wayne Niederhauser and Lift Utah coalition member. “I am proud to support an organization that advocates for a long overdue idea of interconnecting our ski resorts. It truly will be a game-changer for Utah and the ski industry.”


State Representative Neal Hendrickson stated, “I support the SkiLink project and a Utah ski interconnect system because they are environmentally sound and will boost our ski industry and Utah’s economy.”


President & CEO of the Park City Chamber of Commerce Bill Malone stated, “Creating a great interconnected ski/ride experience between resorts in the Wasatch Mountains will undoubtedly boost the desirability of a Utah ski vacation. This can be a game changer for us by providing a product unsurpassed in North America. An interconnected ski experience can help secure a more stable financial future for the Utah recreational sports industry.”


Last April, Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution passed by the Utah Legislature advocating an interconnect system to enhance the ski and snowboard industry’s contribution to Utah’s economy, jobs, and tax base.


For more information about the Lift Utah coalition, please visit liftutah.org.


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New Lift Utah Coalition Supporters
 
Senator Daniel Thatcher
Senator Margaret Dayton
Senator Peter Knudson
Senator Stuart Reid
Senator Scott Jenkins
Senator Stuart Adams
Senator Ralph Okerlund
Senator David Hinkins
Senator Kevin VanTasell
Senator Jerry Stevenson
Senator Wayne Niederhauser
Representative Neal Hendrickson
Representative Susan Duckworth
Representative Curt Webb
Representative Ronda Menlove
Representative Evan Vickers
Representative Ryan Wilcox
Representative Gage Froerer
Representative Brad Wilson
Representative Jim Nielson
Representative Mike Noel
Representative Stephen Handy
Representative Todd Kiser
Representative Melvin Brown
Representative Jim Bird
Representative Keith Grover
Representative Lee Perry
Representative Daniel McCay
Representative Francis Gibson
Representative Mike Morley 

Jamie Catley – Owner, Kent Construction
Steve Urry – President & CEO, Synergy Development
Mark Bee – President, Doppelmayr CTEC, Inc.
Mark Waltrip – CEO, Westgate Resorts
Monte Ray – President, Spectra Contract Flooring
Roy Ostendorf – President & CEO, Ski N’ See
Geir Vik – CEO, TechnoAlpin
Richard Hunt – CEO, Hunt Electric
Mark Barton – President, Commercial Lighting Supply
Brett Toliver – Co-Owner, Model Linen
Larry Williams – President, Axess/North America
Wayne Turner – Partner and Managing Director, SDI Realty Group
David Howerton – Chairman, Hart and Howerton Law Firm

Doug Buddell
Paul Oberkircher
William Bailey
Joseph Oszacki
Maria McNulty
Alan Beard
Parley Baldwin
Dave DuBois
Tyler Oborn
 

LIFT Utah Press Release 4.24.2012

UTAH COMMUNITY LEADERS UNITE TO “LIFT UTAH”


Salt Lake City, Utah (April 24, 2012)—Twenty of Utah’s most prominent business and community leaders are announcing today the formation of a coalition to support connecting Wasatch Mountain ski resorts via gondola. Co-chaired by former United States Senator Jake Garn, Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan and Salt Lake Chamber President & CEO Lane Beattie, the coalition will build upon 30 years of study and debate, and will share with fellow Utahns the benefits of SkiLink and of interconnecting the resorts. The coalition considers SkiLink—the proposed connection between the Canyons and Solitude Ski Resorts—an important “first step” to demonstrate that linking resorts is viable in an economically and environmentally responsible manner. An integral part of making SkiLink a reality will be a rigorous local process that covers land-use, water quality, wildlife, and other related environmental issues.


“The concept of interconnection has been studied for decades,” said former United States Senator Jake Garn. “The expected tourism and economic benefits from SkiLink will contribute greatly to Utah’s economy.”


Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan stated, “As Mayor of a city adjacent to Little Cottonwood Canyon, a significant part of our city services are funded by revenue generated by our ski and snowboarding industry. Total ski-snowboard- related spending brings about $1.2 billion into our economy. Linking our resorts will greatly expand those benefits.”


Lane Beattie, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, emphasized the importance of tourism to the Utah Economy. “In 2010-11, total spending by travelers and tourists was estimated to be $6.52 billion, providing $842 million in state and local taxes and over 122,000 jobs. This economic performance will grow with an interconnected network of ski resorts,” said Beattie.


Just last month, Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution passed by the Utah Legislature advocating an interconnect system to enhance the ski and snowboard industry’s contribution to Utah’s economy, jobs, and tax base. Bill sponsor Senator Wayne Niederhauser said “an interconnect system would boost the ski industry tremendously. This will be a game-changer. There’s nothing like this in the United States.”


For more information about the LIFT UTAH coalition, please visit liftutah.org.


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