DOZENS OF GROUPS, COMPANIES OPPOSE UTAH’S SKILINK (UPDATED)
This article has been updated to include a statement from Canyons owner Talisker regarding future consideration of its SkiLink proposal.
SAM Magazine—Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 1, 2012—More than 80 companies and conservation groups have signed a petition initiated by ski equipment supplier Black Diamond to oppose SkiLink, a proposal to connect Canyons Resort with Solitude Mountain Resort via a major gondola. Canyons owner Talisker said it looks forward to joining other stakeholders in considering the proposal.
Among the petitioners opposing SkiLink are Patagonia, The Wilderness Society, Mountain Hardwear, Armada Skis, The Conservation Alliance, Eastern Mountain Sports, POC Sports, Protect Our Winters and Jones Snowboards. More local supporters of the petition include Save Our Canyons, Alta Lodge, Wasatch Touring, and Friends of Alta.
While the concept of a Utah interconnect is at least 30 years old, the current incarnation has drawn opposition in part because it would transfer ownership of the liftline, about 30 acres of land, from the Forest Service to a private company, Talisker, which owns Canyons. Several Republican members of Utah’s Congressional delegation are sponsoring a bill that would take control of the project away from the Forest Service and leave it to local and state officials, who presumably will be more pro-development.
Opponents claim that there are better ways to implement a transportation plan and to interconnect the resorts. In addition, they point out, SkiLink would diminish the backcountry skiing around the gondola; that terrain is currently among the most popular backcountry terrain in the state.
Supporters of the proposal argue SkiLink will, among other things, reduce auto traffic between the major resorts in the Wasatch. It would be possible in the future to interconnect all seven resorts—Deer Valley, Park City, Canyons, Solitude, Brighton, and Alta—and create a European-style “ski circus.” A study commissioned by Talisker predicts that this would increase visitation and thus boost the local economy.
On Friday, a day after the SkiLink petition was made public, Talisker was invited to take part in a Future of Wasatch Mountains Meeting organized by Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker and others. In a statement, Talisker said, "We look forward to joining other stakeholders in discussing important transportation, environmental and economic issues."
Talisker said the federal legislation that would allow a greater local involvement in the planning process "represents an unprecedented opportunity to explore an environmentally responsible pilot project that will ease congestion between the canyons, create jobs and provide economic benefits, and enhance the skiing experience."