Gondola Would Connect Canyons, Solitude
SAM Magazine-Park City, Utah, Nov. 17, 2011-Canyons is proposing a groundbreaking gondola to connect Canyons and Solitude resorts and reduce auto traffic between the two. The SkiLink gondola would tie together 6,000 acres of existing terrain.
"Studies have reported that SkiLink would decrease canyon traffic by providing an alternative to the 45-mile drive between the two canyons," said Canyons managing director Mike Goar. The gondola would make the trip in 11 minutes and move up to 1,000 people per hour each way.
A traffic analysis projects that SkiLink would reduce traffic through Big Cottonwood Canyon by as much as 18,000 cars per year, reducing miles driven by about one million, and eliminating about one million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
Preliminary studies of the habitats, wildlife, watershed and viewshed have turned up no significant impacts to sensitive areas. To minimize impacts, construction would follow minimally invasive techniques, such as using helicopters to pour concrete and set towers.
To avoid impacting backcountry skiers, who have been among the concept's biggest opponents, the gondola will not make interim stops where riders could exit ,or otherwise increase backcountry access.
The link has drawn key political support. Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee jointly have introduced House and Senate legislation providing for the sale of 30.3 acres of public land on which the project would be constructed. The legislation paves the way for environmental studies as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act, and other laws. Canyons will need permits from Salt Lake and Summit Counties and must protect watershed and water quality.
To help build broader support, Canyons is touting economic benefits. "An economic impact analysis reported that SkiLink would produce more than 500 new permanent jobs for Utah's travel and tourism industry and could initially infuse $51 million into our local economy," said Goar. Ongoing operations could generate $101 million per year in the future, the report suggested.