PARK CITY — A proposal for a gondola that would link Canyons ski resort to Solitude has come off the drafting board, officially unveiled Thursday by resort officials.
Introduced as SkiLink, the gondola system would unite 6,000 acres of terrain to support the snow sport industry and be a one-of-a-kind recreation network for the United States, resort officials say.
“SkiLink creates a game-changing advantage for Utah and for the U.S. snow sport industry,” said Mike Goar, managing director of Canyons, a Talisker Mountain Inc. resort. “It would establish Utah as the most interesting and convenient mountain destination in the U.S. and will positively benefit our local economies."
Goar said the eight-passenger SkiLink gondola will have the capacity to transport 1,000 people per hour each way and is projected to transport skiers between Canyons and Solitude Mountain Resort in just 11 minutes.
SkiLink presents tremendous lifestyle, economic and transportation benefits for Utah residents and our nation.
–Rep. Rob Bishop
“Connecting the resorts has been discussed for years, but Talisker Mountain Inc. had the vision to link the slopes of the Wasatch Back and Front in the simplest of ways,” Goar said.
Such a transportation system would reduce traffic in the canyons, save time for snow enthusiasts and expand the recreational experience, he added.
“Every day during the ski season, out-of-town and local skiers roam between Canyons and the Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts to experience the diversity of terrain each has to offer. Studies have reported that SkiLink would decrease canyon traffic by providing an alternative to the 45-mile drive between the two canyons that can take 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. Plus, staying on the slopes during your ski day is a whole lot more fun than driving.”
The proposal has prompted concern by Salt Lake officials since they first heard of it and the reaction was no less tempered on Thursday.
"This is short-sighted and being done to circumvent the existing planning processes," said Jeff Niermeyer, Salt Lake City's point man for watershed protection.
This is short-sighted and being done to circumvent the existing planning processes.
–Jeff Niermeyer, SLC watershed protection
"The disposal of protected watershed into private ownership concerns us a lot," he said.
Niermeyer, the city's director of public utilities, said he believes Canyons' traffic analysis is flawed, adding that the gondola is masquerading as a transportation solution when it is "really about ski area expansion."
To facilitate SkiLink, House and Senate legislation was introduced in Congress Thursday that proposes to sell 30.3 acres of U.S. Forest Service land where the project would be constructed.
It was introduced by Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee.
The legislation would jump start environmental studies required under the federal regulations such as the National Environmental Policy Act. Canyons would also have to work with Salt Lake City on watershed issues and acquire necessary permits from Salt Lake and Summit counties.
“SkiLink presents tremendous lifestyle, economic and transportation benefits for Utah residents and our nation,” Bishop said. “I have great confidence in the preparation Canyons has completed to this point for the proposed connection. I am pleased to support their vision by introducing this legislation, which will facilitate the next steps of this public process.”