Support for SkiLink, the controversial idea for a gondola that would connect Canyons Resort to Solitude Mountain Resort, got a little bit stronger this week.
The Lift Utah Coalition, a group of business leaders and legislators from across the state, added 30 new members with the goal of promoting and sharing information about SkiLink, which is currently in the committee process in the United States Senate and House.
"What we've tried to do is work with the groups or individuals that have expressed interest in being more active in supporting SkiLink," said Mike Goar, the general manager of Canyons Resort. "On one hand, we've wanted to recognize that support and effort in promoting the concept of connecting the resorts, but we're also hoping to engage them in communicating the benefits of SkiLink to other groups, citizens, community leaders."
Lift Utah Coalition added the 30 new members to the original 20 who formed the group, adding legislators, industry leaders ranging from technology companies to hospitality and community leaders. State Sen. Kevin VanTasell, the Summit County representative, was added to the list of new members, what he called a continuation of his support in the past legislative session, when he voted in favor of a Senate resolution that supported the concept of a resort interconnect.
"I wanted to add my name to the list of supporters," VanTasell said. " I think our major ski industries are in a unique system where the resorts are very close together. If we can provide an interlink system, that's our next step to expanding the industry.
"I really believe this is one of the things we can use to further increase skier days and get tourists staying longer," he added. "There is some controversy but I believe we can do this right, do it smart."
Controversy about SkiLink is partially tied to how the project was first promoted: a transportation system that would reduce traffic from Parley's Canyon as well as in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. SkiLink opposition believe the gondola proposed to connect the ski resorts does not qualify as a significant transportation system to move people through the canyons and would also encourage development that could negatively impact the Salt Lake County watershed.
"This falls exactly in line with what I would expect," said Carl Fisher, the executive director of Save Our Canyons, about the added members to Lift Utah Coalition. "And it is exactly the type of companies and industries I expected to join this coalition.
"We're primarily seeing developers and people who benefit from construction and real estate development. That has always been our number one concern with the project, the potential development that would ensue from SkiLink."
Despite the controversy, Goar said he was optimistic about the support for SkiLink, that the project has a long way to go but is moving in the right direction. Lift Utah is an educational opportunity to talk about the issues, Goar said.
"We've done a fair amount in terms of trying to determine public sentiment for SkiLink," he added. "I would say we have equal amount of support in Summit County and Salt Lake County. The majority of citizens in both have been supportive."
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