Vail Resorts this week declined to discuss the idea to build the SkiLink gondola between Canyons Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort, indicating that executives had not researched the divisive proposal.
Rob Katz, the chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, said SkiLink is "something we're going to have to study and get up to speed on," in response to a question during a Wednesday telephone call with Wall Street analysts and reporters.
"We're not well versed and fully understanding all the particulars and I think after things settle down we'll certainly start to spend time with the various people involved and understand it better and understand what the opportunity is and the concerns are and proceed accordingly," Katz said. "It's not something I can respond to you yet, because it's obviously a complex issue that requires good attention and careful consideration."
Canyons Resort owner Talisker Corporation and officials at Solitude Mountain Resort see SkiLink as something that would offer a competitive advantage, allowing customers to move between the terrain at the two resorts via the gondola. They say SkiLink could also cut traffic between the Park City area and Big Cottonwood Canyon with an environmentally friendly transit option.
An opposition movement, though has mobilized, claiming that the gondola would ruin a pristine mountainous area. They also worry about impacts on the Salt Lake watershed and question whether SkiLink would reduce traffic.
Part of the SkiLink route traverses United States Forest Service land. Congressional legislation that would authorize the sale of the land to Talisker Corporation stalled in 2012.
Save Our Canyons, a watchdog group focused on the Cottonwood canyons, is one of the leaders of the SkiLink opposition. The executive director of the group, Carl Fisher, said in an interview he wants to discuss SkiLink and wider plans for the Wasatch Mountains with Vail Resorts shortly.
"Regardless of who might be pushing the SkiLink proposal, it doesn't really change the on-the-ground impact," Fisher said.
Talisker Corporation has indicated it does not envision SkiLink as something that will spur residential development along the route, a concern of the critics. Fisher said he wonders whether Vail Resorts will have a similar view or whether Talisker Corporation will reconsider the idea of residential development.