Guest editorial: ONE Wasatch many questions
November 18, 2014
There is a long history of discussions regarding the connecting of Little and Big Cottonwood canyon ski resorts with the Park City area ski mountains. Without going through the past, let us focus on the current details surrounding the potential expansion. As proposed, it could take place "with the addition of just a few connecting lifts "(http://www.onewasatch.com ). Conversely, others declare it would become an environmental disaster and forever destroy our pristine backcountry landscape.
My name is Sophie and I am a 16 year old Park City High School student spending a semester on sabbatical and living sustainably in Wiscasset, Maine, at the Chewonki Semester School. Environmental awareness is a fundamental principle shaping my semester studies. I have focused my assigned human ecology project and research on the evolution of ONE Wasatch. Park City is where I live, where I grew up and this issue is right in my back yard.
As part of my research, I focused on obtaining information from the ONE Wasatch, Save Our Canyons, Ski Utah and Mountain Accord websites as well as some direct response from involved community individuals. Anyone researching the proposal will immediately discover the significance and heated nature of this human ecology faceoff.
The concept of the ski expansion, as proposed, consists of as few as 6 connecting ski lifts, linking a large amount of skiing. In fact, all seven of the geographically proximate ski resorts: Park City, Canyons, Deer Valley, Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird, and Alta, some 18,000 skiable acres. Deer Valley can simply drop a rope and share access with Park City Mountain Resort. Others just need a few lifts installed, which will then facilitate traveling from one resort to the other. ONE Wasatch says, " What if you could ski between the seven resorts, and do so on one pass?" Purchase one pass and you can travel to all of the seven resorts by skiing or lift transfer. Ski Utah predicts that with this connection, there will be less driving and this will create less air pollution. However, the price of a ski ticket could be higher.
There are several entities involved with the Mountain Accord (http://www.mountainaccord.com), the leading organization overseeing the phased process. Ski Utah, our State ski marketing entity, is in favor of the expansion. Ski Utah wants to "lure vacationing skiers by creating an interconnected system of chairlifts that will create a marketing image of Utah as a European-style, buffet-skiing experience."
At the other end of the spectrum, Save Our Canyons, led by Executive Director Carl Fisher, could not be more opposed. Mr. Fisher has much to say that would change the process by canceling the proposed installation of any infrastructure in our mountains. He echoes that the lift connections will destroy wilderness and could disturb the area’s irreplaceable watershed. Trees will need to be cut down and may fragment critical habitat. Also, the surface water flow will be altered due to the installations. All in all, Carl believes that these lifts are "unnecessary". He says the proposal will not benefit the public by reducing traffic congestion.
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Whether you have already decided you are for or against the ONE Wasatch project connecting our seven neighboring resorts, the most important questions surrounding the proposal have yet to be studied enough to thoroughly explain the impacts.
All of the key parties, from Mayors, concerned citizens, resort management staff, waterworks companies, and our State politicians are engaged by giving their input and ideas surrounding the proposal. Mountain Accord is the place to stay informed and participate in the process. Phase one will be addressing the relationships between the environmental impacts and transportation. They will also be looking at the increasing pressures for economic growth and recreation in our magnificent Wasatch Mountains. The issue is now one of the most important, and certainly long lasting, development challenges affecting my community. Get involved!
Sophie Adelman is a 16-year-old Park City High School student currently on study sabbatical at the environmentally aware and sustainable Chewonki Semester School in Wiscasset, Maine.