Tom Clyde: A view from the ridge
March 28, 2014
We’re sort of down to the crumbs of ski season, with three weeks at PCMR and only two at Deer Valley and Canyons. I was beginning to wonder if the snow would last that long, but we got a little refresh just in the nick of time. That’s the kind of season it’s been. Just when the snow begins to get thin and scratchy, we’ll get just enough snow to resuscitate it. The big dump has never come, and it’s kind of disappointing to have reached this point in the season without one. Seven inches of wet snow is not the stuff dreams are made of, but it’s more than we had. And overall, skiing has been fine. We all just expect it to be spectacular.
It’s been a good season, just the same, with some memorable days. I’ve taken advantage of the deal where I can ski at Alta or Snowbird on my PCMR pass. I didn’t get over there as often as I thought I might. It’s great skiing, and fun to go explore other areas. It’s also a long drive all the way around, and you have to dip into the smog layer in the valley on the way. I might make the trip again before the season ends, and have skied with people who have passes on the Salt Lake side who were over here in God’s Country doing the same thing. I doubt many converts were won in either direction, but the program created the excitement of something new.
Ski Utah made their big announcement about the ski interconnect that will tie all seven Wasatch resorts together. The idea has been around for decades. It comes up for air just often enough to give Save Our Canyons a constant case of the vapors, but it’s never really gone anywhere. It won’t happen on Forest Service land under current Forest Service plans. Getting through the process of amending those plans is an insurmountable obstacle. But this time, they say they can do it entirely on private land. They claim they really mean it, although there is no timetable or specific route announced.
My guess is they wanted to get it out there for the benefit of the "Mountain Accord" planning process, just so it’s on the table in a package too big to ignore. The estimated cost is $30 million, and I suspect that each of the resorts involved can think of places to spend their share of that with a more immediate impact on their operation. Water rights for snowmaking at Canyons, for example, or another on-mountain restaurant at PCMR. They both could replace a few lifts. Or spend it on lawyer fees.
I’m clearly not the target market for the interconnect. Spending the day working my way over to Alta for one run on High Rustler before turning around isn’t going to happen often. With some effort, I could make it to Mineral Basin by dark. The biggest flaw is that I’d miss lunch at Deer Valley. Vacationers might find it interesting, especially if their luggage got transferred around. They could check out of a Park City hotel, ski their way over to Snowbird, with time to really ski along the way, and catch up with their luggage in a hotel on that side. That would have some appeal. For locals, there’s always the problem of getting back to your car where you started. So it’s an interesting idea, but unless the necessary lifts actually open up some quality skiing in the process, it’s hard to get excited about it.
I hiked up Pine Cone Ridge again this week. It was perfect spring corn, and well worth the effort. That ridge is both the literal and figurative divide between Vail and PCMR. Standing on top of that ridge, you can see all the potential and all the problems. Solutions? Not so much. It’s hard to imagine the current legal standoff persisting into another season, though with appeals this could drag on for years. Things could look dramatically different a year from now. I’ve reached a point in life where I don’t much like radical changes.
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I had to get the oil changed in the car the other day, and thought seriously about pulling the snow tires at the same time. It was snowing fairly hard, and while it wasn’t sticking on the roads, it seemed a little early to pull them. You never know. After the kind of winter we’ve had, it wouldn’t be surprising to have the big dump come in May. The sandhill cranes arrived in my hay field this week, right on schedule. Summer isn’t far off, and as much as I enjoy spring skiing, I’m ready for it.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.