Governor: connect the ski resorts |

Governor: connect the ski resorts

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. mentions connecting the mountain resorts of the Wasatch as he talks about tourism and traffic, a long-held idea of some who say such a connection would provide local skiers and visitors a skiing experience unrivaled in North America.

Huntsman, a Republican who is seeking re-election, does not provide details about the idea, which long ago had been dubbed an ‘interconnect.’

He says, however, he is not yet prepared to support spending taxpayer money on a connection.

The supporters of a connection envision the three Park City-area resorts someday linking to the four resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons. They say such a connection would resemble European skiing and turn Utah into a more attractive skiing destination.

Environmentalists, though, would likely be suspicious of a connection, and it would probably upset regular backcountry users.

Huntsman talks of record-breaking tourism numbers in recent years, and he says he wants Utah to eventually draw between 24 million and 25 million visitors annually. He sees widening summertime tourism as being important to his goal.

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"People are just now waking up to the fact we have world-class mountain biking," he says, adding he hopes Utah attracts additional special events, which "speaks right to travel and tourism."

He says the state government spends between $17 million and $18 million promoting tourism, up significantly from before.

Meanwhile, Huntsman says an on-the-snow connection between the ski resorts could reduce traffic in addition to being a draw for skiers and snowboarders. Park City’s entryways, both state highways, draw frequent complaints about traffic. If the resorts were connected on the slopes, the thinking goes, fewer people would drive between them.

Huntsman says improvements to bicycle paths in addition to roadwork are preferred options when considering upgrades to state highways.

He speaks about a commitment to the environment by stressing cleaner-burning fuels, often called renewable energies, and he says the state has aggressive energy-efficiency goals. Huntsman mentions work he’s done with Mayor Dana Williams on environmental issues and says climate change is a critical issue in Utah because rainfall and snowfall could be impacted.

Huntsman says he expects the federal government will continue to address immigration issues, but he labels immigration a human issue.