Main Street to Deer Valley gondola might fly someday
Main Street to the Deer Valley Resort slopes, nonstop and without driving.
That might be possible someday.
There are preliminary discussions underway at Deer Valley about whether a gondola could be built linking the slopes and Main Street, something that would rank with the highest-profile skiing upgrades in Park City in more than a decade.
Numerous details have not been solidified, and Deer Valley has not yet formally proposed a gondola. But there will almost certainly be widespread interest in the discussions in Park City and the statewide ski industry. The talks had not been publicized until this week.
Park City Mountain Resort years ago linked its slopes to lower Main Street via the Town Lift and later the Town Bridge. A Deer Valley-Main Street connection, probably along the upper reaches of Main Street, could create another skiing bookend to the street.
"It would be very significant," Bob Wheaton, the president and general manager of Deer Valley, said on Monday. "I think it would be a significant event for the resort and for the town."
He said there is not another place in North America with connections between a downtown and two mountain resorts.
Wheaton said the discussions between Deer Valley and City Hall have centered on the Brew Pub lot close to the top of Main Street. Park City officials are considering projects to boost Main Street’s competitiveness with other shopping, dining and entertainment destinations. The Brew Pub lot, one of the few publicly owned locations along Main Street available for development, has been in play during those talks.
He said Deer Valley is researching upward of six potential gondola alignments. The terminals under consideration on the resort side include Silver Lake Village, a spot at the Northside Express lift and a location at the Empire Canyon Lodge. Under those scenarios, it seems that a gondola could enter and leave Old Town via a line that closely follows Marsac Avenue. The gondola could angle into Deer Valley itself from there.
There are houses along Marsac Avenue and Daly Avenue, immediately to the west, but the land is either largely undeveloped or part of the Deer Valley complex elsewhere along what could be a gondola route.
Wheaton said the earliest a gondola could open is the 2014-2015 ski season. The timeline depends on numerous decisions that the resort and City Hall would need to make, including critical ones about the Brew Pub lot. Wheaton said the resort is discussing options to lease or purchase the lot, or a portion of the lot, from the municipal government. A ticket office and a Deer Valley retailer could be built at the site if a gondola terminal is situated there, he said.
"We can’t continue being held in the regard we are in North America if we stand still," Wheaton said, referring to Deer Valley’s annual high rankings among the continent’s mountain resorts.
The gondola idea could be mentioned on Thursday as part of a talk about improvements to Main Street scheduled for a Park City Council meeting. It is unlikely the discussion will be centered on a gondola, however. The elected officials are scheduled to talk about projects in the Main Street core for 45 minutes starting at 4 p.m.
Jon Weidenhamer, who manages City Hall’s economic development programs, said he anticipates support on Main Street for a gondola, saying the link to Deer Valley would set Park City apart from other mountain resorts. He said City Hall has briefly spoken with Deer Valley about the idea.
"I’m not sure there’s a lot of ski resorts that connect their downtown to skiing," Weidenhamer said.
The idea of a gondola connection between the Empire Pass section of Deer Valley and the Main Street core has been broached publicly at least once before since the late 1990s. In the middle of the last decade, though, a government task force deemed a gondola linking Empire Pass and the Main Street area unworkable, finding that it would not reduce traffic and was not in the public interest.
The task force was focused on a connection between Main Street and Empire Pass rather than between the street and the other locations in Deer Valley the resort is now considering. One of the routes described in the past ran from Empire Pass to lower Swede Alley along a line close to Marsac Avenue and the Sandridge parking lot. Another idea for a route ran between Empire Pass, Park City Mountain Resort and
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Park City leaders on Thursday will likely hold a special meeting to consider an idea crafted by Main Street businesses to close the street to traffic on Sundays in the summer and early fall in favor of a pedestrian zone.