Deer Valley development at Snow Park could be a key to future gondola network

Resort has identified a centrally located area in project for an aerial transit connection

A traffic-fighting gondola has been mentioned as a possibility as part of the overall discussions regarding a major development proposal at the location of Deer Valley Resort’s parking lots outside Snow Park Lodge, shown. Traffic regularly backs up during the ski season on Deer Valley Drive, the primary route to and from Snow Park.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Deer Valley Resort sees the possibility of some skiers eventually arriving at Snow Park via an aerial network, an option that would be designed to allow riders to soar above the traffic that regularly backs up on the route to the resort’s lower base area.

As Deer Valley starts talks with the Park City Planning Commission about a large development proposal at Snow Park, called Snow Park Village, the resort has identified the possibility of a gondola as a traffic-fighting measure. A Deer Valley submittal to City Hall notes the prospects of a gondola in the future but offers little detail. The submittal, importantly, does not propose a gondola linking Deer Valley with the rest of the community as a part of the project.

The gondola mention in the submittal follows less than a year after City Hall itself released the results of a study centered on the feasibility of an aerial network that would connect important locations with gondola lines. Snow Park was included in a City Hall-retained consultant’s study.

There are long-running concerns in the Park City area about traffic, and City Hall and the private sector are attempting to craft solutions. The bus system is the prominent transit option in Park City and surrounding Summit County, but the concept of an aerial transit system has intrigued leaders for years.

The Deer Valley submittal says the resort has “identified an area of the development which can harbor a future City gondola terminal.”

“This will be centrally located in the plaza area near Deer Valley Resort’s mountain transportation network lifts. This location within the future plaza will enable users of the City Gondola to have convenient access to the amenities of the base area,” the submittal says.

A gondola route, Deer Valley says in the submittal, “will assist in reducing the vehicular trips to the area by encouraging alternative modes of transportation” when coupled with a hub for transit and mobility that is planned as an element of the development.

A conceptual diagram of a section of the development proposal shows an aerial transit route with a terminus at the location of parking for skiers and hotel guests. The diagram shows the terminus close to a relocated bottom terminal of the Silver Lake Express lift, which links the Snow Park and Silver Lake areas of the resort and is seen as crucial to Deer Valley’s lift network.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday started the talks about the development proposal at Snow Park. Only limited progress was made in what is expected to be a lengthy review of the project. It is not clear how the concept of a gondola will be addressed by the Planning Commission. A gondola for transit purposes like the one mentioned in the Deer Valley submittal would almost certainly involve a partnership of some sort between the resort and City Hall. It would also with near certainty be part of the talks about a broader aerial transit network in Park City that has been discussed.

Decisions regarding aerial transit, at least the key early ones that could signal whether City Hall would pursue a system, would rest with Park City’s elected officials rather than the Planning Commission. It seems likely, though, the Planning Commission would address the possibility of a gondola connection at Snow Park within the context of the review of the project. The review is expected to cover topics like transportation and parking that would be closely tied to any gondola route, but it is not known how detailed of a discussion the Planning Commission would hold about such an option.

Most people driving to Snow Park take Deer Valley Drive, which becomes a two-lane road on the Deer Valley entryway east of the Old Town roundabout. The backups in the morning and afternoon during the ski season can be terrible, leading to a line of cars that sometimes stretches from beyond the roundabout to the parking lots outside of Snow Park Lodge. The City Hall buses that serve Deer Valley are currently the primary measure to reduce traffic there.

A gondola route would be designed to cut the number of private vehicles on the entryway to Snow Park. It seems likely a route would stretch between Snow Park and a location in the area of the Old Town transit center on Swede Alley. That sort of alignment would offer easy access to the bus system for skiers headed to or from Deer Valley.

The Snow Park Village development proposal is based on rights secured in a 1970s-era overall approval for Deer Valley. The proposal includes a hotel, residences, retail space, dining locations and entertainment. Large underground garages would be built to replace the parking spaces in the lots that would be lost to the development. The proposal includes a gondola link between Snow Park and Silver Lake Village that would largely be used by people skiing or staying at Deer Valley.

The Planning Commission talks will likely extend for months before the panel is prepared to cast a vote on the Snow Park proposal.

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