Plan would link Park City, Salt Lake resorts
November 18, 2006
A memo sent out to the "25 most influential people in government, tourism and the ski industry" invited them to a Nov. 3 meeting at the capitol to discuss several talking points listed by the email, focusing on the reinvigorated idea of connecting Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons, along with Park City. According to Deer Valley President Bob Wheaton, the idea is intriguing.
Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty said the meeting, which Sen. Carlene Walker (R-Cottonwood) arranged, is simply a session to share ideas on so-called AltaBright Tunnel and CottonPark Interconnect that would join the three canyons into what the memo called "one 7-resort Megaplex."
"We feel like it’s a good idea to talk about some of these ideas," Rafferty said. "We’re happy that the state is looking down the road. These aren’t concerns we have at this point, but we’re glad they’re looking to the future. We’d be doing ourselves a big injustice if we didn’t start thinking about transportation and other issues."
Rafferty said he doesn’t like the idea of a Megaplex and that the resorts would likely not sanction such an idea.
"The resorts would never allow something that would take away from the individual character of these resorts," he said. "Megaplex is not terminology we prefer. We have very distinct resorts, all with there own character and there own selling points and we want to keep that feeling."
The memo was sent from the San Francisco office of Jeff Holt, vice president of Goldman Sachs’. The memo, which is available from a link at http://www.telemark.com, states that "Utah is headed to 6 million skier days," which is 2 million more than last year’s record-breaking numbers.
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"I think that’s an aggressive statement, but we’re going that direction," Rafferty said. "We’re not going backwards. It could be some time before we hit that number but there is no downside to planning and thinking about these issues."
Rafferty said the topics discussed at the meeting will not be new, whether it’s a discussion on a connecting road, a tunnel or an intermountain chairlift.
A connecting road has been an idea in Utah at least since 1945, and was later brought up in 1960, the mid-1980’s and again before the Olympics.
The Canyons Spokesman Todd Burnette said, "This isn’t a brand new idea. The tunnel thing might be new but the whole idea of interconnecting has been around for over 50 years."
The Canyons president, Scott Pierpont, will represent the resort at the meeting and will likely share a favorable opinion on the idea if it can be shown to increase ski tourism in Utah.
"The overall position of The Canyons is that we’re in favor of anything that can be done to grow ski tourism in this state," Burnette said. "We’re very interested to listen and find out the best way to do it. The fact that there are discussions going around to discuss how to grow ski tourism in Utah is great. We’re just glad to have a seat at the table."
Burnette said he doesn’t feel a connecting road would diminish the character of the resorts, but would increase capacity for those resorts to serve more skiers.
The plan discussed in the memo was to use money from tolls, federal funds and special finance districts to build a single-bore tunnel from connecting Alta and Brighton that would cost an estimated $250 million, and an all-season road to Park City that would cost from $50 million to $150 million.
The proposed roads would connect Deer Valley, The Canyons, Park City Mountain Resort, Snowbird, Alta, Brighton and Solitude.
Tuesday, Wheaton said he is interested in the discussions and will attend the meeting, but said he agrees with Rafferty that "one giant resort" is not the way to go.
"The tunnel thing is something that has just been reenergized recently," he said. "As far as the connectivity to all the resorts there could be some interest there on Deer Valley’s part, assuming that could be done without compromising some of our individual character and some of the operating criteria that are near and dear to us, such as serviceability. We’re interested in the concept, but it’s early in the discussion."
Park City Mountain Resort spokesperson Krista Parry said they favor plans to connect the canyons and any plan that "helps to increase the guest experience."
"Utah as a whole has a unique accessibility that we can tout and finding ways to grow that accessibility is something we want to look at."
She said if the resorts work together they will be able to come up with a plan that allows for more access, yet keep the strengths of each resort intact.
"I think we need to make sure to plan it properly," she said. "All the resorts work well together and I think we can all work together to devise a plan to maintain the unique character of each resort."