Meehan: Sightlines and ridgelines
May 10, 2016
Resolving the dichotomy between how I felt about "Wino" and "Gazoont" (phonetic spelling) blasting their tricked-out Power Wagons through the Aspen groves up above Old Town back in the day and my reaction to the prow of that incongruous first house taking form along the ridgeline of "The Airie" had become my personal "Fermat’s Last Theorem."
It challenged the "purity" of all my notions concerning what I considered allowable and what I saw as a "defile" upon the heretofore unspoiled. Aesthetics played a role, and, of course, those natural versus human factors that dog me to this day.
Somehow, a few flattened arbors of the Poplar persuasion disturbed my environmental sensibilities less than the coming of that "starter-castle" and all it implied. Changes were afoot and you could sense it in the shimmer.
For me anyway, "judge not lest you be judged" did not come into play. I became, and remain — especially when it comes to flaunting "tastes" of highly-suspect origin — a Judge Roy Bean, of sorts. To string the scourge of development up by its thumbs became a favorite mantra. (Unless, of course, it was a friend or they were about to put me on the payroll.)
What triggered this exhalation (hopefully it won’t become a rant) relates to the proposed upper terminal of a small aerial tram Alta Ski Resort wishes to plant near the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon’s iconic Mount Baldy as part of a series of resort upgrades.
As with that first house atop Masonic Hill, the one that lorded over the rugby pitch and softball field down below, this tram, if constructed according to plan, would, indeed, be a defile upon — Hidden Peak notwithstanding — the still mostly pristine skyline of the Central Wasatch.
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Now, admittedly and obviously, to proceed without a shout-out to Alta (as both a resort and mindset) for keeping the "less-is-more" faith all these years would be absurd. Leading by example since its inception, Alta has remained both a legendary powder slope and relatively unadulterated. Within the Utah ski industry, its stewardship has been a model of restraint.
That being said, when shifts began to appear in what, to many, had been the previously-understood paradigm of the Wasatch Accord that had Alta’s Grizzly Gulch as part of a firewall against One Wasatch, what was previously viewed as pure became suspect.
Now, the sense is that Alta will not make decisions that could be construed as retarding their industry’s growth. Well, you’ll have that! One would think, however, that as goes Grizzly Gulch, the adhesive that seems to have kept the environmental lobby at the table, so goes Wasatch Accord.
Once Grizzly Gulch has been moved to the Ski Utah side of the equation, it’s difficult to see what kind of accommodation could be made that would satisfy those who have fought the linking of Utah’s seven Central Wasatch resorts from the beginning. Obviously, any unanimity that remained among the stakeholders would find itself on less than solid footing.
Not being one who finds himself in Little Cottonwood Canyon as often as he once did, my view of that skyline is from my haunts in the northeastern foothills of the Heber Valley. From there, spotting the top of the Snowbird Tram is not much of a challenge nor is locating American Fork Twins.
From up above along the ridgeline that leads to my favorite rock outcropping, however, the glories are more evident, as are the reasons it’s become a conservation versus exploitation battleground over time.
So the plea from here continues to be that our crown jewels are impacted physically and visually as little as possible and that One Wasatch is held at bay. In a time when National Park vistas are being renamed in order to promote national fast-food chains, however, betting against business interests in Utah having their way with the Wasatch seems like a longshot.
It goes without saying that these are rather exotic times but that’s a state of affairs to which we’ve grown quite accustomed here in Utah. In a political environment where conservation and pillaging have become synonymous, keeping the barbarians from the gate grows more difficult with the passing of time.
Compared to the damage done by these innocuous "suits" and their minions, "Wino" and "Gazoont," however they appeared at the time, were innocents. I’d trade them for a boxcar of these corporate ski folk in a minute. Now, that would provide some much needed cultural equilibrium.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.