Proposed gondola would connect Canyons, Solitude ski resorts

Nov 17 2011 - 11:42am

PARK CITY -  Utah's congressional delegation introduced legislation Thursday to sell a corridor of national forest land for a gondola that would connect a Park City ski resort with another nearby resort.

The eight-passenger tram would take skiers on an 11-minute ride over the spine of the Wasatch Range to connect the Canyons resort with Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

The ski areas say it would cut down on canyon traffic and put Utah on the map as an even better ski destination. Opponents complain it would mar the alpine backcountry.

Four of Utah's congressional members introduced the legislation providing for the sale of 30 acres of land for the gondola corridor. The proposal will require an environmental study.

A number of options for connecting Utah's ski areas -- even tunnels -- have been discussed since 1986. The Canyons and Solitude facilities say a gondola is the most practical solution. The resorts are looking at selling a joint pass for a modestly higher price that would allow skiers to board a gondola moving 1,000 skiers an hour each way.

"Every day during the ski season, out-of-town and local skiers roam between Canyons and the Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts to experience the diversity of terrain each has to offer," said Mike Goar, managing director of Canyons.

"Studies have reported that SkiLink would decrease canyon traffic by providing an alternative to the 45-mile drive between the two canyons that can take 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic," he said. "Plus, staying on the slopes during your ski day is a whole lot more fun than driving."

The proposal has the backing of Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee. Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz introduced a companion bill in the House. The legislation would direct the U.S. Forest Service to sell 30 acres of land for the gondola corridor.

"SkiLink presents tremendous lifestyle, economic and transportation benefits for Utah residents and our nation," Bishop said.

The resorts have yet to submit a formal proposal to the Forest Service, agency spokeswoman Kathy Jo Pollock said.





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