PARK CITY - Salt Lake County Councilman Michael H. Jensen, along with Canyons Resort Managing Director Mike Goar, spoke to the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands in support of the Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act, proposed by Utah Congressman Rob Bishop.
Friday's testimony was required as a first step to initiate the public and procedural processes of environmental, zoning and public comment for SkiLink. SkiLink is a transportation-only gondola that would connect Canyons and Solitude Mountain resorts in 11 minutes. SkiLink would significantly enhance the amazing skiing and snowboarding experience the resorts offer and create a game changing advantage for Utah and the U.S. snowsport industry. SkiLink would give skiers and snowboarders access to 6,000 existing acres of terrain, making the Utah ski experience the most unique and diverse in the United States.
The comments by Jensen and Goar addressed SkiLink's:
Economic Benefits - Tourism is already one of Utah's primary economic engines providing:
* 123,000 jobs, $6.5B in tourist spending and $840 million in state and local taxes
* SkiLink would, as reported in independent economic research, inject $51 million into the local economy, $3 million in tax revenues and create a ripple effect that will add more than 500 new jobs.
Process - To be clear, today's Legislative hearing is a first step in a long process that begins at the federal level and then moves to the local level for public approvals and studies.
* The legislation is necessary for SkiLink to even be considered by local jurisdictions.
* SkiLink cannot be built without approvals and permits being issued by Salt Lake County and Summit County.
* The bill, when passed, would authorize the sale of 30 acres of federal land to Canyons. With this federal approval on the land sale, the SkiLink proposal would then go to the local jurisdictions for review and approval.
* In short, the legislation is only the first step. The decision concerning SkiLink would then move to local, rather than federal hands.
* Canyons is committed to work cooperatively with Salt Lake County, Summit County and Salt Lake City to ensure a full, fair, and open review process.
Stringent Environmental Protection - SkiLink's design and construction will be environmentally sensitive.
* The requested land has not been identified by the U.S. Forest Service as proposed wilderness or requiring special federal protection
* An independent, third party research firm reported no significant impacts to watersheds or water quality.
* Water quality records clearly show that lifts have been successfully developed in adjacent areas with similar slope, soil and vegetation with no adverse impact on water quality.
Purpose - As a transportation-only connection between Canyons and Solitude, and with no stops along the route, SkiLink will not increase access to the Big Cottonwood Canyon's back country.
Intent - Finally, the value of SkiLink as a unique and simple approach to transport outdoor enthusiasts between the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back without driving cannot be understated.
* Independent studies project SkiLink will decrease vehicular traffic through Big Cottonwood Canyon by as much as 10% on peak days and eliminate 1,000,000 miles of driving and 1,000,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
"I appreciate the opportunity to support SkiLink," said Councilman Jensen. "SkiLink offers incredible economic benefits to Utah."
"We are happy to begin the first steps of the public process," said Goar. "Our vision of SkiLink is an unrivaled ski experience in North America, and we appreciate the support of our Utah delegation."