Snowbird may get a whole lot bigger in the coming years, as a massive expansion proposal by the ski resort has been accepted by the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Service. This acceptance doesn’t mean the Forest Service will approve the expansion proposal, but they will begin the evaluation process including environmental impact statements, serious discussion with Salt Lake City’s watershed protectors, and lots of input from public comment. But the Forest Service’s acceptance is an important first step toward expansion approval.
In a nutshell, Snowbird wants to do the following:
New tram: A second tram would be built that will connect Hidden Peak to the West Peak of American Fork Twin Peaks.
Terrain expansion: New terrain in Mary Ellen Gulch on Snowbird’s back side, adding 780 acres of skiable terrain to Snowbird’s boundaries below Mineral Basin.
New and expanded chair lifts: A brand new chair lift would be built to service Mary Ellen Gulch, and the Mineral Basin lift would be lengthened to enable skiers to return from Mary Ellen Gulch.
Expansion of a new beginner area: Additional terrain expansion near the Baby Thunder lift on the resort’s west side.
Night skiing: Snowbird proposes night skiing on the runs beneath the Gadzoom lift.
According to Snowbird, other proposed resort expansion projects include upgrading some existing chairlifts, expansion of the Adaptive Sports facilities and a handful of other resort improvements.
Snowbird’s proposal is not without its critics, however. The Salt Lake City Water Department is concerned about the expansion’s effect on water quality. Backcountry skiers are worried about expansion into White Pine Canyon since the new tram would allow easy access to White Pine’s upper bowls. Save Our Canyons is against any large developments atop Hidden Peak, where the new tram station would be located. Other concerns include the new tram terminating at the top of American Fork Twin Peaks becoming an eyesore that can be seen from the Salt Lake Valley.
You can read Snowbird’s press release about the matter below:
Snowbird, Utah – The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Service recently announced that it has accepted Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort’s updated Master Development Plan (MDP) proposal. Snowbird’s MDP is a detailed document that outlines short- and long-term resort development plans, including the potential to modify Snowbird’s skiing boundaries in Utah County, outside Salt Lake City’s watershed area
“The acceptance of our proposal is an exciting step as we plan for the future of providing world-class skiing and snowboarding as well as year-round recreation,” said Snowbird President Bob Bonar. “We look forward to working with the Forest Service and other stakeholders in creating sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities for our community that provide jobs for Utahns, attract tourists to our state and maintain Snowbird’s viability in a competitive marketplace.”
Acceptance of Snowbird’s MDP proposal is the first step in a process involving thorough environmental study and analysis by governmental agencies, engineers, scientists and stakeholders of all aspects and impacts of the proposed projects.
“Whether it was part of the MDP process or Congressman Jim Matheson’s wilderness bill, we have taken input from city, county, state and federal leaders as well as local environmental organizations on many of the proposed improvements,” said Bonar. “We are very encouraged that there is widespread support for watershed-friendly proposals that continue to provide sustainable recreation opportunities in our community.”
The updated MDP Proposal describes potential terrain expansion options to the south of Snowbird’s existing resort area, a majority of which would be on Snowbird’s private property in American Fork Canyon in Utah County and outside of the Salt Lake City Municipal Watershed area. Proposed resort expansion projects include a lower capacity Tram to the top of the American Fork Twin Peaks, a chairlift from Mary Ellen Gulch that would return skiers to the Mineral Basin area of the resort, and an extension of the existing Mineral Basin Express chairlift, improvements that would offer exciting new terrain options for skiers and riders. Snowbird is also considering adding beginner skiing terrain adjacent to the Baby Thunder area, upgrading some existing chairlifts, providing night skiing from the Gadzoom chairlift, an expansion of the Adaptive Sports facilities and a handful of other resort improvements.
Snowbird is not proposing to put ski lifts in the White Pine area, located directly west of the current resort boundary. The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort supports the White Pine area maintaining its backcountry characteristics, and is proposing to work with stakeholders to limit summer and winter access to the area from its proposed Twin Peaks installation. Snowbird is also considering donating its significant private property within the White Pine/Red Pine areas into a conservation easement to help ensure this area maintains its pristine, watershed nature.
“We understand and are sensitive to the concerns of backcountry user groups and local environmental organizations. The top terminal of the proposed tramway to the American Fork Twin Peaks would be positioned in such a manner that it would not be visible from the Salt Lake Valley,” said Bonar. “The expansion area would be accessed from the existing resort footprint.”
Through vigilant work with Salt Lake City Municipal Water and the U.S. Forest Service, Snowbird has maintained superb Little Cottonwood Canyon water quality in its nearly 40 years of operation, including award-winning mine clean-up projects in American Fork Canyon that considerably improved water conditions for the surrounding environment.
“In tandem with this updated MDP, Snowbird pledges to continue to be an active, engaged ally in efforts to protect Little Cottonwood Canyon’s diverse values, support wilderness areas, and protect Salt Lake County’s watershed areas while offering sustainable, managed, year-round recreational opportunities to our community on private and adjacent public lands,” said Bonar.
Snowbird is a two-time recipient of the nation’s highest ski resort environmental honor, the Golden Eagle Award, most recently in 2007 for its mine clean-up efforts in American Fork Canyon. Snowbird was one of the first resorts to partner with and contribute to the National Forest Foundation, which funds public and private partnerships such as the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation and their mission of environmental education, interpretive centers, Tour with a Ranger programs, trail work and outreach programs. Snowbird is also a founding member and continued supporter of the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, which offers a wide array of preservation and education programs during all seasons in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons.