Monday, July 13 was a historic day for the Central Wasatch as the Mountain Accord was officially approved. The committee, which includes representatives from ski resorts, environmental groups, special interest groups, and city officials, signed off on the final proposal that may dictate the landscape, recreation, and transportation future of the Wasatch canyons.
For those of us who love to ski both in the backcountry and at the four Cottonwood Canyon resorts, major land swaps between the U.S. Forest Service and the ski resorts are being proposed that may change the way we make turns in the upper canyons. Here are the key bullet points:
- Alta will get 160 acres at its base area in exchange for 603 acres in Grizzly Gulch, on Devil’s Castle, and on Emma Ridge. Alta is also giving up plans to build a lift on Flagstaff Mountain. This would protect some very popular backcountry ski areas. In return, however, Alta will develop a new, 100-room hotel along with eight commercial and retail shops surrounding a future transit station. In addition, Alta wants some sort of connection to Big Cottonwood Canyon, preferably a tunnel.
- Snowbird will receive 43 acres at the resort base for new amenities. They are holding off on their request for 400 acres in American Fork Canyon to allow more study by Utah County officials and residents who are against the proposed new base area.
- Solitude will get 50 acres for base expansion, where they want to build a 120-room hotel. They will also get a 15-acre expansion of its special-use permit in Honeycomb Canyon for a lift realignment. In return, the resort will give up 240 acres in Hidden Canyon and along Guardsman Road, and improve access to the backcountry in Silver Fork Canyon.
- Finally, Brighton will get 15 acres and they will be allowed to expand the resort boundary into 100-175 acres of Hidden Canyon. They will give up 200 acres of land higher on the mountainside.
If anybody thinks this means the death of One Wasatch, Ski Utah’s effort to connect all seven Central Wasatch resorts, think again. According to Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty, One Wasatch is still on the table but that the resorts will be flexible to make it happen within the confines of the Mountain Accord agreement.