One Wasatch: How Four Lifts Could Link 18,000 Acres

1318848If you’ve never driven over 9,700′ Guardsman Pass in the summer, you might not realize just how close Brighton Ski Resort is to the upper reaches of Park City Mountain. In fact, from Brighton’s fire station to the top of the Jupiter lift is less than 7,000 linear feet. It’s this reality and a similar one in Alta’s Grizzly Gulch that makes Ski Utah’s One Wasatch concept tantalizingly close to becoming reality.  But the feeling that the Wasatch just isn’t that big also has environmental groups scrambling to prevent any more of these mountains from becoming ski runs.  The challenge for Save Our Canyons, the Sierra Club and others is that all the land needed to complete One Wasatch is already in the private hands of Royal Street Land Company (owner of Deer Valley,) Iron Mountain Associates (developer of The Colony) and Alta Ski Lifts Co.

one wasatch overview
Only four new lifts, marked in orange, would be needed to connect six ski resorts in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.

Over the Pass

I’m convinced Park City and Brighton will be connected first.  Ski Utah calls the two lifts needed for this connection Guardsman A and Guardsman B.  They would rise from a common point adjacent to Guardsman Pass Road between Brighton and Park City’s Jupiter pod on land owned by Royal Street a.k.a. Deer Valley. Operationally, it would make the most sense for CNL/Boyne to build and operate these lifts as part of Brighton.  Guardsman A, which would need approval from UDOT to cross State Route 190, would likely be a detachable quad approximately 4,065′ long with a vertical rise of 740′ ending near the top of Jupiter.  Guardsman B would rise back towards Brighton and be a detachable quad about 3,800′ long with a vertical of 1,235′.

Guardsman A+B
This view shows the two lifts needed to connect Park City Mountain to Brighton. Guardsman A is on the left and Guardsman B on the right.

Royal Street Land Company has a strong interest in completing the Guardsman connection because it now also owns Solitude.  With Guardsman in place, a Deer Valley skier at the top of Lady Morgan Express could ride 4 lifts (Pioneer and Jupiter at Park City, Guardsman B and Milly Express at Brighton) and be at Solitude in less than an hour.  The return trip would be almost as easy – Summit Express to Great Western Express to Guardsman A and Park City Mountain, which already abuts Deer Valley.  Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County would both need to approve the Guardsman lifts before construction could begin.

Grizzly & Honeycomb

The terrain and politics between Solitude and Alta are more rugged.  Alta Ski Lifts owns all of the property needed for a lift to Solitude up Grizzly Gulch.  Interestingly, Alta also owns the upper reaches of Honeycomb Canyon and Honeycomb Cliffs to within about 50 yards of Solitude’s Summit Express top terminal.  For this reason, Alta would likely build and operate both of the lifts needed to connect with Solitude.

The Grizzly lift (presumably a detachable quad) would leave Alta’s Albion base area and travel 6,180 feet (1,647 feet of vertical) to the top of Honeycomb Cliffs.  From there, skiers could descend Honeycomb Canyon to the base of Solitude.  The other direction would only require a short (1,250′) lift starting near the top of Solitude’s Summit Express to the ridge. This lift would probably be a “beer can” style jig-back tramway.  An alternative to these lifts would be a gondola from Albion to Solitude’s summit, avoiding the environmental impacts of putting skiers in Grizzly Gulch.  Even without unloading on the ridge, an angle station would probably be needed to get around Honeycomb Cliffs.

Grizzly.jpg
A Grizzly Gulch lift and much shorter Honeycomb lift would bring skiers to the ridge between Alta (left) and Solitude (right.)

Even though it would be on private land, a lift in Grizzly Gulch would be required to go through the US Forest Service NEPA process and would likely face significant opposition, not unlike the SkiLink gondola once proposed between Canyons and Solitude.  Stop Ski Link became a rallying cry for everyone from Protect Our Winters to Patagonia and Armada Skis before Vail Resorts came to Utah and killed the idea.  Back to Grizzly Gulch, there’s also the fact that the Cottonwood Canyons supply drinking water to a million people.  Save Our Canyons Executive Director Carl Fisher calls Grizzly “that little slice of 300 acres that’s a symbol of the opportunity to preserve another 80,000 acres.”

Filling in White Pine Canyon

Another piece of all this is the large hole that exists in the middle of Park City with no lifts above 9,000′ from Jupiter to Ninety Nine-90.  There’s a thousand acres of develop-able private land in the upper reaches of White Pine Canyon owned by Iron Mountain Associates/The Colony.  With two new lifts in No Name Bowl, Park City could finally gain some real skiing in the vicinity of Dreamscape.

PC No Name expansion
It’s only a matter of time before Vail Resorts builds the two lifts marked in white in No Name Bowl.

With two lifts in Guardsman, two in No Name and one each in Honeycomb and Grizzly, One Wasatch would include 762 runs on 18,000 acres served by 97 lifts.  But Carl Fisher of Save Our Canyons contends, “People don’t like it, people don’t want it. One Wasatch is about ski area connectivity with lifts, and that comes at a significant cost to the many, many other uses. It will bisect some of the most popular mountain bike trails in the area. It will fragment wildlife habitat. It will displace backcountry skiers.”  As of now, all five ski area owners still back the concept.  That includes some big names with big money – Vail Resorts, Boyne Resorts and the Cumming Family.  And Ski Utah says One Wasatch could be completed in one construction season for less than $30 million.

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18 thoughts on “One Wasatch: How Four Lifts Could Link 18,000 Acres

  1. Dave Howe March 26, 2016 / 4:39 pm

    Having skied the Sella Ronda circuit in Italy I can attest to the fun and adventure of European-style circuit skiing. It’s a blast to tour from town to town. And this plan would enable all abilities of skiers to do it – not just those that ski with avalanche beacons. I hope One Wasatch realizes this dream.

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  2. Dave W March 27, 2016 / 7:31 pm

    Of course, Deer Valley and Park City are already physically connected, just need to drop a rope. But Deer Valley is running a nicer experience and doesn’t want uncontrolled hordes invading their restaurants at lunch time.

    I love your blog. I don’t know how I found it but obviously this stuff interests me.

    Like

    • Peter Landsman March 27, 2016 / 8:14 pm

      I didn’t even get into the ticketing piece so thanks for bringing it up. I see no reason Deer Valley couldn’t still require their ticket to ski there. Does DV still not have electronic ticketing? Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton all use compatible RFID technology from Axess. Park City has Vail Resorts’ proprietary RFID system so something would have to change in order for there to be a One Wasatch ticket.

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      • julestheshiba March 28, 2016 / 8:52 am

        Deer Valley uses hole punch tickets and only allows a limited amount of people on the slopes at one time.

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  3. RMurphy March 27, 2016 / 10:53 pm

    The skiing off of Honeycomb ridge is some of the most technically difficult terrain in Utah, if I’m looking at this correctly. That alone throws a big wrench in the plan, since there will have to be significant downloading capacity and probably controlled access to the terrain so patrol isn’t spending all day doing evacs. Still, it would be interesting to see One Wasatch completed.

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    • Doppelmayr FTW March 28, 2016 / 9:13 am

      They’ed probably need to have no unloading on top and just have an angle station. I don’t see all six resorts cooperating to make this happen anyway.

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      • Ty March 28, 2016 / 2:41 pm

        I honestly could see the cottonwood resorts making this work given the Alta/Snowbird and Brighton/Solitude connections already in place. Deer Valley and Park City are the resorts I don’t see cooperating very well. And lift tickets will probably be annoying.

        In my opinion, I’d like to see the interconnect lifts as gondolas where possible, Gondolas would make sure people are safe and enclosed. And they’d be more protected and the resorts operating them wouldn’t have to worry about people jumping off as much. (I don’t know if this is a problem to begin with)

        One idea I would love to see is a gondola running from the mouth of the canyons to the resorts so you don’t need to drive. The drive isn’t bad. But if you can have a direct gondola, it would be super nice to travel to the resorts that way. Just an idea.

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  4. Mike April 4, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    With Deer Valley now owning Solitude, it has all the incentive in the world to make this connection happen, as Solitude is smack dab in the middle of the 7 resort cluster. It’s the BC resorts that would do best out of this, as few people will have the stamina or interest to go all the way from PC to LC (or vice versa) and back.

    And gondolas don’t seem necessary – people jumping off chairs is so far down on the list of potential issues that it would be silly to double your investment to preclude that scenario. Exception would be anything up to/over Honeycomb Ridge – you don’t want to be putting tourists up there.

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  5. somebody... May 19, 2016 / 6:50 pm

    Angle station probably wouldn’t be needed to go around the honeycomb cliffs, the max slope angle on a lift going straight to the Albion base to Summit express is 73 % at it’s highest (thx google maps, slope feature) and Peak at whistler has a max of 77 % (Once again, google maps is awesome), so it probably could be done.

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    • Doppelmayr FTW! May 20, 2016 / 9:18 am

      I Thought there should be an angle station to allow it to be right next to the top of summit express.
      But it may not be necessary I’ll take a second look.

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      • Somebody... May 21, 2016 / 5:45 pm

        I was talking about straight from top of Summit express. It probably would be a very hard lift to make but might work. Another possibility is a new chair and gondola like in this (No midstation, the chair would be FGT/FGQ):

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        • Peter Landsman May 21, 2016 / 6:14 pm

          The reason for Grizzly Gulch is it’s entirely private land. Your route is public land and there’s no way that will fly with Save Our Canyons.

          Like

  6. Somebody... May 22, 2016 / 6:31 am

    Oh, that makes decent sense. Hopefully they can just build a gondola in that case from Solitude Summit to Albion base. Maybe just have it get lots of air before the honeycomb cliffs on both sides.

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  7. Somebody... May 29, 2016 / 8:53 am

    What about having Jupiter remain untouched by doing something like this to connect PC to BC. (The new lifts pictured would be Detach quads, and the others pictured are Dreamscape, Dreamcatcher, Flat Iron and Eagle express).

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  8. Someone else December 29, 2017 / 10:23 pm

    This is such a ridiculous idea. All the damage, loss of wilderness setting, risk of Back country injury, etc… all for the idea that a handful of people can ski in 7 resorts in one day. Lame. Just hike it if you’re that ambitious!

    Like

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