If 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.
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′.
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.
Vail Resorts’ $50 million endeavor to connect Utah’s two largest resorts last summer was one of the biggest infrastructure investments at a U.S. resort since American Skiing Company created The Canyons in 1997. That summer twenty years ago, ASC bought so many lifts for The Canyons (8!) they had to split the order between three lift manufacturers to get them all done in time for the 1997-98 season. It’s hard to even imagine that happening today. Still, Vail did manage to build a two-stage gondola, add a six-pack, move a detachable quad, construct a mid-mountain lodge and re-brand an entire company over the last eight months. I got to check out the results this week.
Park City Mountain is now the undisputed largest ski resort in America with 37 lifts and 300+ trails spread across 7,300 acres (it’s worth noting that Big Sky Resort still owns, and seems to have no problem using, the Biggest Skiing in America® trademark.) The first thing I noticed is Vail did its best to remove all references to Powdr’s old Park City logo and the Canyons name, replacing them with the red infinity branding. Despite these efforts, everyone still seems to call the northern half of the complex Canyons, or perhaps worse, The Canyons. Thousands of signs were changed over the summer and every employee got a new uniform. Most of the lifts were painted red although a few remain in black and orange.
The flagship of “One Park City” is the Quicksilver Gondola and neighboring Miners Camp lodge. Vail Resorts took the design they used for the Tamarack Lodge at Heavenly and Zephyr Lodge at Northstar and brought it east, demonstrating how the company excels at standardizing everything across its resorts. (Pepsi, never Coke, and safety bars on every chair at every mountain are other examples.)