Mayor Becker and SkiLink

While a new group called the Utah Lift Coalition was holding a press conference Tuesday in support of a proposed mountain gondola that would link the Canyons Resort in Summit County to Solitude Mountain Resort in Salt Lake County, Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker was meeting with the Deseret News editorial board to explain his opposition.

The controversy boils down to a question of whether the lift would endanger the watershed that supplies the Salt Lake area or harm other parts of the fragile mountain environment. Developers say no. The city and county say yes.

Meanwhile, because the land “SkiLink” would use is owned by the federal government, four members of Utah’s congressional delegation have introduced a bill that would allow construction (Rep. Jim Matheson, the lone Democrat, is also the lone opponent). Becker says the bill excludes any consideration by local governments.

Click below to hear Becker responding to a question about whether this isn’t also a matter of back-country skiers just wanting to protect their own turf. He expounds on his reasons for opposing the lift.

Click here to listen to Mayor Ralph Becker

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Categories: Utah issues

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

13 comments

  1. Sterling

    FACT: Our neighbor and a primary competitor, Colorado, attracts three times as many skiers than does Utah. This means less money for our economy.

    FACT: SkiLink would be the first of its kind in North America, creating the largest interconnected ski network in the United States without adding even one acre of new ski terrain. This will help us maintain a competitive advantage over our competitors… COLORADO.

    FACT: The Federal legislation is necessary to even allow SkiLink to be considered by local jurisdictions. SkiLink cannot be built without approvals and permits being issued by Salt Lake County and Summit County.

    • Earl

      Once that land is sold to Talisker the Skilink is all but built. Talisker will have property owners rights that will allow them to push and push and push until something is done with that 30 acres of land, and that something will be SkiLink. SkiLink stinks. Kill it now.

      • Iron Horse

        Local jurisdictions will have NO say in the matter until you remove the federal government out of the way. I rather have the decision made by our state and local governments then with federal bureaucrats. BUILD SKILINK NOW! We have waited far to long to not act.

    • Earl

      And before we start raising specious arguments about being able to compete with Colorado how about if we do some study of our resorts current capacities to see if we can actually handle more visitors. The way I see it (and I’m up BCC every weekend all winter long) the resorts are pretty much at capacity and no one seems to be starving for business. Oh, except for maybe the real estate developers that have used up all the available lands already.

    • Andrew McLean

      FACT: Colorado has 22 major ski resorts verses half of that in Utah. Colorado also has liquor laws that appeal skiing tourists. In 2010/11, Colorado had 6.9 million skier days vs. Utah’s 4.2 million (hardly “three times” the amount). By contrast, Utah’s National Parks attracted 6.3 million visitors last year – maybe we should expand those in an effort to try to catch up with Colorado?

      FACT: SkiStink would hardly be the first interconnect in North America. Killington is a massive interconnected group of what was once individual resorts. Whistler Blackcomb are also connected, with a tram no less, and despite that, their ski days have gone downhill since 2007. Resort skiing is dying and with the horrible season this year, the Utah numbers are going to be way down.

      FACT: SkiStink requires Federal legislation because the land was not for sale in the first place. For a preview of how Talisker treats its private property, look at the base village area of the Canyons.

  2. Daniel

    Mayor Becker’s claim that the federal bill would take the decision out of the hands of local decisionmakers is completely false. Currently, the decision is in the hands of federal regulators from the Obama administration. After the bill is passed, SkiLink will require approvals from Summit and Salt Lake Counties, putting the decision squarely in local hands.

    • John

      But by the time the county and city get to comment on it Talisker will already own the land. This is a land grab by a Canadian development corporation.

      • PCSkiBum

        Talisker is owned by an American. It has over 2000 employees in Utah… That sounds like they are dedicated to Utah to me.

    • Macers

      Daniel is exactly right. City and County officials will have final say of if SkiLink will be built. Also, during that time of consideration the public will be able have input on the project.

  3. Neil

    FACT: Utah has better snow and mountains than Colorado.
    FACT: Skiers going to Colorado know this.
    FACT: They go to Colorado because of quirky liquor laws in the state of UT.
    FACT: Utah lacks the quantity of ‘Ski-towns’. We have Park City. They have Aspen, Crested Butte, Telluride, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone, just to name a few.
    FACT: Utah already has interconnect resorts, and that is NOT bringing in the customers. Solitude and Brighton have the Sol-Bright pass that allows people to ski both. Alta and Snowbird have the Alta-Bird pass, and allow you to ski both.

    FACT: Most all of Utah Ski Resorts are located on public land, leased to the ski resorts, the land remains public, the ski resorts own the improvements. This lease process involves a public input process, and NEPA review of the improvements. The Canyons and Talisker knew they could not pass this process, so they bought out a few Representatives/Congressmen, and completely bypassed the public. This is a perfect example of ‘big government’, which is ironic, because these same Representatives/Congressmen complain about big government, unless it directly benefits them.

    It should also be noted that while this lift sits in Salt Lake County, none of the representative that support this bill are in Salt Lake County.

    I am not totally against interconnected resorts. But it needs to be done the right way. Forcing the sale of prime public land in the watershed that serves Salt Lake City to a foreign developer with a history of degrading water quality (look at the East Canyon stream which is located in the Canyons resort now, it is officially listed as an impaired body of water).

  4. Hasen

    All questions of impact and access aside, the scariest thing about this is that the government is trying to sell public land (land that belongs to you and me) to a large corporation (a foreign corporation, no less).

  5. mtnrgr

    The main issue for me and many people I know, is the sneeky and backdoor approach Talisker is taking to build this lift. By paying off a few politicians, Talisker introduced a bill in Congress to circumvent all the laws, regulations, and policies that dictate land management in the Wasatch. This bill sells 30 acres of OUR National Forest to a foreign company. Land that was not for sale for a project that has not gone through any kind of review. Once the land is private the landowner can fence it off and deny access to anyone they want, and do/build almost whatever they want.

    Also, I need to make clear what the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the main federal environmental law that applies in this situation, is and does. NEPA goes into effect when a major federal project has significant environment or economic impact. Building a new ski lift on Forest Service land would be a major project. Once a project is proposed then an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is conducted, and proposed alternatives are drafted. The public has several opportunities to review and comment on the EIS, proposed alternatives, and the draft plan. The federal agency, has to address all public comments in the final plan. NEPA allows federal projects and decisions making to be open, transparent, reviewed by the public, and accountable to the public. NEPA does not apply to private projects on private land, this is why Talisker need the land to be sold. The state of Utah and Salt Lake County do not have a nearly as stringent review process for government projects. Hence, how making this 30 acres of OUR Forest private land takes local accountability and public review out of the process.

  6. Andy

    The way this poll is constructed makes it biased.

    Yes, it would help Utah resorts compete with Colorado- Is this the only reason we considering building it?

    No, it would harm the environment- is this the only reason we shouldn’t build it?

    The poll is very poorly put together and fails to recognize the scope of the debate. A simple yes or no would have been better.

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