(Photo courtesy Alta Ski Area)
Well, Folks. I wish I had something new to report from this afternoon’s SkiUtah press conference but alas there were more questions than answers.
I shared the news last night and hoped that today’s conference might shed more light on the plan- nay “concept”- of lift-linking seven of Utah’s ski areas but the meeting went about as expected. We were introduced to a program/concept called ONE Wasatch – that will be a thinktank to draft a plan for an interconnected lift system. The system would allow skiers and boarders a means to traverse all seven resorts without encroaching on public lands; thus avoiding lengthy environmental impact studies.
“We have an opportunity to create a ski experience that would be unique in North America and rivaled only by the larger ski circuits in Europe,” said Canyons’ Mike Goar. “The timing is good for us to bring this forward, sharing it with the community and making sure it is framed in a conversation with other ongoing mountain efforts.”
So, ok, when might we see this happen? No one’s saying. How will it happen? No one’s saying. SkiUtah President Nathan Rafferty said the interconnect would cost around $30 million and be funded privately. By whom? No one’s saying. How much would a ticket cost? No one’s saying. The managers did agree that to charge too much more than a regular single resort day ticket wouldn’t make financial sense. They said, however, that with the RFID scanning ticket system they would be able to track people’s ski habits and then divide revenue accordingly so where people start their day wouldn’t matter. But one reporter boldy asked the Big Question, “Who do you think is going to be bopping back and forth between Alta and Park City Mountain Resort or Deer Valley? You’ve got seven world-class resorts here. I’ve been to each one of them and it’s too much terrain for me to ski in one day. Who do you think is going to buy this (interconnect) pass?”
Snowbird’s Bob Bonar said he had the same concerns when they linked with Alta. “A lot of times people will go to one resort and ski 10 or 20 runs or whatever they’re able to do in one day and it’s enough. [The interconnect] is more of just a concept and I think a lot of our destination skiers and even some of our local skiers really like the concept that they can come in and ski at Alta, work their way over to Deer Valley for lunch and return on the same day.” (Rafferty estimated that you could ski from DV to Snowbird in an hour and a half if they were linked by lifts.)
Ultimately, the most impressive aspect of the ONE Wasatch conference was the fact that we had the seven heads of Utah’s resorts all in one room, all agreeing to join forces. They all echoed each other: we want what’s best for the industry; we want to be environmentally sensitive; we want to protect our watershed and users’ interests.
All this does is beg one question from this intrepid ski blogger. If everyone is so gung-ho and onboard to link our resorts, why wait? Why not start now with Park City? “McConkey’s went in at the same time as Empire (1998),” said Deer Valley’s Bob Wheaton. “We (Wheaton and PCMR’s Phil Jones) spent a lot of time up on that ridge and we knew that One Wasatch was going to be a reality. We wanted to be sure that when we positioned those lifts we would not design ourselves out of that possibility of being able to do this. The spirit of cooperation was extremely strong and still is.”
The infrastructure is there. All it would take is maybe a new chair from the Canyons and ribbon (rope) cutting in DV’s Empire Canyon to create that mini-European experience.
Perhaps PCMR, DV and Canyons are waiting to see what happens in court next month? No one’s saying.