Wasatch Backcountry Alliance Official Response: Mountain Accord Central Wasatch Blueprint
Photo: Jim Harris/Perpetual Weekend, Jamey Parks skis Alta backcountry in front of Snowbird Resort
After careful consideration, Wasatch Backcountry Alliance cannot support the Mountain Accord Blueprint, made public February 2015, in its current state.
It’s worth noting, however, that our board believes that we are at a unique point in time, and the Mountain Accord process is the best opportunity in many years to generate a comprehensive plan for the future of the Central Wasatch. We are supportive of the efforts to preserve key backcountry terrain in the Wasatch, and though we take issue with some of the big and small details being discussed, we still believe an agreement is possible. As with any negotiated deal, give and take is required. However, as we evaluate the Blueprint, we do not feel a balance of give and take exists in the current plan.
Our stance against the current Blueprint is based on two areas:
- Deal stoppers – or areas of the negotiations we are not willing to cede; and
- Questions that need answering – or areas where the Blueprint is too vague to make informed decisions.
Below is a brief summary of those two points. We encourage our members to attend public meetings, ask pointed questions, make comments to the Mountain Accord, and share with us your feelings on what you feel is important.
Grizzly Gulch. The current Blueprint has Grizzly Gulch listed as “Under Consideration.” The Blueprint is not acceptable if Grizzly Gulch preservation is pulled, or, as has been suggested by Alta, is swapped out for a plan to develop the Catherine’s Pass / Tuscarora area. Grizzly Gulch is a key access point to the Catherine’s Pass & Tuscarora areas – and vice versa, so they are one and the same, and the ridgeline between Catherine’s Pass and Silver Fork is some of the highest value terrain in the Wasatch and needs to be preserved.
QUESTIONS THAT NEED ANSWERING
Lift Alignments on proposed ski resort expansion.
The proposed ski resort expansions and related new ski lift developments are far from a “blueprint”; this document lacks many key details, which won’t allow us to support these, even conceptually at this time.
The lift re-alignments and expansion proposals at Solitude for Honeycomb, Brighton for Hidden Canyon, and Snowbird for American Fork, lack of many important details that are concerning. These lack of details open the possibility of greater resort creep, and broad, untethered expansion, which we are greatly concerned about. We feel with further exploration and agreement into limiting these expansions, there is a possibility to gain more support. However, we cannot support the blueprint until greater details are discussed, and more controls are in place as a part of the Blueprint.
Transportation. We have concerns about the proposed ‘fixed guideways’ idea in the Blueprint. We are seeking more information as to if a fixed guideway or train would meet the goals of transportation in the Wasatch. We support ideas to limit congestion, encourage less private automobile usage, and identifying environmentally friendly transportation solutions in the Wasatch. Transportation solutions need to serve dispersed users as well as resort visitors, and so far we have not been assured that any of the proposed transit solutions will indeed accommodate dispersed users. It is important that the transportation solution is affordable, reliable, and convenient. We have not see any details regarding costs to build or ride the proposed transit solution, nor seen any ideas to encourage use, or been presented with any evidence to support that this plan is the best transportation solution. Until a more detailed plan is presented, we are skeptical the current proposal will be successful.
SEEKING A BALANCED AGREEMENT, FOR A BALANCED WASATCH
Wasatch Backcountry Alliance has stated publically we are against further resort expansion. However, with the possibility of protecting key backcountry areas, we are open to considering limited and controlled one-time expansion – especially if this can forever preserve some terrain, and limit future expansion. But the protections to the Wasatch must be significant.
While we cannot support this version of the Blueprint, we remain hopeful an agreement can be met. Our board of volunteers has been diligent in evaluating this complex, and vast reaching Blueprint.
In summary, while we very much appreciate the willingness to permanently preserve some of the Wasatch backcountry terrain, some of the highest value backcountry areas in the Wasatch are endangered due to unresolved resort expansion potential, and inter-canyon transportation “fixed guideways.”
We need concerned Wasatch Backcountry Alliance members to participate in the public comment opportunities. We hope we have provided some insight and thoughtful consideration that will help us make the best decision for a Balanced Wasatch.
Wasatch Backcountry Alliance
Public comments are accepted through May 1st via e-mail to comment@MountainAccord.com Direct emails are best and we’ve been told email comments will be rated equally with comments submitted through the online Mountain Accord survey. We do not recommend submitting feedback using the survey as our members have reported to us that the survey may erase your comments before you can send them.
IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS/LATEST PLANS
1. EXPANDED Cottonwood Canyons (Ski) Task Force Proposal
2. Summary Cottonwood Canyons (Ski) Task Force Proposal
3. Mountain Accord Blueprint