Hello Wasatch Backcountry Enthusiasts!
Well, we don’t have to remind you it’s been an unusual winter so far; a great run of endless powder days….until they ended, for far too long. Yep, the Greatest Snow on Earth, ’til it isn’t! But Wednesday’s nice little refresher is a good reminder that indeed it can and will snow again.
Of course, the drama around the Wasatch always continues, whether it snows or not. We have been working on a variety of issues, and wanted to give you a quick midwinter summary.
You have no doubt at least heard about or possibly experienced for yourself the confusing and onerous new parking system at Alta Ski Area. We are very frustrated by it: for years, we were assured by the local Forest Service management that they would never agree to a system that would impose parking fees on all of the FS-owned areas in upper LCC, but then about a year ago, they started to waffle a little on that, and ultimately this past summer they seemingly rolled over when ASL introduced the system that was clearly targeted at penalizing non-resort patrons, using anecdotal, unverified and unreliable “information” to justify it.
We would love to hear about your impressions and experience with the parking situation up at Alta this winter, and we created a survey to get your feedback. Here is the link: https://forms.gle/f9G3oB1rCQmnsjdN8
This will help us as we talk to the FS, the Town of Alta, Alta Ski Lifts and other stakeholders as we look to next season.
In the meantime, consider taking the WBA shuttle on Saturdays! Yes, it’s the hardest day to park up at Alta, and the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance decided – with generous help from backcountry.com, Voile, Skimo Co and Utah Mountain Shuttle service – to take our concept from an annual shuttle day to a full-on shuttle season! It has been running since January, and people have been raving about how easy it is and how well it works. We’ll be running it every Saturday at least through March and more information can be found here:
Central Wasatch Commission
The CWC is in a transitional period. Executive Director and former SLC mayor Ralph Becker recently announced his retirement (later this spring) and in an effort to reboot the process, the CWC hired former SLCo Mayor and US Congressman Ben McAdams’ “Common Ground Institute” to evaluate the commission and – as they put it – “Identify a path forward” for the Wasatch. Salt Lake County has pulled their funding for the process, which to be sure is a major blow to the future of the CWC, but the rest of the major stakeholders are still at least cautiously optimistic that there is still potential to get some permanence to the major goals of the Mountain Accord.
As such, there’s a new and brief window for you to get involved! The CWC just announced a “Central Wasatch Compact” that seeks to revisit the Mountain Accord and is looking for public comments between now and next Thursday. It just came out Wednesday and while we have not yet had a chance to review it in depth, we will submit a comment and plan to send out our thoughts to our community early next week. For now you can check it out for yourself at https://cwc.utah.gov/the-central-wasatch-commission-is-accepting-comments-on-the-central-wasatch-compact-now-through-thursday-february-24th-at-500-p-m/
Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement
As you all know, last fall there was a formal public comment period for UDOT’s Draft EIS where they were looking for feedback on the gondola and the expanded bus service options for the future of LCC. For a variety of reasons that we have covered previously (after last spring’s extensive Uptrack podcasts), we are in broad support of the expanded bus service without road widening. We anticipate that UDOT will make their announcement this spring after going through the unprecedented number of over 13,000 public comments, many of which came from WBA members! There appears to be fairly broad public support for expanded bus service, and there’s actually a bill in front of the Utah State Legislature that would require environmental concerns to be a dominant factor in the decision (though the state senator who introduced that bill is a supporter of the already-rejected train option…) And we will keep you posted of further developments with the LCC EIS.
Wintertime human-powered recreationists and motorized land owners in Cardiff Fork have had an uneasy relationship for many years. For clarification: the landowners there have a Special Use Permit (SUP) that allows them to cross public lands on the road up to the mine with snow machines to access their property. In exchange for their ability to cross public lands, they in turn are required to allow access to the public lands beyond the mine. We would like to get documentation of snow machines leaving their allowed terrain (aka the mine road that runs along the bottom of Cardiff Fork). This would include them high-marking slopes on snowmobiles and/or accessing the yurt that was built at about 9800’ between George’s Bowl and Ivory Flakes in 2020. If possible, photo/video documentation of snow machines leaving the road along with GPS location would be super helpful. The Utah Avalanche Center app has its own camera app that automatically tags the photo with the gps coordinates and date and time of the photo (not video) which is invaluable for many reasons, including this one.
Note that there have been confrontations in the past between human powered folks and Cardiff Canyon land owners. It’s important to treat them with respect and politeness; they have a legal right to be in that drainage, just as we do. Escalating hostilities via altercations would help no one, so avoid that, even as you know that as Americans and taxpayers we are free to take photos and videos on our public lands (which are mostly up in the higher reaches of the drainage; Cardiac Ridge, Holy Toledo, Cardiac Bowl, etc).
Thanks for your time and support; the fact that we have such a broad and active community is the most powerful component the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance has in being a player in the games associated with our beloved mountains. And In the meantime, enjoy our new snow (finally) and continue to pray for more snow and less wind!