Guest Blog by Jeff Kiesel

My name is Jeff Kiesel. Currently, I am a student at Westminster College. One of my assignments for my Professional Writing class was to seek out a non-profit organization to work with on a writing campaign. When I heard of the assignment, I was immediately hoping to work with an organization that dealt with my interests as a skier. After looking through a list of possible organizations, Save Our Canyons jumped out at me. I had seen the bumper sticker, and had a basic understanding of what they did, but was not fully aware of their work or influence in the Salt Lake community.

Growing up, my family moved all around New England, and my love for skiing and the mountains grew with each move. Our last location before I came out to Utah had us in the White Mountain National Forest. I thoroughly enjoyed being so close to the wilderness, both for mental relief and recreation. The main issue, however, was being in the middle of nowhere, living in the woods. It took quite a haul to get out of the forest and into a town, and the closest city was almost two hours away. When looking at colleges, Salt Lake City stood out to me. Being able to live in a city, but still have quick and easy access to beautiful landscapes and amazing skiing seemed too good to be true.

When I had first moved here I took the mountains for granted, not realizing the threats that lurked around, threatening the majesty of the Wasatch Mountains. They weren’t too apparent to me; I was just excited to be skiing real mountains. The first major issue I noticed was Alta’s proposed lift up the Flagstaff area. This was around the time that I had invested in avalanche gear, classes, and a touring set up. I thought the idea of putting a lift in this area was crazy, as it (and surrounding areas) is one of the easiest backcountry skiing/snowboarding zones to access, even without a touring set up.

Hearing of this plan triggered me to investigate a bit, which is how I first learned about Save Our Canyons. I learned through Save Our Canyons website (at https://saveourcanyons.org/current_issues/projects/altas_flagstaff_mountain) that there were more reasons to oppose this lift than just the traffic it would bring from Alta, resulting in less fresh turns of “the greatest snow on earth”. The watershed, for instance, could be in jeopardy. I had a limited understanding of the watershed and had no idea that heavy traffic and a development of this nature could have negative effects on it.

Since then, I have wanted to learn more about Save Our Canyons. I had assumed they dealt with issues very similar to this, keeping ski areas from expanding into the wilderness. This project gave me the chance to learn more about S.O.C, and I have come to realize they do much more than I thought. After reviewing the latest bill, the Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act, I am excited to know there is an organization and politicians here that are so passionate about keeping these mountains beautiful, yet still allowing room for recreational activities like resort skiing. It’s amazing to be able to enjoy nature’s beauty whether I decide to ride a lift at a resort or skin into the backcountry.

In an age where technology and the expansion of cities seem to be everyone’s priorities, it’s refreshing to know that there are people who still enjoy the earth as it was created. We need to keep these natural areas, so that we can continue to enjoy them for the rest of our lives, but also so future generations can continue to take pleasure in the beauty, serenity, and fun these mountains have to offer.

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