Alta Master Development Plan Draft Environmental Analysis

Alta Projects Map 2017

Check out our interactive map with info from the public notice.

After review of comments from the May 2016 scoping period, the S.L. Ranger District has prepared an “Draft Environmental Assessment” for Alta Ski Area’s Master Development Plan  addressing improvement projects Alta is hoping to implement. Some of the improvement projects being proposed are: constructing new and realigning existing lifts, relocating parking on currently undisturbed, riparian/wetland areas and a new hairdo for Mount Baldy.

Read SOC’s Alta MDP Scoping Comments May 2016

Resorts often make a “skier compaction” argument, which has at its basis the idea that when skiers use a slope, their weight compacts the snow decreasing the likelihood of a slide. This argument’s been used for many undeveloped slopes of upper Little Cottonwood Canyon e.g. Flagstaff, Grizzly Gulch, Black Bess and now Mount Baldy. Alta has 80 years of successful avalanche mitigation of this slide zone. What has changed in the snowpack or avalanche frequency that necessitates the construction of a tram with the potential for moving 150 skiers per hour? The alternative, such as relying on an aging Korean War era Howitzer arsenal or Gazex or other equivalent technologies come with their own slew of questions. There are specific questions about Alta’s proposed Gazex installations that aren’t adequately addressed, questions such as: how significant is the disturbance area and what type of maintenance would be required that might impact the area in the future.

Many of us escape into these peaceful and wild landscapes to enjoy the sights, smells and silence of nature, not to lament yet another scar on a once open vista. In fact, 88% of respondents to the Central Wasatch Visitor Study (2014-2015) said that they were “very satisfied” with their visit to the Central Wasatch. These development threats to the high alpine reaches of the Wasatch don’t just impact the quality of our recreational experience, they also degrade the home of threatened species such as the American Pika which are highly vulnerable to change on high elevation, isolated mountaintops. Plant species abound in these delicate ecosystems as well. Though many are not unique to the Wasatch Mountains, they are exceptionally rare in their dispersal. Are we willing to trade away some of the last truly intact habitat perfect for these different species, for a few swooshing ski turns in the name of fun?

In collaboration with dozens of local leaders, organizations, ski resorts and land managers, Save Our Canyons came to the table and identified common ground that has resulted in a blueprint for a healthy future for the Wasatch Range. Most recently the Mountain Accord successfully addressed next steps regarding transportation, economy, recreation and environment. These “systems,” as they were termed, all play into our high quality of life along the Wasatch Front and Save Oure Canyons advocated for a result that does not alter the ecosystem upon which hundreds of species of plants and animals depend.

With winter at our door step, it is easy, no exciting, to look at the world through ski goggles. Early mornings or glorious afternoons in the glades, Conifer groves and snow-covered slopes of the Wasatch Mountains. However, bear in mind that as the snow turns to spring run-off in the not so distant future, this infrastructure remains.

Save Our Canyons is comprised of thousands of people yet we all have one common thread; a love of wild places. We are a grassroots organization that for 45 years has advocated for protecting the water, wildlife, meadows, ridges and valley’s of this awesome place. As population in the valley grows, so will visitation and pressures on this finite resource. We encourage you to take the opportunity to provide your ideas, perspectives and recommendations to the Forest Service and Alta Ski Area. It can be as simple as telling them why you love the Wasatch and how more development will degrade your experience when visiting the canyons.

6 responses to “Alta Master Development Plan Draft Environmental Analysis

  1. The ski resort already is here – why do you think a new tram would be so impactful (ruining “some of the last truly intact habitat perfect for these species”)? It’s still awesome mountain country and will be a great place for humans and animals alike all summer. Lighten up.

    • Hey Morgan, thanks for taking the time to comment. While some of the proposed changes involve replacing rickety ski lifts there are a few that are far more worrisome. Mt. Baldy has long been a place where folks earned their turns, where getting to the top of the mountain was as much of the experience as getting down it. Alta is proposing put a NEW tram to the top of Baldy that will carry 150 people per hour to a summit that up till now has only been available to those willing to hike up. Once the tram goes up and people congregate atop Baldy, there’s no guarantee that Alta won’t want a warming hut at the top to keep folks out of the elements. Once the warming hut is in, they may find it necessary to put in a restaurant and conference center. If this sounds like a stretch just take a look a short way down canyon where Hidden Peak is crowned with a view-blocking eyesore taking up 23,000 square feet. We met with Alta last week and asked if they’d pledge that Baldy wouldn’t fall prey to the same slippery slope of construction. Their response: Baldy’s summit is private land. We can do as we want on the peak and we refuse to limit ourselves by saying there will be no additional development to Baldy’s summit. So you see, far more than replacing a few rickety lifts, Alta’s proposal could be the first step to a building on Baldy. At the very least, it’s a new tram that’s likely to break up ridge lines views and be seen from miles around – from Timpanogos to Mt. Aire. Please consider commenting on Alta’s Development Plan. Thanks again for writing.

    • This would be terrible. The Wasatch is shrinking because of Industrialization and Commercialism. The resorts are WORLD class already and have been for years. We don’t need more development, we we need to preserve what we have or we’ll lose it. A better question is why do we need a tram if we already have a resort. I’ve skied alta my whole life and I love it there. I hope to see it remain as it is.

  2. Please leave the mountain as it is. As a skier and photographer I don’t want additional lifts or trams. Let people work for the backcountry.

  3. These mountains belong to the people not the ski resort that have closed off areas in big and little cottonwood canyon from us. The way i look at these areas should be left alone for families can go up and snowmobile, ride horses, and hike without having to pay someone, and plus people with disabilities can camp, hunt and enjoy nature without having to pay Big Business for recreation on tight budgets and no interest in skiing.

  4. We don’t need a new lift to take us to the top of Baldy. I earned my turns there before and hiking to ski is one of the greatest rewards I’ve earned. Leave the lifts where they’re at and not add new ones.

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