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.
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.