West of Eden; Nordic Valley Goes Big

Currently, Nordic Valley operates as a small, niche ski area on 140 acres. Recently, however, the resort’s new owners, Mountain Capital Partners, announced that they will be seeking a massive expansion including a 4.3 mile gondola, 10 new lifts and large scale condo development. All told, the expansion would spill over onto approximately 3,200 skiable acres of Forest Service managed public land. The majority of this land is managed under the Forest Service’s protected Roadless Area. Remember, according to the current Forest Service Plan, Roadless Areas are to be“… protected and maintained to conserve and preserve important values and benefits.. by prohibiting activities that have a likelihood of degrading desirable characteristics of inventoried roadless areas (Wasatch-Cache National Forest Plan, p. 4-14).”

A quick search online and you’ll find a long history of proposals looking to bring the small ski hill in Eden, Utah onto the national ski industry stage. Plans for lifts and snow making expansion, night skiing operation, access roads, and mountain lodges have come and gone many times. The latest push comes from Mountain Capital Partners, a Colorado based firm that manages half a dozen resorts in the Southwest is by far the most ambitious and impactful to the health and connectivity of the Inventoried Roadless forest.

These forests like many of the Wasatch Range are habitat for a diversity of the wildlife that deserve careful consideration as human populations grow. Various grasses, oak brush give way to maple and aspen groves before reaching the highest elevation playing host to fir trees in the alpine. Prime habitat exists not only for the Big Game species that are so iconic in the west, but also the revered Bald Eagle has been found to inhabit the Lewis Peak region of North Wasatch-Ogden Valley Management Area as prime roost habitat. The Forest Service’s Draft EIS for the area states “areas naturalness of the environment is excellent” this is not a category describing man made conveyances but the flora and fauna described above along with hundreds if not thousands of others.

With the last few winters in the Wasatch Range leaving many of us feeling the summer drought and lack of pow days fresh on our minds, we wonder what the aspirations for summer development at Nordic Valley could bring? In a recent interview in the Standard Examiner, James Coleman, owner of Mountain Capitol Partners, stated “…more mountain biking, alpine slides, mountain coasters, ziplines…trying to improve summer experience and have more summer activities (Standard Examiner, Tues. July 10, 18).”

Save Our Canyons has long fought what our organization has seen as uses that distract from the natural beauty and solitude of the Wasatch. While the user experience may seem subjective to some, zip lines, mountain coasters and the like introduce new challenges to wildlife, impact habitat for plant species and potential water quality concerns.

The Wasatch is a unique range set in contrast to the bustling urban life below. Just minutes from major population centers the area sees some of the highest visitation of any National Forest in the country. Further urbanization, man-made conveyances and resort expansions are being weighed up and down the Wasatch. We encourage you to consider the range not as a fragmented landscape of north, central and south but as a connected ecosystem requiring restraint and even space to exist without our interruptions.

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