Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Snowbird proposing second tram, expansion into back side gulch
Recreation • The resort would build a new tram if feds approve its planned expansion.

By Mike Gorrell The Salt Lake Tribune

Published June 4, 2010 9:03 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Photos
Join the Discussion
Post a Comment
Read All Comments

Snowbird is seeking U.S. Forest Service approval to expand into another canyon off its back side — Mary Ellen Gulch, adjacent to Mineral Basin.

Providing access: A new tram would run from Hidden Peak to the West Twin of American Fork Twin Peaks.

"That will be a pretty dramatic ride," Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort President Bob Bonar said of vistas from the tram, which would rise from 11,000 feet to the West Twin's 11,489-foot summit.

Bonar submitted a proposed master plan amendment last month to the Forest Service's Salt Lake Ranger District.

District Ranger Cathy Kahlow said her staff is evaluating the proposal and will decide by late summer or early fall whether to accept it. If accepted, she noted, expansion portions will require a full-blown environmental impact statement and changes to the Wasatch-Cache-Uinta National Forest plan.

That process seems certain to spark considerable interest, from the protectors of Salt Lake City's watershed to the conservationists who support Save Our Canyons, which is generally opposed to resort expansion in the Wasatch.

"It's another ski area expansion where resorts take public lands and give up nothing in return," said Save Our Canyons Executive Director Carl Fisher.

The envisioned expansion would add 780 acres of Mary Ellen Gulch into the resort's boundary. Bonar said Snowbird owns about half of the land already through the acquisition of mining claims; the Forest Service manages the rest.

Under U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson's Wasatch Mountain wilderness proposal, Snowbird could acquire even more lands in Mary Ellen Gulch in exchange for resort-owned parcels on the north side of Little Cottonwood Canyon, on mounts Flagstaff and Superior.

The top of the gulch offers "more of the same great powder terrain Snowbird already has for advanced skiers and boarders," said Bonar.

Mary Ellen Gulch's terrain also seems well-suited to spring skiing, important to a resort whose last day this season is June 20, said Snowbird spokesman Jared Ishkanian. It also is not used extensively by backcountry skiers, minimizing a flash point of controversy over use of the Wasatch Range, he added.

From the bottom of Mary Ellen, a proposed lift would carry skiers and boarders to "Sinners Pass" ridge, where they can descend into Mineral Basin. Snowbird wants to lengthen the Mineral Basin Express chairlift by about 50 percent to pick up these riders and to add about 1,000 feet of intermediate-to-beginner slope at the bottom.

The extended Express lift would take riders back to Hidden Peak, completing a loop.

While experts will benefit from that expansion, Snowbird also wants to improve its opportunities for beginners. It is asking to put a lift up a gently sloping hill on the north side of Little Cottonwood Creek, directly across from Baby Thunder Lift, on the resort's down-canyon end. A bridge over the creek would connect the new beginner area to Baby Thunder.

Nine of Snowbird's 13 proposals address projects currently in the resort, such as adding night skiing along Gadzoom lift, adding onto the Mid-Gad and Gad Valley day lodges and developing new bike trails and service roads.

Save Our Canyons' Fisher was disappointed Snowbird submitted the plan now, while wilderness bill talks are in the early stages. "This master plan amendment is not really holding up the end of the deal we thought we had worked on with Snowbird," he said.

Jeff Niermeyer, Salt Lake City's director of public utilities, said he was pleased that most new activity is proposed for outside of the Salt Lake Valley's prime watershed. But he pledged to watch the proposal closely to ensure water quality is not affected.

Longtime backcountry skier Bob Athey said the main reason he doesn't ski Mary Ellen Gulch is that access was cut off by Snowbird's development of Mineral Basin. "Snowbird has no purpose and no need," he said. "Ask Bob Bonar, 'When is enough enough?' "

mikeg@sltrib.com

What is Snowbird's 10-year master plan?

Boundary expansion in Mary Ellen Gulch and Mineral Basin

A tram from Hidden Peak to the West Twin of American Fork Twin Peaks

A new chairlift in Mary Ellen Gulch, extension of the Mineral Basin Lift

Development of a beginner skier area, with a lift, below resort's lower entry

Creation of more mountain biking trails

Installation of night skiing along Gadzoom Lift

Making Gad II a high-speed detachable lift

Renovations to the Mid-Gad and Gad Valley day lodges, General Gritts store

Expansion of lift maintenance, disabled skiing offices

Addition of yurt to Baby Thunder area

Source • Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Reader Comments
Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, click the red "Flag" link below it.
See more about comments here.