Step aside, Alta and Snowbird. A west-side ski resort is coming.
In the rolling canyons southwest of Magna, Kennecott plans to tap the greatest snow on Earth to create the Oquirrh Mountains' first ski resort.
While the copper company and land developer has set no timetable for the project, officials say the snow conditions and slopes are promising for Deer Valley-like terrain just seven miles west of Highway 111 in a region known as Soldier Flats.
It's not a matter of if, says Jim Schulte, Kennecott's vice president of long-range planning, but when.
"It's certainly skiable terrain," Schulte said, "and a lot of it."
Salt Lake County leaders stood at the site of the proposed resort Tuesday - during a tour of Kennecott's wider west-bench development plans - and gazed up at north-facing peaks streaked with crimson leaves and fresh patches of snow.
From a base elevation of 6,200 feet, the Oquirrh resort would rise to 9,350 feet. By comparison, Snowbird soars from 7,760 feet to 11,000 feet, and Park City goes from 6,900 feet to 10,000 feet.
One crest at Kennecott's planned resort overlooks the "Little Valley" flats, where the company plans to build more than 10,000 homes as a secluded mountain community above Magna.
The resort is part of Kennecott's grander vision for the west bench. South Jordan's Daybreak was just the beginning. The company plans to develop 41,000 acres of hillside neighborhoods and businesses. That's enough to cover the valley's east side from 1100 North to 14600 South, stretching from 900 East to the east bench.
What excites ski-industry watchers is the prospect of a first-ever resort on the Salt Lake Valley's sprawling west side.
"They could easily do it," said Nathan Rafferty, president and chief executive officer of Ski Utah, a marketing association representing Utah's ski and snowboard industry. "I don't know that it's the kind of resort that would compete with the Snowbirds, Altas and Deer Valleys of the world, but it would be something that would benefit Salt Lake."
Rafferty said the resort, by attracting west-siders, probably would complement, rather than compete, with the rugged and revered Wasatch ski areas. But Kennecott officials hope for a bigger hurrah and its location should help - at least with tourists.
"It's the closest ski resort to an international airport in the world," Schulte said, noting that it would rise just 18 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport.
Kennecott continues to study snow depths at the proposed Oquirrh Mountain resort, which probably would include two ski areas in Soldier Flats - one visible from Little Valley, the other secluded to the south.
While Schulte wouldn't go into details about the snow depths, he said the early measurements appear "pretty attractive."
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson joined her colleagues Tuesday for lunch in the rocky basin below the proposed resort. She marveled at the terrain.
"You would create a niche," Wilson told her Kennecott guides, "that we don't have."
How they compare - base to summit
Oquirrh resort 6,200 9,350
Snowbird 7,760 11,000
Park City 6,900 10,000
Sources: Kennecott, Ski Utah