This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
OGDEN - Snowbasin's owners are calling Ogden out. Again.
Clint Ensign, senior vice president for The Sinclair Companies, has written to Mayor Matthew Godfrey to complain about "incorrect information" that he says the mayor has repeatedly passed on to the public about a connection between Snowbasin, on the east side of the mountains, and a proposed west-slope ski resort and gondola.
"Such a connection is not in the current or future plans," Ensign wrote in his May 18 letter, prompted by an article in a city newsletter to water customers.
That newsletter said the proposed gondola "provides the ability for Snowbasin patrons to use the gondola and not drive to the resort," reducing acres of parking and pollution by about 15,000 pounds of emissions per year.
Even before his recent letter, Ensign had made two stabs at clarifying for the mayor Snowbasin's lack of involvement.
"I've made it clear: The two won't connect," Ensign said Thursday.
Godfrey said that message has been abundantly clear.
But he contends the city's communications via the newsletter and Web site, while lacking in clarity, do not imply Snowbasin is financially involved in the project to put a gondola to the top of its resort.
Snowbasin, he said, cannot deny that, geographically, Snowbasin is nearby the proposed resort and gondola termination point.
If the Forest Service approves developer Chris Peterson's proposal - a contingency Godfrey says will be more explicit in future communications - skiers and sightseers could make their way to Snowbasin, he said.
Ensign, who is in charge of government relations for Snowbasin owner Sinclair, said he met last year with Godfrey to say Snowbasin is uninterested. And in April, after Ensign complained about another question-and-answer tract published by the city and Lift Ogden, a pro-gondola group, the answer was rephrased on the city's Web site to make a less emphatic claim of a Snowbasin connection.
Godfrey said the latest dust-up involves a question-and-answer written even before Ensign complained the first time.
Ensign, who considers Godfrey a "terrific" mayor and wishes developer Peterson "all the luck in the world," said Sinclair takes no position on the gondola or proposed resort - other than "the two projects will not connect."
The confusion - indeed, the expectation of a future connection - has been fed by the fact that Peterson is the son-in-law of Earl Holding, who with his wife and children owns Sinclair and Snowbasin. Peterson, an 18-year Sinclair employee, helped turn Snowbasin into an Olympic resort.
"We don't want people to think there's a quiet or silent involvement or funding through the Holdings," Ensign said.
He pointed out that Snowbasin ruled out a gondola or tram from Mount Ogden's west side years ago.
"If we had thought a tram made sense . . . we would have done a tram up the mountain entirely on private land and landed at the top on private land."
Instead, Snowbasin secured, through Congress, a land exchange (it gave up its claim to Taylor Canyon, on Ogden's east side) for Forest Service land around its base area.
"Operationally, it's difficult and it's expensive. The safety aspect of it with the avalanche danger, high winds. . . . We looked at it and just didn't feel it made sense for Snowbasin, Ensign said."
Peterson, who owns more than 1,000 acres in Malans Basin, said Thursday that the gondola he now proposes is "significantly different" from the tram rejected by Snowbasin while he worked there. Its location and use as day-long ski lift have changed, Peterson said.
Whether Snowbasin would oppose any Peterson bid for Forest Service approval to put the top of the gondola on forest land, Ensign could not say. "There are too many unknowns."
The Forest Service master plan, finished about three years ago, said there would be no expansion of existing ski resorts and no new ski resorts, according to Chip Sibbernsen, Ogden district ranger.
"There was a lot of effort and study that went into that plan," said Sibbernsen. "We want to consider very carefully what we were going to do in there before we make any changes."
Peterson said he will build the Malans Basin resort even if the gondola does not give riders access to Snowbasin.
He plans to finance the project by developing 400 home sites around a reconfigured Mount Ogden Golf Course. Peterson wants to buy the golf course from the city, plus another 100 acres-plus from Weber State University.