Wasatch backcountry

The Utah State Senate voted 22-7 Monday to advance a resolution that promotes connecting the four ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons with the three Park City area resorts.

It wasn’t without the usual political battle, however. The Salt Lake Tribune reported the measure’s passage as a “Republican tide that overwhelmed united Democratic opposition.”

The bill urges counties, cities, and the U.S. Forest Service to “consider the benefits of connecting the various resorts and expeditiously approve a low-impact inter-resort transportation system based on appropriate analysis and balanced public input.”

The bill was introduced by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser (R-Sandy) and now goes to the Utah House. Niederhauser said the bill wasn’t an endorsement of a particular system, but rather was a bill to force the Forest Service to approve a land sale for the project that is currently moving through Congress.

He told the Tribune the resolution is needed now “to call for careful evaluation of how interconnect systems would affect the watershed and the environment of the canyons.”

Democratic opponents (there are only seven in the Senate) felt the resolution was “premature” and does not address residential and commercial growth in the canyons that could come from an interconnect system.

The main proposal on the table, known as SkiLink, would be primarily paid for by the Talisker Corp., owners of Canyons Resort. The gondola link, described as very having a very low impact on the Wasatch backcountry, would go from high at the Canyons to a terminal in the parking lot of Solitude Resort in Little Cottonwood.

Photo: Gobbler's Knob, Wasatch Backcountry (summitpost.org)