Environmentalists Oppose Decision to Allow Alta, UT to Build a Small Tram | Claim it will Degrade Sensitive Wetlands

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A new tram has been approved at Alta Ski Area. Credit: Roger Romani

A small tram, capable of moving 150 skiers an hour to the top of one of the Central Wasatch’s highest peaks, could be in store for Alta Ski Area under a master plan approved this week by the U.S. Forest Service reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

But environmentalists are concerned the tram, proposed to connect Germania Pass with the summit of Mount Baldy, and other parts of the plan could pave the way for further mountaintop development at the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon, and possibly degrade sensitive wetlands.

“They are doubling down on the destruction of wetlands in our watersheds,” said Carl Fisher, executive director of the environmental group Save Our Canyons. Fisher has been a leading critic of upgrades proposed in the master plan, unveiled five years ago for one of the nation’s oldest and most storied ski areas, among the last to embrace high-speed lifts.

The federal decision posted Tuesday, however, concludes Alta’s master development plan poses “no significant impact,” opening a 45-day comment period before it wins final approval.

The Wasatch. Credit: Kyler Roush

The plan does not seek to expand the resort, which operates on 1,800 acres of public land administered by the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest outside Salt Lake City. But it does envision replacing two lower mountain lifts, Wildcat and Sunnyside; expansions to two restaurants; and installation of new technologies to replace military artillery and Avalaunchers, which fire explosive projectiles to trigger controlled slides.

Aside from the tram, another controversial element is the proposed Flora Lift, a short-run conveyance in Sugarbowl at the top of Albion Basin. That lift would enable skiers to access Germania Pass and Collins Bowl without having to navigate the East Baldy Traverse. But the lift’s towers and lower terminal above Glory Hole would encroach on wetlands vital to ecosystem health and water quality, according to Fisher.

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