Map of ONE Wasatch concept. Blue circles are locations of the proposed resort connectors. photo: onewasatch.com
ONE Wasatch concept announced today. 18,000 acres, 7 resorts, 1 pass. The Wasatch Mountains are famous for their terrain and legendary snow quality. Numerous resorts currently exist in close proximity to one another. Often little more than a ridgeline or a patrol-enforced rope line separates one area from the next. The ONE Wasatch concept proposes to unite all the resorts with a minor addition of infrastructure.
ONE Wasatch Concept outlines four steps to connecting the various resorts.
– Connect Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons
– Connct Big Cottonwood Canyon to Park City
– Connect Park City to Canyons Resort
– Drop the rope between Deer Valley and Park City
ONE Wasatch would link together Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, Canyonlands, Park City, and Deer Valley. The idea is still listed as a concept because while all seven resorts have committed to the idea no resorts have immediate plans to implement their portions of the project.
The ONE Wasatch concept seeks to work together with the Mountain Accord, a group of transportation officials, local governments, recreation user groups, and ski area operators. The Mountain Accord initiative seeks to improve mountain transportation systems that augment or replace the current bus system. With the current ONE Wasatch concept all seven resorts could be connected with as few as six new chairlifts and initial estimates for the cost of the three links at $30 million. The concept layout has ensured that all connections fall on privately owned land, for which ownership or rights can be negotiated, as opposed to federal land.
One issue of huge contention with any new development in the Wasatch Range is the issue of watershed conservation. The city of Salt Lake protects Little and Big Cottonwood Canyon watersheds for use as drinking water, so one of the main potential oppositions to this project could come from environmental or civil activist groups who fear that development in the watershed could harm water quality.
While all seven resorts would be united under the ONE Wasatch banner for tourism and marketing purposes, it is NOT an attempt to combine all resorts into a mega-resort. The idea for ONE Wasatch is based upon systems currently in use in Europe, in areas such as Trois Vallees or Arlberg region, where seemingly endless options can be accessed from a single resort.
Wasatch Mountain Range, canyons open up on Salt Lake City. photo: cs.utah.edu
ONE Wasatch concept does acknowledge that the implementation of the concept would likely encroach on backcountry skiing areas. Because of the proximity of the resorts, the construction of linking chairlifts could transform popular backcountry areas into groomed runs. In some spots there would also be the possibility of completely eliminating a backcountry zone due to the close proximity of resorts. Building a connection in certain areas could transform the zone into a high-traffic inbounds run.
One thing is for sure, the ONE Wasatch concept is bold. Nothing on this scale exists in America. If done correctly this could transform the ski community in the Salt Lake area in an incredibly positive way. However, with so many stakeholders it is also possible to leave people grumbling and upset. With such a complex concept, this will be one to watch in the future.