Following two out-of-bounds avalanche fatalities last season, Park City Mountain Resort, UT, has decided to permanently close the backcountry gate through which the victims left the resort.
The closure of the popular gate at the top of the Ninety-Nine 90 chairlift brings to an end the direct chairlift access to the Park City ridgeline.
On January 30th, 2021, a skier was buried in an avalanche in the backcountry zone known as Square Top, having left the resort through the access gate at the top of 9,990. On January 8th, 2021, a skier was killed in an avalanche in the Dutch Draw area, leaving the resort via the same 9,990 access gate.
In a statement, Chief Operating Officer Mike Goar said the decision was prompted by last season’s deaths and aims to reduce the number of novice users who venture unequipped into the backcountry.
“I can no longer reconcile the number of tragedies and the impact to the community and our employees with the desire to provide convenient, lift-served backcountry access from the Ninety-Nine 90 exit.”
– PCMR COO Mike Goar
The resort also closed a backcountry gate above the Peak 5 lift, but that gate will reopen this season.
“While both exits access the same area, the Peak 5 exit requires more hike-to effort, preparation, and intention to reach the terrain. The Ninety-Nine 90 exit provided lift-served backcountry terrain that was accessible with minimal effort. Even with extensive signage, this could attract unprepared backcountry skiers and riders.”
– PCMR COO Mike Goar
The resort made the decision to close the gate in collaboration with the US Forest Service and the Utah Avalanche Center. Forest Service officials have repeatedly advocated for the resort to maintain access to public land outside its boundaries but have said the decision whether to open or shut the gate was up to the resort, as it is on private land, reports the Park Record.
A petition that was set up in March when the gates were first closed is requesting the reopening of the gates and has already gathered over 1,800 signatures.