Posted by: Deb Henry | 05/02/2012

Stop SkiLink

“It is a lovely and terrible wilderness; …its great sky without a smudge of taint from Technocracy. Save a piece of country like that intact, and it does not matter in the slightest that only a few people every year will go into it. That is precisely its value.” – Wallace Stegner

SkiLink is the proposed (and controversial) gondola lift that would connect Canyons and Solitude Mountain Resorts in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. The gondola is being pitched as a necessary and important competitive advantage for the tourism industry in Utah and as a way to decrease transportation volumes in Big Cottonwood Canyon (SR-190) and Parley’s Canyon (I-80) — but residents and outdoor enthusiasts are overwhelmingly against the project.

Here’s what Talisker doesn’t tell you about the project:

  • It takes 4 lifts and 1.5+ hrs to get to the location at Canyons Resort where SkiLink would start/end. It takes 2 lifts to get to the location at Solitude where SkiLink would start/end. Neither resort has an half-day morning pass for recreation, so you would have to purchase tickets at full-price at both resorts for a total of $166 (2011-12 prices: $96/Canyons, $68/ Solitude).
  • Talisker claims an 11 minute trip because it does not consider the time on lifts to get to SkiLink.
  • Talisker is a Canadian company who has hired former mayor/ now lobbyist, Ted Wilson, to advise them through the federal and local hurdles to accelerate the construction of SkiLink. Talisker (owner of Canyons) already funnels its profits outside of Utah and the USA. To say that SkiLink is important to the local economy is misguided. Utah does not need to rely on foreign corporations to have a stable economy. Also, billionaire owner Gary DeSeelhorst, is getting up there in years and may be looking to sell the resort soon. One of his sons prefers running a vineyard in California and the other takes little interest in improving operations at Solitude. Who wants to guess that Talisker will buy Solitude and turn it into another over-developed, expensive resort like Canyons?
  • Utah Senator Hatch and Utah Congressman Rob Bishop simultaneously filed the Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act in both the House (HR 3452) and Senate (S 1883) to allow Talisker to have their way with our mountains.  These efforts include the sale of 30 acres of YOUR public lands to Talisker via federal bill sponsored by Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, and Senator’s Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee.  This would ensure the entire SkiLink proposal would be on private land, a sneaky way to circumvent the public process and take regulatory authority out of the hands of the Forest Service; as the 2003 Forest Service Plan explicitly prohibits ski area expansion. Bishop’s bill is aiming to bypass the public process, at a time when it is clear the public (94%) overwhelmingly supports limiting resort boundaries to existing Forest Service permit boundaries in the Wasatch, as expressed in the Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow public process.
  • Missy Larsen, Ted Wilson’s daughter, is running for Salt Lake County Council, District #4 (map) as a Republican for a seat currently held by Democrat Jani Iwamoto (who has decided not to run for re-election). The Council make-up is currently 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats. Assuming Missy Larsen will vote in favor of SkiLink to further Ted’s influence, it is CRITICAL that Democrat Sam Granato win District #4 (east bench from UofU to Cottonwood Heights) in November’s election to ensure our fight against SkiLink.
  • SkiLink is being framed as a way to reduce vehicle trips and improve air quality. Since it takes less time to get to the top of Solitude than Canyons, it will increase and induce traffic  in Big Cottonwood Canyon (I’m a transportation engineer) and pollute SLCo’s air for the benefit of a foreign corporation. Considering it takes 30 minutes to drive from 7-11 to 7-11 near both resorts, it is unlikely that a 1.5+ hour trip will deter people from driving to either resort.
  • The 2010 Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow survey reported that 62% of the public would like SL County to strengthen regulations on land use in the canyons. It also reported that  62.5% of the public thinks that the Wasatch canyons are currently overused.
  • The legislation proposed by Bishop and Hatch will set an unfavorable precedent to sell off actively used and appreciated public lands for the benefit of a private business entity. The legislation circumvents the public process and, in this instance, a public that has already expressed sentiments against the wanton expansion of ski areas in the Wasatch. It will become the impetus for a range war of construction of additional lifts which span the Wasatch crest and put at risk the integrity of our watershed and diminish the backcountry skier/hiker/biker/tourist experience.
  • Utah currently receives approximately 95 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. The ski lifts in Utah are *ALL* powered by this dirty energy and the proposed SkiLink gondola will also be powered by coal. Burning coal releases toxic mercury that rains down onto rivers and streams and contaminates fish. The pollution then makes its way into our bodies when we eat the fish. Mercury is especially dangerous to pregnant women and young children because it’s a powerful neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system — causing developmental problems and learning disabilities. Each year, coal pollution causes 12,000 emergency room visits and $100 billion in health costs.
  • Talisker is currently bullying Park City Mountain Resort, a locally owned company, to take over its land in Summit County. Most of the land currently owner by Talisker is in Summit County. They are interested in generating more revenue from that land at the expense of Salt Lake County.
  • SkiLink will not have any intermediate stops anywhere in the path between the resorts, so getting off the link at peaks during the summers (like at Snowbird) is not an option. It will not allow access to disabled people or anyone else who is currently unable to access our mountains. SkiLink touts this as not increasing the volumes in the mountains.
  • Talisker Ski Link’s environmental impact statement is insensitive: ” Clearing required for the corridor may have an adverse impact on habitat value for species that require habitat contiguity. The impacted habitats, however, are common to the region and many habitat contiguity options exist … If future studies reveal potential impacts to sensitive species, they will be mitigated by adjusting the corridor alignment or construction schedule or other modifications.”
  • SkiLink would cut a swath of trees right through our incredible Wasatch Mountains and potentially compromise the Wasatch Crest Trail, a favorite mountain bike trail for locals.

Things you can do:

  • Elect Sam Granato for Salt Lake County Council, District #4 to make sure the SLCo Council does not give approval for SkiLink. Follow Sam Granato on Facebook here to get updates on how to help with his election.
  • Write to Republican Missy Larsen and let her know you will do everything in your power to stop SkiLink and elect Democrat Sam Granato for our SLCo Council. Without Sam, the Council could be 6 Republicans and 3 Democrats and potentially green-light the construction of SkiLink.
  • Get Senator Orrin Hatch out of office. Vote instead for Dan  Liljenquist in the June 26th primary.  Add it to your calendar now. You must be a registered Republican to vote in a Republican primary. You can register (at the latest) 15 days in advance of the election in person at your local county clerk’s office. You can change your affiliation (to whatever you want) immediately following the election. Democrat Scott Howell will run against the winner of the primary in November.
  • Make sure there is a viable candidate to run against Rob Bishop for Congressional District #1 (northern Utah, Summit County,  map) in November. Bishop introduced the Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act in U.S. Congress that would facilitate the construction of SkiLink (and he also voted for NDAA, codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial).
  • Donna McAleer is our best choice to beat Congressman Rob Bishop. Donna McAleer is a West Point graduate, Veteran, an Olympic athlete, and an author who penned “Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line.”  Written as a model for the teenaged girls she coached in volleyball, the book features women who exhibited courage, strength, and character in overcoming numerous obstacles, both in uniform and later after embarking on civilian careers.  Much like Donna herself, who embodies service above self and has practical experience in both the private and publics sectors. In this TED talk, Donna McAleer focuses on facing fears, with examples from her own life. She is also a founder of the The People’s Health Clinic, serving the uninsured in Summit and Wasatch counties. Donna is in a primary fight June 26, 2012, so immediate efforts are necessary to ensure her win in order to face Bishop in November. Volunteer for her campaign here. If you have friends in her district (Summit, Weber, Cache, Davis, Morgan Counties + more), make sure they know they have the opportunity to elect someone incredible, and ask them to participate in getting Donna elected.

More links about SkiLink:

Love Wilderness?
  • Help SUWA (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance) fight the destruction of our public lands. Utah’s announcement that it will sue the federal government over more than 25,000 so-called “roads” is the most serious threat to the future of Utah’s remaining wild lands, designated wilderness, national parks, national monuments and other scenic wild lands, and the Department of Interior must do everything in its power to ensure that the sanctity of our public lands remains protected. Follow SUWA on Facebook  and Twitter.
As custodians of thousands of acres of pristine land, environmental protection is of paramount importance to residents of Utah for the use and enjoyment of future generations.


  1. “Talisker is currently bullying Park City Mountain Resort, a locally owned company, to take over its land in Summit County. Most of the land currently owner by Talisker is in Summit County. They are interested in generating more revenue from that land at the expense of Salt Lake County.”

    You are stupid or just uninformed. PCMR is also behind the Interconnect idea, as are all seven Park City and Cottonwood resorts. Supporting PCMR is also supporting the Interconnect. The PCMR issue with Talisker is over a lease that PCMR did not renew. The letter to renew the lease had the stamp on it postmarked days after lease renewal notification was due.

    The stupidity here lies with PCMR. They made leasehold improvements without first having a long term lease, and then they forgot to renew the lease on time. The PCMR payments were only $155,000 per year, and now those payments will (I assume) rise to market rates. I don’t understand why PCMR didn’t buy the land from UPCM in the first place.

    The owner of Powdr is not a local. He resides in Jackson Hole. The proposed SkiLink land is federally owned, meaning someone from New Jersey or Iowa has just as much say about it being sold as we do.

    If you want to say “I hate Talisker but like PCMR,” it means you are either hypocritical or worse.

    • I’m not defending PCMR. I’m simply pointing out that Talisker is, indeed, bullying PCMR. The intent of PCMR was widely known and now the people who want PCMR out of the picture are deferring to stamps and paperwork to make their case. It is disingenuous and makes me lose even more respect for Talisker.

      Of course the ski resorts are all for the interconnect. SkiUtah’s job is to draw more people to Utah. If this project promised 1 more person on the mountain they would be for it. It’s myopic, but true. They don’t have to consider the watershed based on their framework of decision-making as a tourism corporation.

      Powdr Corporation/PCMR is based in Park City and therefore locally owned.

      If you read the blog carefully, you’d see that while the land is currently federally owner, they are looking to do land swaps to put it on private land, thus seeking to bypass the public process (New Jersey, Iowa and all).

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