A controversial plan to connect Utah’s ski resorts is gaining support from local business leaders. A new coalition touts the economic and environmental benefits of joining resorts along the Wasatch Front and Back by a gondola, but the gathering spurred dozens to protest the meeting.
Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie announced the formation of the Lift Utah Coalition, which supports connecting Wasatch Mountain ski resorts:
“This is a study, this is a coalition of people coming together to make sure that we’re asking the right questions to make sure that the answers to those questions are well thought out and looked at.”
Beattie, along with Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan and Former U.S. Senator Jake Garn are co-chairing the coalition, which will be responsible for answering key questions about water quality and other environmental issues:
“When we look at the connectivity it gives us an opportunity to literally connect them in a method that some say could help us clean our air. If we could do that, WOW, it would be phenomenal for us. To have the best snow on earth, to literally have the best quality water from the mountains and have the opportunity to take cars out of canyons would be critical for us.”
Mike Goar, Managing Director of the Canyons Resort who also sits on the coalition called the announcement a great day in Utah’s tourism industry. The most notable interlink project discussed so far is SkiLink, a plan to connect Canyons and Solitude, which Goar says could be just the beginning of connecting the canyons: “What other coalition members have said is they are in support of SkiLink with the expectations that it goes through a rigorous pubic approval process.”
The Salt Lake Chamber says that in order for it to support SkiLink, it must be a net benefit for the environment, go through a rigorous review process in Salt Lake and Summit Counties, and be considered along with other transportation options.
But nearly 40 protestors, chanting "Something Smells, SkiStinks", who gathered outside the building where the Lift Utah coalition was announced are skeptical to say the least.
Carl Fisher, Executive Director of Save our Canyons questions any sort of data coming out of the new coalition.
“It was supported by horrible data that wouldn’t stand up anywhere except for the dog and pony show events that they had upstairs.”
Fisher says the group is building a coalition of opposition to counter Monday’s coalition of support of linking the resorts.