2-mile gondola may connect Canyons, Solitude resorts

Proposed $10 million line reopens debate on bridging ski areas

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 23 2012 9:05 p.m. MST

Just beyond Eagle Point's gates are hundreds of square miles of untrammeled powder under the volcanic-shaped peaks of the Tushar Mountains. Skiers can take endless backcountry loops with little effort using the resort's lifts.

Managers of a New York-based hedge fund brought the former Elk Meadows ski area out of dormancy and are running it as a family operation for a third year. Revenue is thin for Utah's most remote ski area, outside of Beaver, but that didn't stop the owners from offering free skiing.

Anyone can ski Eagle Point at no charge Thursdays in January, and for California residents, skiing is free all season. Meanwhile, nearby Brian Head is slashing prices for skiers who buy a punch pass of five lift tickets for midweek use at $159.

Adventure also is on tap at northern Utah's Powder Mountain, which grew from one of the smallest to arguably largest Utah ski resort, although it involves some walking or snowcat rides to reach distant slopes. The effort is worth it, with deep powder outlasting other Utah resorts for days at a time after a storm.

A look at what's new at Utah resorts this year:

Alta is celebrating 75 years. Alta opened in 1938 with rope tows and a year later added a chairlift, the second in the West after Idaho's Sun Valley.

Alta plans to mark the Jan. 15 anniversary with fireworks and a torchlight parade. It's publishing a picture book and will roll out a series of short films digitized from 8 mm color shots taken as early as the 1940s. What's more, Alta is partnering on a $349 pass for two days of skiing at each of four destinations, including Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. That works out to $43.60 a day.

Beaver Mountain has leveled and cleared out its base area for easier skier access, after adding a triple-seat chair last year.

Brighton opened Nov. 13, first for the season among Utah resorts. The boarder-friendly resort is rolling out a new mobile app for snow reports and a yurt for ski school.

Canyons introduces the Ultimate Mountain Experience, with six Olympians and six other athletes coaching guests for three-day sessions under the direction of Phil McNichol, former U.S. men's alpine coach.

Deer Valley replaced the fixed-grip Deer Crest chair with a high-speed detachable quad as part of $8 million in improvements. The resort also boosted snowmaking, bought five new Prinoth snowcats and renovated Snow Park Restaurant.

Park City Mountain Resort offers a new terrain park, Neff Land, and a three-day freestyle camp for children.

Snowbird replaced the 1980 two-seat Little Cloud chair lift with a high-speed quad. Instead of a ride of eight minutes "that felt like 20," the new lift delivers skiers to the top of Snowbird in 3½ minutes, said Dave Fields, vice president of resort operations.

Solitude expanded snowmaking for earlier season openings.

Sundance adds a new chairlift from an upper parking lot with direct access to a terrain park. It also expanded snowmaking capacity by 40 percent.

Snowbasin is expanding a terrain park and its snowcat fleet.

Wolf Mountain, under new ownership and management, runs Utah's smallest ski area with three lifts, night skiing and a magic-carpet conveyer for children.

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