Although the Forest Service rejected Seven Peaks developers' latest application, community support for the resort is still running strong, according to a newly released survey.
The survey, a joint project of Western Wats, a Provo-based research firm, and Valcarce and Warren, a communications strategy company, shows that 57 percent of the residents surveyed approve of the resort, while 33 percent disapprove. Support for the resort is slightly higher in Orem than in Provo; 60 percent of Orem residents polled favor the resort while 55 percent of Provo residents approve.Pollsters called 300 randomly selected residents of the two cities between Jan. 12-17 to ask questions on a variety of issues. The study, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percent, was not commissioned by Seven Peaks, but by a client interested in a separate topic.
Regarding Seven Peaks, callers asked: "Do you approve or disapproved of construction of the proposed Seven Peaks ski resort?" They followed that question by asking respondents if they approved or disapproved strongly or somewhat.
"Support for Seven Peaks is still high among the community, even though the Forest Service rejected their (resort developers) initial application," said Peter Valcarce, research director for the project. "From what we've seen in this study, the community still wants Seven Peaks built."
The survey's results are similar to those of a Dan Jones poll released last May. Jones surveyed 400 residents and found 61 percent approved the resort's construction, while 17 percent disapproved it. However, another survey, conducted by a student group at Brigham Young University, found more people disapproved than approved of the resort.
Western Wats is owned by Ron Lindorf, who used to work with the Wirthlin Group, a nationally recognized polling firm. Western Wats has 150 telephone surveyors in Provo, Logan and Rexburg, Idaho.
The survey also included a demographic profile of respondents, which closely parallels other surveys and census data, lending credibility to its results, Valcarce said.
The survey's most surprising finding is that support for the ski resort is slightly lower among student groups than among non-student groups, Valcarce said. Fifty-nine percent of all students interviewed support the resort while 63 percent of non-students support it.
"That would indicate for me that local support is even stronger than we would anticipate," Valcarce said. "I think there is often a feeling that those who are permanent residents don't want the resort, but according to our study that is simply untrue."
The strongest support for the resort comes from people in the 18-25 age bracket, followed by those in the 26-35 age bracket. The resort was not supported by a majority of respondents in the 66-or-older age category.
White-collar and high-technology workers also indicated more support for the resort than did any other occupational category.
Valcarce plans to give a copy of the study to Seven Peaks owner Victor Borcherds, although whether it will be of any use remains to be seen.
"It depends on what Seven Peaks does from here," Valcarce said. "If Seven Peaks is still trying to work through problems with the Forest Service, this will validate the fact that the community still wants the resort."