The Wasatch Canyon Master Plan, said to be the official statement by Salt Lake County on the future of the canyon, is out in rough draft. How one views it depends entirely on whether one chooses to glide or slide on winter's snow.
If crowds annoy you, $400 Obermeyer ski suits with matching skis offend you, cold lunches appeal to you, and hiking uphill doesn't bother you, then it's likely you'll like the plan.But, if you like bumping elbows occasionally, have an attraction to colorful hats and matching boots, would sooner eat a hot meal from a comfortable chair, and have a real aversion to ever going uphill on skis, then it's likely you won't find much to interest you in the plan.
Either that, or the other half of the plan has yet to be released.
From the preface, the plan smacks of bias. It makes concessions for some, while it handcuffs others. It says that the growth in the number of skiers going downhill should be monitored, but supports, even encourages, more back-country use.
The plan takes a very unfriendly attitude toward skiers who like to ride lifts, while it embraces those who like to do it for themselves.
It overlooks, it would seem, the fact that more than 1.3 million skier days (one skier skiing one day) will be recorded by skiers riding lifts at one of the four resorts, while only 60,000 skier days will be spent in the back-country.
And that on any given weekend more cross-country skiers will leave from one of Alta's cleared parking lots, after grabbing a bite and using a restroom, all paid for by downhill skiers, than will go into the White Pine Area on the same day, an area the plan says must stay in its natural state for dispersed recreational use, i.e., cross-country skiers.
It also overlooks the fact that downhill skiers contribute more than $360 million to the state's economy, while the economic contributions of back-country skiers is difficult to document because "many of their benefits are subjective," admits the report.
One letter writer said that such a one-sided plan was necessary to stop resorts from "trashing" the canyons.
Before there was an Alta, there was hardly a tree or animal on any of the slopes. Miners had cut down almost everything that would take an ax blade. There was nothing but rocks and mine tailings where Snowbird now sits. Solitude is working on a project that will replace its old, unappealing buildings with a quaint little village.
Then, of course, each year these resorts "trash" the mountainsides by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on revegetating the slopes with grasses and trees. They also subsidize the bus service to help reduce traffic in the canyon and help clear roads in the winter.
Little Cottonwood Canyon, even with two of the state's largest resorts, Snowbird and Alta, has the cleanest water of any of the canyons along the Wasatch Front.
No, with hundreds of millions invested, it's not likely ski resorts are going to "trash" their investments. Nor is it likely that an area will grow more than what it thinks it can recover.
Realizing this, the U.S. Forest Service in its latest master plan put a stop to ski-area growth outside existing F.S. boundaries, but did so with the understanding that resorts could expand onto private land if needed. The county plan would take that option away.
Ski resorts can't be so handcuffed that they are unable to compete with not only resorts outside the state but those within Utah. Nor should back-country skiers be without areas where they can go and enjoy their sport.
This plan is not consistent, nor is it fair. It solves the concerns of a few but could make it a whole lot more difficult for the majority. A plan needs to resolve problems and look at planned projects objectively. Hopefully, balanced revisions in the next draft will do that.