Additional hotels and developments at local ski resorts will harm the environment and Salt Lake City, speakers argued Wednesday.
Citing specific proposals to construct additional condominiums at various resorts, Howie Garber, who has worked on the Canyon Master Plan since 1986, said, "Increased lodging and dining facilities in the canyons will take away from businesses in the valley."We must decide what we want to pass on to our future generations . . . and the resorts must be confined to their boundaries."
Former Salt Lake mayor Ted Wilson said a lot of development in the canyons is unnecessary because Salt Lake City itself is really a ski resort.
"Why not present Salt Lake City as the Salzburg (Austria) of North America where you can go to the ballet at night . . . and ski during the day?" he said.
But Dick Bass, chairman of the Board of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, said many people would rather remain in the canyon.
"We out-draw the Symphony Hall in the summertime with our (Utah Symphony) performances. People would much rather be out in the mountains in the fresh air . . . than inside a building in the city," he said.
"One of the main reasons people move here is because of the canyons and the canyon use is going to increase no matter what."
While panelists discussing the conflicts over developments in nearby canyons reached few, if any conclusions during Wednesday's symposium at the University of Utah College of Law, the discussion raised several issues.
"The big culprit I've observed over the years is the automobile. That's what will destroy the canyons," Wilson told the audience. He said that partly because of avalanche dangers, studies show Little Cottonwood Canyon Road is "the most dangerous road in the world."
If the peak-hour "snake" of cars grows in the canyons, "people could be killed massively," he said, adding that a cableway could be the answer.
Other panelists emphasized that the canyons are used for much more than skiing and said the state should be cautious about bringing the Olympics here.
"We ought to keep in mind that downhill skiing is not the biggest use of the canyons," said Tom Berggren, a member of the Salt Lake Public Utilities Authority Commission who is writing a book on local hiking.
A recent poll showed that only 30 percent of those surveyed use the canyons for skiing.
But Bass said he has personally seen the effect two past Olympic games have had on cities in France and Canada.
"There's not a real environmental impact as far as I have seen," he said. "Economically speaking, the impact is tremendous."
Although Wilson said he is still in favor of the city's Olympics bid, he encouraged the public to study the potential effects before supporting the Salt Lake games. "The potential is there for the public to take a giant black eye . . . not so much environmentally, but financially," he said.