To Brighton Ski Resort, a snowmaking machine is the answer to Utah's occasionally skimpy snowfall.
To some cabin owners here, it's a potential nightmare.U.S. Forest Service officials were meeting with cabin owners Thursday in a move to iron out differences. But some problems - especially the claims that increased skiing will increase the area's commercialization - appear unresolvable.
Dixon Merrill, chairman of the board of directors, Brighton Improvement Association, said Thursday that his overriding concern is "the further over-commercialization of Brighton."
According to him, snowmaking machinery, such as the devices already used at Park City, Alta and Snowbird, will extend the skiing season.
"There are only so many facilities there, and if you've got increased skiers there over a longer period of time, with the pollutants of automobiles and increased busing, that would potentially cause further deterioration of the water." Three bodies of water could be affected: Lake Mary, Silver Lake and Big Cottonwood Creek.
An environmental report by Wasatch-Cache National Forest says a buried waterline and the line's snowmaking hydrants would be built along the entire length of the Majestic ski run and on the upper third of Dick Knight ski run.
"The water source would be a diversion basin in the headwaters of Big Cottonwood Creek east of Mary ski lift," says the report, called a scoping document. Replacing the present diversion basin would temporarily disturb Big Cottonwood Creek.
The pump house, to be built 30 feet south of the reservoir, would be visible to skiers and summertime hikers. "The proposed pump house could be required to blend with its surroundings," the report claims.
Noise could be a problem, says the report, with the snowmaking probably heard by residents of several homes on Forest Service land and private land at Brighton Circle, about half a mile away.
Doug Abromeit, who wrote the report, now says the report's reference to snowmaking machinery reaching 80 decibels is "a little misleading." Although it can be that noisy, he said occupational safety and health experts tested the equipment Brighton wants to use and found the levels were much less.
Levels were only around 60 decibels, measured from the deck of the Alpine Rose Lodge, he said. Creeks in the area make nearly that much noise, he said.
"I thought the scoping document is horribly inadequate," said Alexis Kelner, a cross-country skier, author, and member of the Wasatch Mountain Club, which owns a lodge close to the proposed snowmaking facilities.
"First of all, there are no maps furnished other than a small sketch which is not to scale. Number two, as much noise as it has the potential for generating, it doesn't really describe precisely where the noise is going to go and whom is affected by it. It is my impression that some cabins are within 100 feet of where the noise is going to be generated."
He is most worried about the overall picture. "There is no master plan for Brighton," he said.
In addition to the ski resort, cabins and lodges, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a lodge for young women in the vicinity. Kelner called for a master plan "that does not allow one permittee to sort of override the rights of other permittees" also using the forest land.
While the Forest Service is proceeding with its decisions, Salt Lake County is forging ahead with its own canyons master plan, expected to be issued in final form early next year.
"I think that all of these piecemeal things should wait for the whole canyon master plan," Kelner said.
Merrill added, "This should not be approved until such time as the canyons master plan is approved."