SkiLink: Gondola to Connect Canyons and Solitude Mountain Resorts
Good things come to those who wait.
After being in the discussion phase for about 25 years, Canyons Ski Resort is putting into action plans for a new transportation connection between the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back mountains.
The ski lift connecting Canyons to Solitude Mountain Resort is finally off the ground. “We’ve been talking about this interconnectivity idea since, really, the mid-80s,” said Mike Goar, managing director of Canyons Ski Resort.
SkiLink will unite 6,000 acres of existing interconnected terrain for snow sport enthusiasts to enjoy.
At first, varying proposals were discussed, including different types of aerial transportation, roads, trains – “almost anything that you could imagine,” Goar said. “We came up with an idea that is simplified and has very little impact on the environment.”
Resort officials worked with people representing the state, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, U.S. Forest Service and an environmental group called “Save Our Canyons.”
A few points always came up in discussions as a great area of concern: water quality and the impact to other users, mainly backcountry skiers.
Mitigating those concerns took time, research and great thought – finally culminating in a proposal all can agree with.
The SkiLink site eliminates adding any new traffic into the backcountry. No construction equipment will run on the ground during the building of the lifts; structural items will be dropped off via helicopter and constructed by hand. Therefore, there will be no water quality concerned.
A federal bill has been drafted and is before Congress. It was introduced jointly in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The potential legislation directs the U.S. Forest Service to sell 30 acres of federal land that would enable the SkiLink project to proceed.
The eight-passenger SkiLink gondola is planned to transport 1,000 people per hour each way in 11 minutes.
From the Solitude side, skiers can board the lift from the base area. At the Canyons, there are four lifts to ride before skiers get to SkiLink where it will be located near Dream Peak. The route is: the Gondola, Iron Mountain Lift, Dream Catcher and SkiLink. Or from the other direct: the Gondola, Tombstone, Peak 5 and Daybreak or Dreamscape to SkiLink.
SkiLink is expected to make Utah more competitive with other ski states and regions. “It truly is quite a unique experience in North America,” Goar said.
“Utah features ‘The Greatest Snow on Earth’ and with SkiLink, we now can deliver an unrivaled skiing experience of the largest expanse of ski terrain in the country,” Goar said.
Skiing from one resort to another in the same day will take more cars off the road and be more convenient for skiers, while benefiting the economy.
A traffic analysis demonstrated SkiLink would reduce ski season traffic through Big Cottonwood Canyon by as much as 18,000 cars per year. Initially that means around 1 million fewer miles driven per year and around 1 million fewer pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
“An economic impact analysis reported that SkiLink would produce more than 500 new permanent jobs for Utah’s travel and tourism industry and could initially infuse $51 million into our local economy,” Goar said. “An estimated 20-year total economic impact could be $101 million per year from SkiLink’s ongoing operation.”