Not gonna lie to you guys, over the last couple years my distaste for ski resorts and the corporations that run them has been growing significantly. The new parking plan from alta is kinda the last straw for me. For those who haven't heard, alta ski resort wants to limit the parking lots at the top of little cottonwood canyon to lift ticket holders only, sharply limiting public land access for those who are not skiing at the resort. This includes terrain like Grizzly Gulch and the bowls on Cardiff and Flagstaff.
My new suggestion is to eliminate ski resorts in the cottonwood canyons. I won't comment here on how this could or couldn't be done, just making the point that the canyons would be better off without the ski resorts.
Problems abolishing the ski resorts in the cottonwoods would solve:
Silly expensive lift tickets
The exorbitant and rabidly rising cost of lift tickets is pricing a huge group of people out of the joys of skiing. Especially on leased public land like Alta, this seems unethical. New developments in alpine touring equipment are making it safer and more accessible than ever before.
Massive traffic in the canyons
Anyone who has skiied in the cottonwoods in the last couple years can attest to the huge backups and headaches the ski resorts are causing. This year, parking at alta is filling up well before the lifts even start running. If you can't make this time, sucks.
Pollution and wasteful behaviors by corporations operating on public land
Resorts like Snowbird claim to be stewards of the land they lease, while running massive hotels and attempting to expand and clear greater swaths of the Wasatch.
Scarcity of parking
Alta's new parking plan and the new paid parking system at Solitude last year are new ways for the ski resorts in the canyons to capitalize on the scarcity of parking they have created. The state of Utah is now considering multiple massively expensive investments in infrastructure including a billion dollar cog train, just to get people to a ski resort that prices much of the population out of skiing.
Ikon pass debate
I am an Ikon pass holder, because it was the most financially responsible way for me to ski this year. That being said, I totally get why people are frustrated with the Ikon pass system and the issues it causes. It doesn't need to be said, but no ski resorts in the canyons means no Ikon passholders in the canyons.
Issues with my proposal:
Avalanche control work
Lots of avy work in the canyons is done by the ski areas, which I admit is a good thing. However, I hope that if the ski resorts were eliminated, some work could be upkept by a small nonprofit group, in the same way areas like the Ouray ice park in Colorado are maintained by volunteers and donations. Of course, the UDOT could continue the avy work that they already do.
There has been an uptick in avalanche related incidents this year because of a large influx of new backcountry users. This is certainly an issue. However, I hope that backcountry skiing and the related education could be the norm, instead of the exception. Avalanche education and responsibility could become as fundamental as basic ski lessons for kids if backcountry skiing grows significantly in popularity.
I'm no uphill purist or hater of lifts. On the contrary, most of my ski days this year have been inbounds. My issues with ski resorts continue to grow every year, and I am at the point where I feel like they outweigh the benefits of lift accessed terrain, at least in the cottonwoods. I believe that advances in ski touring tech and education have made it more accessible than every before, and corporations have made lift accessed skiing less accessible than in the past. Would getting rid of ski resorts reduce the number of people skiing? Of course, that's part of the reason it is an enticing option to me. At least it would be a system that would be more accessible to all and less impactful on the SLC community as well as the canyons.
Thanks for reading this far lol, I'd love to hear your thoughts!