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The Central Wasatch Commission and Grizzly Gulch

By Adam Fehr 08-30-2018

A Message from Alta's GM, Mike Maughan

The Central Wasatch Commission, the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Act (HR 5718) and Grizzly Gulch

Greetings to you all and it’s safe to say that we are all excited to see cooler temps in the forecast. Speaking of cooler temps, we will all be skiing in less than 85 days with our opening day slated for November 23rd.

I am writing this piece to reduce confusion and misunderstanding regarding Alta Ski Area’s position regarding the re-introduction of the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Act (HR 5718).

In the most recent draft of HR 5718 the drafters have removed Alta Ski Area from participating in the proposed land exchange with the Forest Service. Alta has not asked to be withdrawn from Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Act or requested to be removed or not participate in a land exchange with the Forest Service. The drafters made this move because Alta removed some of its private land in Grizzly Gulch from the list of lands it was willing to trade.

Why has Alta elected to remove some of its private land in Grizzly Gulch from the land exchange?

As allowed by the Mountain Accord agreement and the federal land exchange process, Alta Ski Area has elected to remove some of its private land in Grizzly Gulch from consideration in the land exchange with the Forest Service to preserve its skiing experience for current and future Alta skiers, to maintain the flexibility to accommodate growth and preserve its snowcat skiing operations. Alta’s inclusion of its private land in Grizzly Gulch in any land exchange was conditioned upon a public transportation solution, such as a tunnel or gondola, between Little and Big Cottonwood canyons which lacks sufficient development, support or funding at this time. The restrictive nature of HR 5718 and its lack of provisions to help accommodate and manage the projected recreational growth in the Cottonwood Canyons are also factors which contributed to Alta’s decision to remove Grizzly Gulch from the considered land exchange process.

One of Alta’s core values is to preserve the skiing experience for our skiers. Alta has operated snowcat skiing on its private lands in Grizzly Gulch for the past 15 years. Retaining Grizzly Gulch will allow Alta to continue operations of its snowcat skiing program, as well as, accommodate future growth in our region so that our skiers can experience incredible ski days for years to come. We recognize the importance the Grizzly Gulch access provides the backcountry community and we continue to work with groups, such as the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance to address their concerns.

What is Alta currently proposing to include for consideration in the land exchange?

Alta's modified land exchange now includes approximately 561 acres of surface rights located in Grizzly Gulch, Emma Ridge, Honeycomb Canyon, Devils Castle and Mount Baldy, as well as, approximately 1,300 acres of mineral rights.

Alta Ski Area has taken the position that the re-introduction of HR 5718 should include the following:

  • Approved and funded transportation and parking solutions.
  • Language which preserves and facilitates the ability of the ski areas to accommodate projected growth within their special use permits and private lands.
  • Agreed upon language and illustrative maps from the primary stakeholders (ski areas, Forest Service, Town of Alta, Central Wasatch Commission, etc.).

A win-win solution

Alta was an active participant in the Mountain Accord process and we recognize the work that was accomplished by a diverse body of stakeholders with significantly different interests. As the population along the Wasatch Front continues to grow we are committed to accommodating growth in a manner that manages the impact within the ski area and Little Cottonwood Canyon and believe that legislation can be drafted and introduced that is a win-win for all parties. It would be a shame for this to all unravel over the unwillingness of some parties to consider solutions that accommodate growth, minimize impact and preserve the environment in concert.

We hope the CWC and other stakeholders will continue to collaborate and work together to achieve a solution that accommodates those wishing to recreate in the Cottonwood Canyons while managing their impact and protecting the watershed and environment.

I look forward to hearing your comments as Alta works towards finding solutions to preserve the skiing experience here at Alta for years to come.

Thank you,
Mike Maughan
Alta Ski Area President & GM