“It will offer an experience unlike any other currently offered in North America,” said Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah. Whereas most skiers in Colorado or Vermont are accustomed to using the same lift to make the same run 10 or 12 times, he said, “One Wasatch would be a wander through the mountains.”
Since its unveiling in March, the One Wasatch plan, with 18,000 skiable acres that would make it the largest on the continent, has been presented as a way to make the area’s ski resorts friendlier and more accessible, add a boost to the tourism industry in Salt Lake and Summit Counties, and make area-wide passes with great value available to resort customers.
The plan is not without its critics. “Keep in mind that only 5 percent of Utahns are regular downhill skiers,” said Mark Clemens, manager of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. “That’s pretty shocking in a state with the resources that we have. I think it’s evidence of the degree to which downhill skiing has neglected the locals in favor of cultivating what apparently is their most profitable demographic: rich people from the financial industry who will stay for two weeks and spend a few thousand dollars a day.”
Still others are skeptical as to whether any effort to combine ski areas is necessarily worth the trouble. Kalen Thorien, a Salt Lake City resident who skis more than 150 days per year, has called the idea of building a giant, European-scale resort system “completely illogical.”
“We need to stop pretending this is the Alps,” she said. “What we have already is a beautiful thing. Spending half my day riding chairlifts does not sound like a productive use of my time.”
One factor that is sure to influence the plan is the news today that Vail purchased Park City, ending the turf war that began when Park City failed to renew its lease in 2011. Vail has already stated its intention of combining Park City with the neighboring resort of Canyons, which it already owns. The combined resort would offer more than 7,000 acres and make it the largest resort in the country.