In a state rife with land disputes, few are as polarizing as the one regarding SkiLink, a proposed transit lift between Canyons and Solitude. SkiLink is a hot-button social, environmental and economic issue for Utahns, and the divide between stakeholders is gaping. This is the sixth in a series of stories that will teach you everything you need to know about Utah’s most controversial ski lift.
When SkiLink was first proposed, it was touted as the first major step toward better transit to ski resorts, especially in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Wasatch Canyon roads are choked on powder days, and the traffic will likely get worse as Utah’s population grows. Enter SkiLink, which a study by InterPlan found would subtract 18,000 yearly car trips up Big Cottonwood Canyon and decrease traffic 10 percent on the busiest days.
Delve into the logic, though, and there are some issues with the those claims. For Park City skiers, SkiLink is a traffic—and stress-free transportation method. Shift point A to the Wasatch Front, though, and SkiLink becomes a gas-guzzling time waster.
A Salt Laker taking advantage of SkiLink to get to Solitude would have to drive 40 minutes to Canyons, spend over an hour riding up either four or five ski lifts, and then take the 11-minute gondola ride over to Solitude. Driving up Big Cottonwood Canyon is much quicker, even in heavy traffic.
SkiLink could actually increase traffic up Big Cottonwood Canyon. For Wasatch Front residents who normally frequent Canyons, the Solitude-Canyons interconnect would be a quicker option than driving all the way to Park City.
“I don’t think it’s honest at all,” Save Our Canyons director Carl Fisher says of SkiLink’s proposed effect on transit. “I think it misses the mark as far as what we need for transportation in the canyons and in the valleys.”
SkiLink’s transport claims may be bogus, but only to a degree. Even Canyons managing director Mike Goar acknowledges SkiLink’s minimal transit benefits for locals, but there’s a caveat—tourists.
By and large, Wasatch vacationers stay in Park City, which means if they want to ski Solitude, they have to drive the rental car from Park City up Big Cottonwood Canyon. If guests at Canyons want to spend a day at Solitude, they have to drive nearly 40 miles and over an hour to do it.
Or they could hop in a gondola and arrive in 11 minutes.
“It’s fair to say that the destination skier would be more inclined to use [SkiLink] because sometimes it’s just more about the experience,” Goar says. “They’re here to ski a number of different resorts, and that’s a way to do it more efficiently and have more fun than driving a car from resort to resort each morning.”
The transit claims behind SkiLink are half-true. It probably won’t keep Wasatch front locals out of the car, but when it comes to Park City tourists, getting from Canyons to Solitude without removing your ski boots is definitely preferable.