As the Mountain Accord plays itself out, one of the areas to pay attention to is the proposed “Land Swap” between the private parties, governments, and the ski resorts. With this part of the proposal:
“The four Cottonwood Canyon Ski Areas, local and federal government partners, and conservation and outdoor interests would partner to preserve, for public benefit, about 2,150 acres of Ski-Area owned lands in the Cottonwood Canyons. At the headwaters of Little Cottonwood Canyon, preserved lands would include the areas of Mt. Superior, Flagstaff, Emma Ridge, Grizzly Gulch (under consideration), and White Pine. At the headwaters of Big Cottonwood Canyon, the preserved lands would include Ski Area holdings in the Guardsman Pass, Cardiff/Days Fork, and Hidden Canyon areas.”
In exchange for doing this, the ski resorts get:
- Station stops on a mountain-rail system which would provide reliable, fast, unique, and marketable transit to the resorts and to major dispersed recreation access points. The canyon road would still be open to vehicular traffic.
- Approximately 258 acres for base-area management and future development (with new culinary water for up to 108 units at Alta) to support activity at transit stops.
- Additional water for snowmaking.
- Ski permit boundary expansions of 210 acres (140 in Hidden Canyon, 70 in lower Silver Fork).
- Approximately 416 acres in American Fork Canyon.
While there may be other issues of concern here, from an environmental perspective we are concerned with #3. One of the stated environmental benefits of the Mountain Accord is protecting watersheds. However, we wonder how much additional water the resorts will receive. NASA has stated there is an 80% likelihood of a Mega Drought in the West and Central US in the next 50 years. That would be a drought lasting longer than 10 years.
We like the idea protecting our watersheds. However, when push comes to shove, there isn’t enough water for residents, and water restrictions become the norm we don’t like the idea of resorts taking even more water. It seems foolish to trade what is likely our most valuable resource (water) and trade it so we can get more people to ski Alta.